Today we look at the beautiful truth of God’s covenant of grace in the light of God’s Word in Amos 3. We read in the first three verses: “Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” Verse 3: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” is often used in the context of dating or of the marriage relationship. Yes, it deals with a close relationship, and the marriage relationship is a symbol of God’s covenant of grace. There is, in our text, the idea of walking together and the idea of harmony, oneness, intimacy. Can two walk together except they be agreed?
Walking with God speaks of fellowship, togetherness, closeness. Various faculties of the human body are used in Scripture to describe the Christian life. For example, we read: “Look unto me and be ye saved.” There it is the eye. Or again: “Hear, and your soul shall live.” There it is the ear. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Now it is the mouth. “Let him lay hold upon thy strength.” There it is the arms and hands. But, my friends, it is the feet that are used more than any part of the human body to describe our relationship to God.
We are going to look at the covenant relationship: “Walking with God in Obedience.” This covenant relationship is based upon God’s sovereign election. But it calls forth greater responsibility. How are we able to walk with God in harmony?
I said it before and I say it again, amongst the Reformed there is disagreement. There are those who say that all baptized children are in the covenant. Whether you remain in the covenant depends on whether you are willing to keep the conditions of it. What that would mean is that one would be able to fall out of the covenant. That gives no real assurance. Over against that false teaching, the Bible shows us that the basis of the covenant is God’s sovereign and gracious election. Or, to put it differently, election determines who are in the covenant. Election governs the covenant, determining with whom the covenant is established and who are saved in the covenant.
Amos, in his prophecy, goes through the heathen kingdoms around Israel. There are six of them whom God is going to punish in their sins. There is Damascus; there is Gaza of the Philistines; there is Tyrus; there is Edom; there is Ammon; there is Moab. And then Amos gets to the nation of Judah—they are number seven. Ah, perhaps the Israelites thought, “See, my neighbors are going to be judged, not us.” And then, instead of stopping at the number seven, which they expected, Amos goes on to Israel, the eighth nation. He is talking there about the northern tribes. Judgment will come to them because of their sins. You see, with the privileges given to God’s people, there is greater responsibility.
Did you know that? We read in Luke 12:47, 48 in Jesus’ parable: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Do you hear that? You and I have perhaps had covenant instruction in the home, Christian school, the church. More is going to be demanded of us than of those who have not heard the gospel. Election determines with whom the covenant is established and who are saved in the covenant.
Amos, as he comes to Israel, not only the ten tribes but all twelve tribes, says, “Hear this word that the Lord hath spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying, You only have I known of all the families of the earth: therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” God is saying two things there of His covenant people. First of all, they were eternally chosen by God, for in Amos 3:2, he says, “You only have I known.” What does that mean? God, of course, intellectually knows all nations. He knows what they are about, what they are doing. But the knowledge of which our text is talking is the knowledge of electing love. God is saying, “I loved you, I was your God, you were my people. I said, you were My own.”
Not only were they eternally chosen by God but, second of all, they were redeemed by God’s hand. They were delivered out of their bondage in Egypt. That is a type of you and me, who are delivered out of the bondage of sin. It means two things: First of all, we are forgiven for our sins, that is, the guilt is removed. But we are also delivered from the power of sin so that we are able to live for God. You and I who have been chosen and are redeemed, therefore, have a great responsibility. God says to us, “Love Me, obey Me, walk with Me in My commandments, for you are not your own. You belong to your Redeemer.”
To walk in agreement means we agree with God that there is only one God. We agree with God that He has graciously redeemed and chosen us. To walk harmoniously means that we agree that the way to walk in thankfulness and service is in obedience to God’s commandments. “How can two walk together unless they are agreed, unless they are harmonious?”
But, what does it mean to walk together? Leviticus 26 brings out these truths powerfully. God tells His people, through Moses: “Make you no idols nor graven image…keep my sabbaths, and reverence my sanctuary…walk in my statutes, and keep my commandments” (vv. 1-3). And then He says in verse 12, “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” Why? Verse 13: “I am the Lord your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt…I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright.” But then God goes on, later on in the passage, to point out that if God’s people will not obey His commandments, verse 21: “If ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me,” then, in verse 24: “Then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins.” Once more in Leviticus 26:27, 28, “And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury.”
Amos is predicting great judgment upon God’s people. And Amos moves from judgment then to calling the people to repentance and conversion. Yes, there needs to be a confession of their sin. We read in verses 40 and 41 of Leviticus 26, “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that also they have walked contrary unto me; and that I also have walked contrary unto them….” And then in verse 42: “Then will I remember my covenant with Jacob, and also my covenant with Isaac, and also my covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land.”
The part of God’s people in God’s covenant of grace is obedience. Obedience is not a condition of the covenant, but rather, it is a covenant obligation. Perhaps you say to me, “Pastor, isn’t that just semantics? Isn’t conditions and obligations really the same?” I answer you, “Absolutely not.” For example, in marriage there are obligations of a husband. There are obligations of a wife. Read the marriage form. But there are not conditions. They are married for life, till God separates them by death. Or, take a look at your family. Your children, I would think, have obligations in the home. (I hope so—doing the dishes, making their beds, picking up their clothes.) But these are not conditions, that is, when they disobey, they do not automatically rule out that they are children of the family. Conditions are different from obligations.
So, let us go to Amos 3:3: “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” The answer is: Absolutely not. So, is the covenant broken? Is there no hope? God will punish Israel’s sin. He will do so because He is a righteous God. So, in Amos 3, and in the next verses, verse 6, for example, we read: “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid?” That is, enemies will be brought up against them. “Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?” God punishes sin. Israel, the ten tribes, would be taken away captive to Assyria. And later on, the other two tribes, the nation of Judah, would be taken away to Babylon. God comes against His sinful people with fury and judgment—like a lion devouring. God would visit the transgressions of Israel upon them. He would bring destruction.
But God remembers His covenant in the way of repentance and faith. We read in Amos 3:12, “Thus saith the Lord; As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be taken out that dwell in Samaria in the corner of a bed, and in Damascus in a couch.” God remembers His covenant. By God’s grace there will always be a remnant, albeit a small remnant. God brings judgment upon the whole nation of Israel. But out of the mouth of the lion, there are two legs. Or out of the mouth of the lion, there is a piece of an ear. You say, What are two legs? What is a piece of an ear? Beloved, it is a remnant. Israel would be redeemed by judgment. That means that the carnal seed will be destroyed, eaten up by a lion. But the elect seed will be saved, like those two legs or like that piece of an ear.
Is that not what happened in the time of Noah? God brought judgment to the earth, but by the grace of God in the Flood, Noah and his family were saved. Now Israel and Judah were going to go into captivity that the carnal seed may be destroyed and there will be a remnant.
How can two walk together? How can Jehovah, the righteous God, and His elect children walk harmoniously together? We are all sinners, are we not? We find the answer how two can walk together in agreement in the last five verses of the book of Amos. God is going to sift His church like wheat in a sieve. The stems and the chaff of the wheat are blown away and the elect kernels are kept safe, so that not even one grain of God’s elect falls to the ground. But the sinners will die, they will be burned up.
Are we not all sinners? Do we not read in the Scriptures that no man does good, not even one? But if we go to Amos 9:11, we read: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen.” What does that mean? After all the judgment that comes upon God’s people, God is going to raise up that Seed of David that was promised, who is our Lord Jesus Christ. Oh, the house of David, toward the end of the Old Testament, was like the stump of a fallen tree. There was no king on the throne. But out of that stump of Jesse, there is the Righteous Branch that comes forth. Jesus Christ came. He was sent by His Father in His incarnation so that He could stand in the place of His sinners. He took your and my sins and guilt upon Himself. Jesus Christ is that Seed of David who atoned for our sins. Our guilt was removed.
That truth is called justification, where Christ’s perfect righteousness is given to us as our very own. You see, it was Jesus who was able to walk perfectly with His Father, who was also perfect. There was a harmonious agreement between them. Did not Jesus say, “Not my will but thy will be done”? It is that righteousness of Jesus Christ that is given to us so that we are made righteous in Christ. And we are able, then, to walk with God and He walks with us.
By the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we are made new creatures. By the gift of regeneration and the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification, we can walk with God harmoniously. We are agreed. God and God alone reigns. God has chosen us to be His friends and His servants. God has delivered us from the guilt of sin and He has delivered us from the power of sin.
So, we are able to go forth with the blessing of our God. He walks with us and we, by grace, and in thankfulness, walk with Him.
Election governs and determines God’s covenant. Redemption makes it possible. The covenant of grace is God’s relationship of friendship that He has established and maintains with His elect people in Jesus Christ.
To be God’s people means, then, that in thankfulness we will strive to be an obedient people, pleasing to Him. Oh, how much has been given to us in Jesus Christ. We are made righteous. But then, let us remember Luke 12: “To whom much is given, much is required.”
Can two walk together except they be agreed? How wonderful that God, who established a relationship with His elect people, in His grace redeems them, makes them righteous, and enables them to be an obedient people.
Let us pray.
Father, we thank Thee for Thy unbreakable covenant of grace, established in Jesus Christ. Thou hast made us Thy people. Thou hast chosen us, Thou hast redeemed us by the blood of Jesus Christ. And, therefore, by grace, we are able to walk before Thee in obedience and Thou art pleased to walk with us. Bless us in our lives. Give us grace, then, to be an obedient people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.