(calvin, minor prophets. part 3)

     An admonition

           And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth,
           blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
           The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into
           blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD
           come. (Joel 2:30,31)

THE prophet had hitherto promised that God would deal kindly and
bountifully with his people; and everything he has said tended to
elevate the spirits of the people and fill them with joy. But now he
seems again to threaten them with God's wrath and to strike miserable
men with fear, who had not as yet recovered breath; for at the time
the prophet spoke the Jews, we know, were in the greatest sorrow. But
it is rather an admonition than a threatening. The prophet warns them
of what would be lest the faithful should promise themselves an
exemption from all cares and troubles: for we know how prone men are
to self-indulgence. Hence the prophet reminds us that though God would
bountifully feed his Church, and testify by external tokens his
paternal love, and though he would pour out his Spirit (a token far
more remarkable), yet the faithful would continue to be distressed
with many troubles. For God designs not to deal too delicately with
his Church on earth; but when he gives tokens of his kindness, he at
the same time mingles some exercises for patience, lest the faithful
should become self-indulgent or sleep on earthly blessings, but that
they may ever seek higher things.


GRANT, Almighty God, that as we are now surrounded on every side by so
many miseries, and as our condition is such that amidst groans and
continual sorrows our life could be hardly sustained unless thou dost
support us by spiritual grace, - O grant, that we may learn to look
upon the face of thine Anointed and seek comfort from him in our
misfortunes, and such a comfort as may not engross our minds, or at
least retain us in the world, but raise our thoughts to heaven and
daily seal to our hearts the testimony of our adoption, and that
though many evils must be borne by us in this world we may yet
continue to pursue our course and to fight and strive with invincible
perseverance, until having at length finished all our struggles, we
reach that blessed rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of
thine only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

     Calling on the Lord

           And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the
           name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and
           in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said,
           and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call. (Joel 2:32)

GOD declares that the invocation of his name in a despairing condition
is a sure port of safety. What the prophet had said was certainly
dreadful, - that the whole order of nature would be so changed that no
spark of life would appear, and that all places would be filled with
darkness. What, therefore, he says now is the same as though he
declared that if men called on the name of God life would be found in
the grave. Since then God invites here the lost and the dead, there is
no reason why even the heaviest distresses should preclude an access
for us or for our prayers. If there is promised salvation and
deliverance to all who shall call on the name of the Lord, it follows,
as Paul reasons, that the doctrine of the gospel belongs to the
gentiles also. It would have been a great presumption in us to present
ourselves before God, except he had given us confidence and promised
to hear us. We learn from this place that however much God may afflict
his Church, it will yet be perpetuated in the world; for it can no
more be destroyed than the very truth of God, which is eternal and


GRANT Almighty God, that as thou not only invitest us continually by
the voice of thy gospel to seek thee, but also offerest to us thy Son
as our Mediator, through whom an access to thee is open, that we may
find thee a propitious Father, - O grant, that relying on thy kind
invitation, we may through life exercise ourselves in prayer, and as
so many evils disturb us on all sides and so many wants distress and
oppress us, may we be led more earnestly to call on thee, and in the
meanwhile be never wearied in this exercise of prayer; until having
been heard by thee throughout life, we may at length be gathered to
thine eternal kingdom where we shall enjoy that salvation which thou
hast promised to us, and of which also thou daily testifies to us by
thy gospel, and be forever united to thine only-begotten Son of whom
we are now members; that we may be partakers of a11 the blessings
which he has obtained for us by his death. Amen.

     A Blessed Experience

           So shall ye know that I am the LORD your God dwelling in
           Zion, my holy mountain: then shall Jerusalem be holy, and
           there shall no strangers pass through her any more. (Joel

THE prophet intimates that the favour of God had been so hidden during
the afflictions of the people that they could but think that they were
forsaken by God. His word ought indeed to be sufficient for us in the
greatest evils; for though God may cast us into the deepest gulfs, yet
when he shines upon us by his word it ought to be a consolation
abundantly availing to sustain our souls.
     There is a twofold knowledge, the knowledge of faith, received
from his word, and the knowledge of experience as we say, derived from
actual enjoyment. The faithful ever acknowledge that salvation is laid
up for them in God; but sometimes they do not by actual enjoyment know
God to be their Father. The prophet therefore now treats of real
knowledge when he says that they shall know that they have a God. How
are they to know this? By experience. This passage teaches us that
though God should not put forth his hand manifestly to help us, we
ought yet to entertain good hope of his favour; for the prophet spoke
for this end, that the godly might, before the event or the
accomplishment of the prophecy should come, look to God and cast all
their cares on him.


GRANT Almighty God, that as we have, in this world, to fight
continually, not only with one kind of enemies, but with innumerable
ones, and not only with flesh and blood, but also with the devil, the
prince of darkness, - O grant that being armed with thy power we may
steadily persevere in this contest; and when thou afflictest us for
our sins, may we learn to humble ourselves and so submit to thy
authority that we may hope for the redemption promised to us; and
though tokens of thy displeasure may often appear to us, may we yet
ever raise up our minds by hope to heaven and from thence look for
thine only-begotten Son, until, coming as Judge of the world, he
assembles us for the enjoyment of that blessed and eternal life which
he has obtained for us by his own blood. Amen.

     The Law of Worship

           And offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving with leaven, and
           proclaim and publish the free offerings: for this liketh
           you, O ye children of Israel, saith the Lord GOD. (Amos

BY saying that the Israelites loved to do these things, he upbraids
their presumption in devising at their own will new modes of worship,
as though he said, "I require no sacrifices from you except those
offered at Jerusalem, but ye offer them to me in a profane place.
Therefore regard your sacrifices as offered to yourselves, and not to
me." We, indeed, know how hypocrites ever make God a debtor to
themselves; when they undertake any labour in their frivolous
ceremonies, they think that God is bound to them. "Ye ought to have
consulted me and simply to have obeyed my word, to have regarded what
pleased me, what I have commanded; but ye have despised my word,
neglected my law, and followed what pleased yourselves and proceeded
from your own fancies. Since, then, your own will is your law, seek a
recompense from yourselves, for I allow none of these things. What I
require is implicit submission, I look for nothing else but obedience
to my law; as ye render not this but according to your own will, it is
no worship of my name."


GRANT, Almighty God, that as thou wouldst have our life to be formed
by the rule of thy law, and hast there revealed to us what pleaseth
thee, that we may not wander in uncertainty, but render thee
obedience, O grant that we may wholly submit ourselves to thee, and
not only devote our whole life and all our labours to thee, but also
offer to thee as a sacrifice our understanding and whatever prudence
and reason we possess, so that by spiritually serving thee we may
really glorify thy name, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

     A Solemn Exhortation

           Therefore thus will I do unto thee, O Israel: and because I
           will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel.
           (Amos 4:12)

THIS passage may be explained in two ways; either as an ironical
sentence, or as a simple and serious exhortation to repentance. If we
take it ironically the sense will be, "Come now, meet me with all your
obstinacy, and with whatever may serve you; will you be able to escape
my vengeance by setting up yourselves against me, as you have hitherto
done?" And certainly the prophet, in denouncing final ruin on the
people, seems here as though he wished designedly to touch them to the
quick, when he says, "Meet now thy God and prepare thyself;" that is,
"Gather all thy strength and thy forces and thine auxiliaries; try
what all this will avail thee." But as in the next chapter the prophet
exhorts again the Israelites to repentance, and sets before them the
hope of favour, this place may be taken in another sense, as though he
said, "Since thou sees thyself guilty, and also as thou sees that thou
art seeking subterfuges in vain, being not able by any means to elude
the hand of thy judge, then see at last that thou meet thy God, that
thou mayest anticipate the final ruin which is impending." The
prophets, after having threatened destruction to the chosen people,
ever moderate the asperity of their doctrine, as there were at all
times some remnant seed, though hidden.


GRANT Almighty God, that since by thy word thou kindly invites us to
thyself, we may not turn deaf ears to thee, but anticipate thy rod and
scourges; and that when, for the stupidity and thoughtlessness by
which we have become inebriated, thou attest those punishments by
which thou sharply urgent us to repent, - O grant, that we may not
continue wholly intractable, but at length turn our hearts to thy
service and submit ourselves to the yoke of thy word, and that we may
be so instructed by the punishments which thou hast inflicted on us
and still inflictest, that we may truly and from the heart turn to
thee, and offer ourselves to thee as a sacrifice, that thou mayest
govern us according to thy will, and so rule all our affections by thy
Spirit, that we may through the whole of our life strive to glorify
thy name, in Christ Jesus, thy Son our Lord. Amen.

     Headman and Prophet

           Then answered Amos, and said to Amaziah, I was no prophet,
           neither was I a prophet's son; but I was an herdman, and a
           gatherer of sycomore fruit: (Amos 7:14)

HAD Amos simply denied that he was a prophet, he might on this account
have been thrust away from his office of teaching, for he lacked a
call. But he means that he was not a prophet who had been from his
childhood instructed in God's law to be an interpreter of Scripture:
and for the same reason he says that he was not the son of a prophet;
for there were then, we know, colleges for prophets, instituted for
this end, that there might be always some nursery for the Church of
God, so that it might not be destitute of good and faithful teachers.
Amos says that he was not of that class. He therefore honestly
confesses that he was an illiterate man: but by this he gained to
himself more authority, inasmuch as the Lord had seized on him as it
were by force, and set him over the people to teach them. It was a
greater miracle that Christ chose rude and ignorant men as his
apostles, than if he had at first chosen Paul or men like him, who
were skilled in the law. If Christ had at the beginning selected such
disciples their authority would have appeared less; but as he had
prepared by his Spirit those who were before unlearned, it appeared
more evident that they were sent from above.


GRANT, Almighty God, that inasmuch as thou dost give such loose reins
to Satan, that he attempts in all manner of ways to subvert thy
servants, - O grant, that they who have been sent and moved by thee
and at the same time furnished with the invincible strength of thy
Spirit may go on perseveringly to the last in the discharge of their
office; and whether their adversaries assail them by plots or oppose
them by open violence, may they not desist from their course but
devote themselves wholly to thee with prudence as well as with courage
that they may thus persevere in continual obedience: and do thou also
dissipate all the mists and all the wiles which Satan spreads to
deceive the inexperienced, until the truth emerge, which is the
conqueror of the devil and of the whole world, and until thy Son, the
Sun of Righteousness, appear, that he may gather the whole world that
in his peaceful kingdom we may enjoy the victory, which is daily to be
obtained by us in our constant struggles with the enemies of thine
only Son. Amen.

     The Power of God

           It is he that buildeth his stories in the heaven, and hath
           founded his troop in the earth; he that calleth for the
           waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of
           the earth: The LORD is his name. (Amos 9:6)

THE prophet in general terms describes the power of God, that he might
the more impress his hearers, and that they might not heedlessly
reject what he had previously threatened respecting their approaching
ruin; for he had said, "Lo, God will smite the land and it shall
tremble." This was special. Now as men received with deaf ears those
threatening, the prophet added, by way of confirmation, a striking
description of the power of God; as though he said, "Ye do hear what
God denounces; now, as he has clothed me with his own authority, and
commanded me to terrify you by setting before you your punishment,
know ye that ye have to do with God himself, whose majesty ought to
make you all and all that you are to tremble. Ye exist only through
his power, and whenever he pleases he can withdraw his Spirit and then
this whole world must vanish, of which ye are but the smallest
particles. Since, then, he alone is God, and there is in you but a
momentary strength, and since this great power of God, the evidences
of which he affords you through the whole order of nature, is so
conspicuous to you, how is it that ye are so heedless?"


GRANT, Almighty God, that as thou hast showed to us by evidence so
remarkable that all things are under thy command, and that we who live
in this world through thy favour are as nothing, for thou couldst
reduce us to nothing in a moment, - O grant that being conscious of
thy power we may reverently fear thy hand, and be wholly devoted to
thy glory; and as thou kindly offerest thyself to us as a Father, may
we be drawn by this kindness and surrender ourselves wholly to thee by
a willing obedience, and never labour for anything throughout life but
to glorify thy name as thou hast redeemed us through thine
only-begotten Son, that so we may also enjoy through him that eternal
inheritance which is laid up for us in heaven. Amen.

     Wisdom Destroyed

           Shall I not in that day, saith the LORD, even destroy the
           wise men out of Edom, and understanding out of the mount of
           Esau? (Obad.:8)

THOUGH men be in many respects blind, whom God guides not by his
Spirit, and on whom he shines not with his word, yet the worst
blindness is when men become inebriated with the false conceit of
wisdom. God indeed permits the ungodly for a long time to felicitate
themselves on account of their own acumen and counsels, as he suffered
the Idumeans to go on prosperously. But we are warned by these words
that if we excel in understanding, we are not to abuse this singular
gift of God, as we see the case to be with the ungodly, who turn to
cunning whatever wisdom the Lord has bestowed on them. There is hardly
one in a hundred to be found who does not seek to be crafty and
deceitful if he excels in understanding. We see that the world
perverts this excellent gift of God; the more reason there is for us
to labour, that our wisdom should be founded in true simplicity. This
is one thing. Then we must also beware lest we trust in our own
understanding and despise our enemies, and lest we think that we can
ward off any evil that may impend over us; but let us ever seek from
the Lord that he may vouchsafe to us at all times the Spirit of
wisdom, that he may guide us even to the end of life.


GRANT, Almighty God, that as thou hast once for all received us under
thy protection, and hast promised that our salvation would be so much
under thy care, that whatever Satan and the whole world may contrive
thou wilt yet keep us safe and secure, - O grant that being endued
with perseverance, we may remain within our borders, and not be
carried away here and there either by craft or by wicked counsels; but
be thou pleased to keep us in genuine integrity; that, being protected
by thy help, we may, by experience, find that true which thou declares
in thy word - that they who call on thee in truth shall ever know thee
to be propitious to them; and since thou hast already made open to us
an access to thee in the person of thine only-begotten Son, O grant
that we, the sheep, may rely on him as our Shepherd, and resignedly
abide under his protection until at length we be removed from all
dangers into that eternal rest which has been obtained for us by the
blood of Christ thine only Son. Amen.

     A Fearless Preacher

           And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and
           he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be
           overthrown. (Jon.3:4)

JONAH here relates that he went to Nineveh according to the command of
God. He shows then how faithfully he executed the duty enjoined on
him, and thus obeyed the word of God. Hence Jonah came and began to
enter into the city, and to preach on the first day. This promptness
proves clearly how tractable Jonah had become, and how much he
endeavoured to obey God in discharging his office. For had there been
still a timidity in his heart, he would have inspected the city as
careful and timid men are wont to do who inquire what is the condition
of the place, what are the dispositions of the people, and which is
the easiest access to them, and what is the best way and where is the
least danger. We now see how prompt he was in his obedience who had
before attempted to pass over the sea; he now takes hardly a moment to
breathe, but he begins at the very entrance to testify that he had
come in obedience to God.
     He says that he cried; this freedom shows that Jonah was divested
of all fear, and endued with such boldness of spirit that he raised
himself up above all the hindrances of the world. No fear was able to
prevent him from doing his duty as a faithful servant, for he had
evidently been strengthened by the Lord.


GRANT Almighty Gods that as there is so much timidity in us that none
of us is prepared to follow where thou mayest call us, we may be so
instructed by the example of thy servant, Jonah, as to prepare
ourselves for thorough obedience, and that though Satan and the world
may oppose us with all their terrors, we may yet be strengthened by a
reliance on thy power and protection, which thou hast promised to us,
and may go on in the course of our vocation, and never turn aside, but
thus contend with all the hindrances of this world, until we reach
that celestial kingdom, where we shall enjoy thee, and Christ, thy
only-begotten Son, who is our strength and our salvation; and may thy
Spirit quicken us and strengthen all our faculties, that we may obey
thee, and that at length thy name may be glorified in us, and that we
may finally become partakers of that glory to which thou invites us
through Christ our only Lord. Amen.

     The Mercy of God

           Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for
           the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow;
           which came up in a night, and perished in a night.
           And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein
           are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern

(continued in part 4...)

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