by Francis Foulkes ©


"Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down. Flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not retain his strength, nor shall the mighty save his life; he who handles the bow shall not stand, and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself, nor shall he who rides the horse save his life; and he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day," says the Lord' (2:13-16)

The last few verses have spoken of all that God had done for Israel and what they owed to Him. But they had rejected the hand that fed them. They no longer lived as the people of God at all. They may have professed to be God's people, but in their lives they were no different from any of the other nations that made no such profession. So there was no more reason for them to be free from God's judgment than any of these other nations. We may put it in another way. When a powerful enemy came against them, they would have no strength to stand, because they cut themselves off from their Source of strength, their mighty God.

a. No protection without God

Verse 13 gives us a vivid picture. The harvest had been reaped and the sheaves of corn were heaped on to a great cart that the farmer had. It was a tremendous load of great weight. Israel is pictured as being pressed down under the wheels of the laden cart. So they would be conquered by powerful enemies and crushed by them; and it would be God's judgment on them because they had rejected the ways of God, and the help and salvation that God would have given them if they had turned to Him.

b. No strength without God

The Bible is full of God's promises that He makes strong even the weakest who trust in Him. That was what He did for Israel when they were slaves in Egypt. That is what He has done for His people time and time again. 'He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength ... they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength.' (Isaiah 40:29-31; see also Romans 8:31 and Philippians 4:13.) But when we boast in our own strength, it is very different. When we think we have strength apart from God, He shows us that without Him we are utterly weak. 'The strong shall not retain his strength' says Amos. Israel had to learn that there is one and only one Source of strength.

c. No deliverance without God

Israel would have to fight against a powerful enemy, Amos tells them. They prided themselves in being skilled in the use of the bow, but the word of the Lord was 'he who handles the bow shall not stand'. They boasted in their horses, but the Lord said, 'nor shall he who rides the horse save his life'. They would not only fail to conquer their enemies; they would not even be able to escape (see also 9:1-4). 'Flight shall perish from the swift - and he who is swift of foot shall not save himself.' Their mighty men should have courage even in defeat, but the Lord's word was, 'he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day'.

'In that day'- the prophets often spoke of a day that was coming when it would be shown that only those whose trust is in God will stand. The New Testament also speaks of a coming 'day of the Lord'. We do not depend on bows and arrows and on the speed of horses in these days. But we do often try to rely on our own strength rather than on God. We accept God's gifts, and do not rely on the Giver. Our civilisation today depends on the blessings that have been brought to us through science and technology; but even so, unless we trust in God and not just in His gifts, the time will come when we will find ourselves without strength and, as it were, 'naked' and afraid. When we think more of the temporary riches of our possessions than of the eternal riches of Christ, we need the warning that was given to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:17-18 - 'For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked. Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.'


Lord, help us to realise that without You we are utterly weak, and so turn to you to 'be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus', and in the stern battles of life to be 'more than conquerors through Him who loved us'. AMEN. (2 Timothy 2:1 and Romans 8:37.)

For further thought and study. 1. What other passages in the Bible make the comparison between those who are rich and strong in the eyes of the world and those who have true riches and strength through depending on God? See, for example, Luke 1:50-53, 12:13-21, 1Corinthians 1:26-31, 1 Timothy 6:17-19 and James 2:1-7.

2. With these verses compare what is said in Psalms 20:7-8, 33:16-17, 147:10-11, Proverbs 21:30-31, Isaiah 31:1 and Hosea 1:7 about depending on horses and the weapons of war of those days rather than on God. Think out in detail, what are the things on which we are tempted to depend, rather than relying on God. What does it mean to rely on God? Do we have to do nothing? Or, what is our part in our own situations? And what must we look to God to do for us?

Note. There are several different ways of taking verse 13. The Authorised Version has 'I am pressed under you, as a cart is pressed that is full of sheaves', and similarly the New English Bible 'I groan under the burden of you, as a wagon creaks under a full load.' We cannot be sure whether the verse expressed the burden that the ingratitude and unfaithfulness of Israel were to God (compare Isaiah 1:14 and 43:24), or whether it speaks of God's judgment of them as the next three verses do.