By Fred O. Blakely
"Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" (Amos 3:31).
Our text from Amos has become a proverb which sets forth in interrogative form the necessity of essential agreement in order to genuine companionship, or fellowship. It is equally applicable to relations between men themselves and between men and God. We shall here attend to the latter employment of the proverb. If we are to walk with God in spiritual communion and comradery. we must come to agree with Him in His nature and ways. To profess. or attempt to do so without such accord. is to deceive ourselves and reproach the Divine Name.
The Setting of the Text
The text is part of Amos' group of four parables, or similes, by which he both establishes the genuineness of his prophetic office and intimates the necessity laid upon him by Israel's sins to deliver his message of coming punishment. He does this by illustrating the truths that "all effects have causes, and that from the causes you can infer the effects" (W. J. Deane). "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" "The 'two' are God's judgment and the Prophet's word. These do not coincide by mere chance, no mom then two persons pursue in company the same end without Previous agreement. The Prophet announces God's judgment because God has commissioned hire. The Prophet is of one mind with God: therefore, the Lord is with him. and confirms his word. The application of the parable is seen in vv. 7 and 8" (Deane).
The scope of the context suggests two points on either or both of which the Prophet's question would throw light. The one is his claim to be speaking the truth, the other is the people's claim to be doing the right. Between his word and their works there was utter incompatibility. Those must be wrong if these were right, and vice versa. And the axiom quoted supplies a decisive test. Amos walked with God; there could be no denying that—took His side and sought His glory amidst prevailing defection and disobedience. Must it not be argued from this that he was at one with God, and so in all his utterances spoke agreeably to His will? Israel, on the other hand, had clearly not agreed with God, for they were red-handed in rebellion against Him. Was not the inference from this resistless that they could not walk with Him—here by faith or hereafter by sight? (J. Edgar Henry).
Israel's Alienation by Sin. Beginning at ch. 2:4, the Prophet indicted the nation for its sins against God, which had separated it from Him, and necessitated the punishment which was announced. They were in distinct disagreement with, and rebellion against, God, and so, quite obviously, could not walk with Him. Rather, they were walking directly contrary to Him. "While ye loved and served Me, I dwelt in you and walked among you" [cf. II Sam. 7:7], God is, in effect, saying. "Now ye are become alienated from Me, your nature and Mine are totally opposite. I am holy, ye are unholy. We are no longer agreed, and can no longer walk together. I can no longer hold communion with you. I must cast you out." "The similes in this and the three following verses are all chosen to express the same thing,” namely, “that no calamities or judgments can fall upon any people but by the express will of God on account of their iniquities; and whatever His Prophets have foretold, they have done it by direct revelation from their Maker; and that God has the highest and most cogent reason for inflicting the threatened calamities. The correctness of the Prophet's predictions shows that he and God are in communion" (Adam Clarke).
God's Objective in the Case
To duly appreciate the depth of God's affront and resentment at the sin of Israel, its direct hearing on His fundamental objective for the nation must be realized. The rebellion of His chosen and nurtured people frustrated that objective in its central aspect. That aspect was God's own indwelling of Israel, His communion with them and His direction and sustenance of them through the ordinances and institutions which He had given. But their iniquitous rejection and despisement of "the law of the Lord" (ch. 2:4) had separated them from Him, necessitating withdrawal of His Presence and the announcement of coming chastisement.
The Purpose Stated. Time and again God had asserted to the nation His intent to indwell it. "I will set My tabernacle among you ... and I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be My people," was His Word from Mount Sinai by Moses (Lev. 26:11.12; cf. ch. 25:11. The Prophets took up this Divine intent and continually pressed it home to the people (Jer. 32:38; Ezek. 36:28; 37:26; Zech. 8:8; 13:91. The plaintive lament of Jesus, as He charged Israel with its long record of obstinate and murderous rebellion against God, repeated the desire. "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. thou that killest the Prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wing, and ye would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matt. 23:37.38; cf. Lu. 19:41-44).
It remained for Paul to gather up all the old-covenant assertions on the subject in one grand statement of the purpose for the church, as he set it forth as "the temple of God." "As God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people" (II Cor. 6:16). Thus, he declared, in Christ, we are "builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit" (Eph. 2:21-22). Because of its sin, this design of God was certainly never realized in Israel, and, for the same reason, is far from complete realization in the church. But—thanks to Him who has purposed it!—when He has finished with His remedial undertaking in Christ, it will be fully achieved. Hence, as John beheld the glorified church "coming down from God out of heaven" to inhabit the "new earth,' the Divine end of fashioning the saints into a perfect tabernacle for and expression of God was seen to have been wholly accomplished. "And I heard a great voice out of heaven" proclaiming the glorious consummation of God's intent, declared the Seer. "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God" (Rev. 21:1-3).
The Consequence of Rejection. Meanwhile, those who reject God's purpose for them, whether it be the nation of Israel or the church of Christ, must experience the inevitable consequence— that of separation from Him. Two cannot walk together, except they be agreed. The edict of Azariah to King Asa, of Judah is an abiding principle: "The Lord is with you. while you be with Him; and if ye seek Him, He will be found of you: but if ye forsake Him, He will forsake you" (ll Chron. 15:2). If ye will not be reformed by Me ... but will walk contrary to Me," declared God to Israel; "then will f also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins" (Lev. 26:23-24).
"Judgment begins at the house of Gad, begins at the sanctuary. For God will be sanctified either by or upon those that 'come nigh' unto Him (Lev. 10:3). Where there is no friendship there can be no fellowship: if two persons be at variance, they must first accommodate the matters in difference between them before there can be any interchanging of good offices. Israel had affronted God, had broken their covenant with Him, and ill-requited His favors to them. And yet they expected that He should continue to walk with them, though they took no care by repentance and reformation to agree with their Adversary and to turn away His wrath" (Matthew Henry).
The Necessity of Reconciliation. Since, by his nature and sin, man is at variance with God, it is essential that reconciliation be effected, if he and God are to walk together in fulfillment of the Divine purpose. As to its judicial aspect, that end, of course, was achieved for those who receive it "through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all" (Heb. 10:940). That is a matter of foundational importance and gloriously blessed reality. At the moment, however, we are principally concerned with what might be called experimental reconciliation, or the personally experienced establishment of harmony between God and those who have alienated themselves from Him by sin (Isa. 59:1-2). This coming together most be achieved by resolution of the controversy which created the separation.
The Immutability of God. The determinative consideration that must be faced at this point is that of the absolute unchangeableness of God. "Forever, O Lord, Thy Word is settled in heaven," acknowledged the Psalmist (Ps. 119:89): and so are His Nature and will, of which His Word is the expression. With God there in "no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (Jas. 1:17). Like the Son, who is "the express Image of His Person" (Heb. 1:3), God is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (ch. 13:8). "Even from everlasting to everlasting," He is God, and is "the same" (Ps. 90:2: Ps. 102:25.27). "I am the Lord. I change not," was His declaration to Israel, and it is the same to us (Mal. 3:6).
"Being absolutely perfect, any change of nature on the part of God must be for the worse. The 'Light' (I Jn. 1:5) would be dimmed; any 'variation' would cause a 'shadow that is cast by turning' (Jas. 1:17, ASV). He is 'Alpha and Omega' (Rev. 1:81, and not an intervening letter can be displaced: not 'one jot or one tittle' can pass away (Matt. 5:18). His Name declares it. Whether we interpret the divine Name, 'I am that I am.' or 'I will be that I will be,' unchangeableness is implied. He 'is, and was, and is to come, the Almighty' (Rev. 1:81" (E. S. Prout).
The Requirement of Man. Obviously, this circumstance imposes an inexorable demand upon alienated man. If there is to be agreement with God, so that he may walk with Him, all the repenting and turning, or changing, must be done by man. He must renounce and turn from his evil ways—give up his rebellion against the Almighty and Most Holy, acknowledging that he has been wrong and God has been right all along. There is simply no other way for the two to get together, inasmuch as God is not going to change, or in the least modify, His ways to conform to those of man. "Return unto Me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of hosts," was the Word to backslidden Israel (Mal. 3:7), and it is the same today to those who are "out of the way" (Heb. 12:13).
"Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:6-7). "Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double-minded" (Jas. 4:8), The prodigal must come to himself and make his way back to the Father, from which he departed by transgression. The Father most certainly will not join him in the "far country" of sin in order to be with him (Lu. 16:11-24). "In the relation between God and man, agreement is only to be attained by the conformity of man's mind and will to God's. It is not to be expected, it is not to be desired, that God's purpose should bend to man's. The human ignorance must accept the Divine wisdom, and the human error and sin must embrace the Divine grace and holiness. Such is the teaching of revelation—of the Law, and of the Gospel.
"Where there is want of harmony between God and man, it is for man to seek the reconciliation and unity which alone can bring about man's welfare. If these blessings were not offered there would be room to doubt their accessibility. But the revelation of God's counsels in Scripture assures us that our heavenly Father desires that His children should be at one with Him" (J. R. Thompson).
The Possibility and Requirement
If the possibility of such accord with God by man as to enable the latter to walk with the Former be questioned, we have but to cite the simple fact that it has been done. "Enoch walked with God," we are told, and apparently so intimately that God desired to have him still closer to Himself, hence, "took him" (Gen. 6:24). It is also specifically written that Noah "walked with God" (ch. 6:9). These Patriarchs lived in the starlight age of God's relation to fallen man—long before the actual propitiation for sin was made by Christ. Thus, if they could walk with God in that day, how much more can we do so now, when sin has been "put away" by the sacrifice of the Son (Heb. 9:26), the Holy Spirit bestowed upon the forgiven, and the heavens thrown wide open to them! As Paul would say, if we are straitened at all in this area, the difficulty is with us, not with God, who has abundantly provided for our bosom companionship with Himself (II Cor, 6:11-12). "Enoch walked with God." "That is a short biography. But there is more in it—more important in its character and more adequately expressed—than in many volumes. 'They shall walk with Me in white,' is a summary of the joy and glory of re-deemed spirits on high (Rev. 3:4). And life below is ideal in proportion as it approximates the life above. To walk with God implies that we walk with the same purpose as God. In proportion as the godly endorse and homologate the Divine purpose are they in the image of Christ, and do they walk with God" (J. E. Henry).
"We cannot expect that God should be present with us, or act for us, unless we be reconciled to Him. God and man cannot walk together, except they be agreed. Unless we agree with God in our end, which is His glory, we cannot walk with Him by the way" (M. Henry).
Involvements in the Process. "Spiritual relations are not accidental relations, nor such as men may drift into unconsciously. There are understood objects to be intelligently adopted. There are explicit terms to be deliberately accepted (Matt. 16:24; Tit. 2:11-14). There is a distinct transaction in which God and His way are adopted, and made our life-King and life-program (Mk. 16:16; Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:26-27). If it is a question of faith, we say, 'Lord, I believe: If it is a question of penitence, we say, 'I abhor myself, and repent.' If it is a question of allegiance, we vow, 'I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.' Our walking with God is not only with consent, but by arrangement, fully and solemnly subscribed. "Like draws like. Companionship with God bases itself in conformity to Him. If there be no affinity there will be no association. If this fails, association will be broken off. Duty must be our choice, or it will never be begun; and our joy, or it will never be continued. Walking with God implies a previous coming to Him, and both are conditioned by a spiritual change creating in us the Divine Image. Hearts begin to beat in unison when hands are clasped for life" (J. E. Henry).
"The Christian," says Joseph Cook. "is a man who has changed eyes with God." "Subtle affinities have arisen involving a marvelous unity of thought and aim. The end of our walking is God's end, and naturally His way becomes our way. 'The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him' (Ps. 15:14). In Christ, 'the Image of the invisible God' (Col. 1.15), it became an open secret to all believers. He has left 'us an example' (I Pet. 2:21), and there are no relations in life to which it does not apply. We 'follow His steps,' and by consequence walk like God, being 'imitators' of Him 'as beloved children' (Eph. 5:1, ASV).
"The ungodly are far from God, and of set purpose keep their distance. But faith brings near and keeps near His side. The humble, contrite heart that is the home of faith is also the temple of God (Isa. 57:15). The love by which faith works is His welcome and feast (Rev. 3:20). The believer lives in Gods Presence. He walks by faith, holding on as it were to the Divine hand. It is the promise and the experience of God's Presence with him that makes the journey light (Isa. 43:2). while the reality of it is the guarantee of safety and completion. God with us, we have unfailing provision, unerring guidance, and an invincible Escort. No marvel that they who thus travel 'go from strength to strength' (Ps. 84:7)" (J. E. Henry).