“Thus hath the Lord GOD showed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the LORD unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more. And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord GOD: there shall be many dead bodies in every place; they shall cast them forth with silence. Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works. Shall not the land tremble for this, and every one mourn that dwelleth therein? and it shall rise up wholly as a flood; and it shall be cast out and drowned, as by the flood of Egypt. And it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord GOD, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day: And I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation; and I will bring up sackcloth upon all loins, and baldness upon every head; and I will make it as the mourning of an only son, and the end thereof as a bitter day. Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst. They that swear by the sin of Samaria, and say, Thy god, O Dan, liveth; and, The manner of Beersheba liveth; even they shall fall, and never rise up again” (Amos 8).
“A basket of summer fruit” at first glance suggests blessing and prosperity, but God told His prophet that it will all be destroyed when He pours out His wrath on the land. His people were ripe for judgement because of the gross wickedness they had engaged in. They had been given decades of opportunity to repent and mend their ways, but they rejected the warnings that the prophets brought, instead they consistently and persistently rebelled against the Lord. The harvest was ready, but what a reaping was going to take place!
Sowing the seeds of sin
The apostle Paul wrote, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:7-8). This was certainly true of the people in Amos’ day. The leaders of Israel sowed selfishness and self-interest. They loved making a profit even at the expensive of the poor and defenceless. They were the greedy bankers of that day. Wealth was their god. They had no compassion for anyone, instead they were ruthless with others. They robbed the poor of the little they owned, and even sold them into slavery if they could not pay back what they borrowed. They never flinched an eyelid when they saw those whom they had reduced to poverty eating the useless grains from the threshing floor.
These evil men put profit before God, but this social injustice was not the greatest part of why He was going to punish Israel. These things, and worse, went on in neighbouring nations. The real problem is that Israel was a chosen nation, therefore they knew better and ought to have done better that the other countries. Their God was the one true God, He had revealed to them His word, and they were blessed in many ways. Instead of Israel setting the example for the surrounding nations to follow, they followed the evil practices of those nations.
Reaping the results of sin
Everything Amos told Israel fell on deaf ears. They had heard it all before many times, but the prophets’ predictions did not come to pass. They assumed that since the judgement the prophets warned about did not immediately happen, that the message was fictitious. They failed to realise that God in His mercy was giving them ample time to repent and turn to Him. Now the day of reckoning was upon them. What they had sown over the years has come to fruition. The harvest day had arrived.
God’s judgement upon Israel is expressed in terms of three natural disasters, which people at that time knew to be the hand of God working against them. There would be a massive earthquake, an eclipse and severe famine. All these things happen in the world, but what is different here is that the prophet Amos prophesied the exact order they would occur. The third of these, the famine, is not to be taken as being literal though, for the text makes it clear that it is spiritual in nature. Because they refused to listen to God’s word in the past, the time would come when they realised they needed it, but would not be able to find it. It would seem to them that God had completely forsaken His people. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
As we look around us we cannot but realise that our nation is in a similar spiritual condition as ancient Israel. We too deserve to be judged. Who is to blame for the mess we are in? We can blame the politicians, the bankers and other leaders, but maybe the problem lies closer to home. What the world is crying out for, though it would not admit it, is for Christians to be the people they are meant to be. “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God” (Romans 8:19). We have seen many natural disasters over the last few decades, and each one is dismissed as being caused by nature instead of the possibility of them being the wrath of God. In the past these events were designed to cause people to turn to God, but now Christians are too scared to state the facts and so explain them away.
So what about each one of us? How does this chapter of Amos speak to us? Do we dismiss it because we have heard it all before? Do we believe that God would never punish His people like this? Maybe the reason we think like this is because we have put possessions and profit before the Lord. Maybe we see our own “basket of summer fruit” and believe everything is nice and comfortable, but the famine has already begun in our hearts. Yes, how often we forget to feed and drink from God’s word when we are full of this world’s goods! It we “hunger and thirst after righteousness” now (Matthew 5:6), we will not starve when the spiritual famine hits. While others are searching for answers for their woes, we will be “blessed” and “filled” (Matthew 5:6).