Amos in the midst of revealing the visions the Lord has shown him. In chapter 7 Amos revealed the first three visions. But then Amaziah the priest from Bethel interrupted this preaching concerning the visions from the Lord. Chapters 8 and 9 continue with the final two visions of this prophecy.
The Vision of Summer Fruit (8:1-3)
The fourth vision is a basket of summer fruit. This vision contains a play on words. The Hebrew word for “summer fruit” sounds very similar to the word for “end.” The play on words brings about the idea that the fruit is ripe for harvest, that is, Israel is ripe for God’s judgment. As God declared in Amos 7:8, God restates that he will not spare the nation from judgment any longer. The nation is worthy of judgment and God cannot overlook their sins any more. The songs in their idolatrous temples will become the sound of wailing. Here is what Amos sees: dead bodies, thrown everywhere, and total silence. It is a gruesome scene of judgment because the people have rejected the Lord.
Dark Hearts (8:4-6)
God does not judge without cause. God is not acting out of emotional anger but out of justice because the sins of the nation have become so great. Verses 4-6 describe the condition of the people’s hearts. Listen to what they are doing. They have become so worldly and so materially minded that they do not want to keep the feast and holy days to the Lord. In verse 5 they are asking when the new moon will be over so they can get back to selling grain. They want to get back to their schedules. They want the Sabbath to hurry up and end so they can get back to making money. In the process they are acting unjustly, destroying the poor and oppressing the needy as they try to acquire more for themselves. “When will worship be over? We want to get back to our schedules.” Can you see these people as clock watchers, hoping for the Sabbath to end so they can get back to making money? There is no joy in worship. There is just the desire to get the worship over. Hurry up and get through it because we have things to do. You will notice over the past couple years that we have extended our worship with scripture readings and the Lord’s Supper talks because the last thing we want to communicate is that we are in a hurry. Rather, we are trying to give a focused amount of time to each aspect of our worship as we draw our hearts near to God. There is supposed to be a life change that comes from worship because we have entered the presence of God. Too often we come with a “leave me alone and let me get back to my life.”
Silence From God (8:7-14)
These are chilly words of judgment: “Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.” Judgment is coming for every sinful act they have committed. These people will not get away with abusing the poor and cheating the oppressed. These people will not get away with swindling others. They will not avoid judgment for desiring their own schedules and wealth over worshiping the Lord.
Verse 9 describes the nation falling at its peak. We have noted through our study of Amos that the northern nation called Israel is at its peak in power and wealth. It is like the sun at noon in terms of the greatness of the nation. But in its greatness of wealth and power God is going to darken the earth. It is the end of the nation, even though it seems to be in its pinnacle. Bitter mourning and wailing is coming.
Further, the Lord is going to send a famine, but it is the most fearful famine you can experience. It is a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. You have rejected the word of the Lord now, so that when you see the word of the Lord you will not find one. You will not have the Lord to rely upon anymore because you have relied on your wealth and despised the word of the Lord. God will be silent toward these people. They will look for a prophet but they will not find it (8:12). Even the strong or the young will not have the word of God (8:13-14). Now they will reap the harvest of the whirlwind for their rejection of God’s word.
How often this happens to us! How often we live how we want to live and reject the counsel and the commands of the Lord. Then we experience suffering, depression, desperation, and misery from our foolish decisions. Because we have rejected the counsel of the Lord we experience terrible consequences in our lives, in our families, and in our relationships. Then we start running to the word of God looking for some magic words to fix our problems. Yet so often it is too late. The damage of sin has been inflicted and now we must suffer the consequences. Suddenly we turn our eyes upward only to see the darkness of our sins coming down upon us. We pay the temporal consequences for our sins.
Vision of the Lord Besides the Altar (9:1-10)
The final vision reveals the Lord standing beside the altar. God declares that there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Try to go to the tops of the mountains or the depths of the sea but judgment is surely coming (9:2-4). There is no escape for rejecting the word of the Lord.
Listen to the power of the Lord in verses 5-6. Do not suppose that we can hide ourselves from God. This reminds me of the foolishness of Adam and Eve thinking they could hide themselves from the Lord after they committed the sin of eating from the tree. Israel is not protected. Israel does not have special status before the Lord (9:7-10). The surrounding nations are going to shake Israel so that they sinners are punished with the sword. God sees this sinful nation.
This is a grave warning against being arrogant. Israel was arrogant, believing that they were special which led them to being immune to God’s judgment. Notice in verse 7 that the Lord points out that Israel was not the only nation that he delivered from a land. The Lord governed the migration of Israel just as he had governed the migration of these other nations. We have no special standing before the Lord. The apostle Paul warns us against this kind of thinking in his letter to the Romans.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. 19 Then you will say, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. 21 For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. 22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. (Romans 11:17–24 ESV)
Observe verse 22: Note “God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” When we forget God’s kindness toward us, then we are liable to become arrogant. Further, we must continue in his kindness based on his kindness toward us. Israel had lost their way and we can lose our way when we presume our place in the kingdom of God. As soon as we think that we stand without the grace of God and without standing fast in the faith, then we are also ripe for judgment, rather than ripe for receiving God’s blessings.