Amos had his first three visions and a confrontation with the high priest at Bethel, the king's high priest, since Israel has made their own choose-your-own religion. The priest, Amaziah, tried to get the king to kill Amos by cherry-picking from Amos. It ended up costing Amaziah, literally, everything.
Amos picks back up with his narrative with a new vision in Chapter 8. The Lord shows Amos a basket of summer fruit. A Ryrie Study Bible foot note explains that summer fruit is the end of the season fruit--ripe with a short edible life. The key words here are "ripe" and "end". The Lord further clarifies this with His words. He declares that the end has come for His people, Israel. He will spare them no longer.
They didn't love the Lord and they didn't love one another as He decreed. Grace ran out and judgement was at hand.
Palace life and songs would become death and wailing.
Then He has a message directly to those bringing down God's judgement.
- You trample on the needy.
- You can't wait until godly festivals and observances are over so that you can get back to defrauding the people.
- You make you bushel containers smaller and your shekel for the weights/scale heavier so that you can double steal from the people. Then they mix in the chuff from the floor, so they aren't even getting the goods they paid for.
- Then you buy into slavery the needy
In verses 7-9, God reiterates that He will not forget these deeds.
- The land will quake
- everyone will mourn
- the land will rise up and be tossed about like the flooding Nile and then subside
- an eclipse will make the sun dark at noon (presumably an eclipse)
It's worth making a note that this is another place where the land seems to be personified. It may just be that the earthquake was a specific event, created by God for this moment. However, ever since the Ruth Precept Study, I've begun to see the land as living. It cried out for Abel's blood and it was, specifically, redeemed by the savior in Revelation. And I'm seeing it more and more in other scripture I previous passed over. In the Warren Wiersbe commentary on the minor prophets, Be Concerned, he points out that even the land suffered because of their sin and it quaked and rose 25 feet or more, as the Nile does each year.
The second visible and natural reaction to the sin, now under judgement, would be the loss of light and into darkness. He gives us light, even when we sin. But there comes a time, when He leaves, light goes with Him because He IS light. It doesn't exist apart from Him.
In verse 10, He goes on to emphasize the grim experience of the people:
- their festivals to mourning
- songs to lamentations
- everyone in sachcloth
- everyone bald (I assume from pulling out their hair in grief)
- like grieving an only son
- "And the end of it will be like a bitter day."
Behold, days are coming, declares the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the word of the Lord.Amos 8:11
Wow. That really struck me. I bet most people would read that and could not imagine needing God's Word more than wanting food or water. Food and water are so concrete and we all have some concept of being hungry or thirsty- even just a little. But many of us haven't properly identified the hunger in our heart for the Word of the Lord. We all have it; but the enemy feeds us bread and circuses and we're distracted from what we really need. We throw ourselves into work or seek out emotional experiences in relationships. We find hobbies or dull ourselves in entertainment. But it's junk food. It doesn't have the spiritual nutrients that give life.
In verse 12 he describes people "staggering" from sea to sea; north and then east--to and fro seeking the word of the Lord. But they will not find it.
Verse 13 describes beautiful virgins and young men fainting from thirst.
And finally, in verse 14, God ends with a declaration that those who call on false gods will fall and not rise again. (Jeroboam places the two new alters in Samaria and Dan-to prevent Israel's citizens from going to Jerusalem for true worship.)
These aren't even worded as warnings anymore. These are flat declarations of the future; but Amos doesn't seem to be convincing anyone.
It's so very important to keep your heart soft before the Lord. These people don't seem to have any idea how hard their hearts have become. And it happens gradually, but completely over time. In all fairness, these people had been lied to since their birth. They didn't get a fair hearing of God's real word. But we also know that God's word is written on our hearts and we know He spoke to them in ways they could have recognized Him- If that's what they really wanted.
The reason "keeping your heart tender toward the Lord" is still so important, and staying on guard against the hard hearts we see here, is that many scholars see Amos' prophesies for the end of Israel also applying to the end times. Many are born into situations where they don't hear the real word of the Lord, including those in this country,And those of us who do know they Word can be distracted by bread and circuses. We must remain vigilant, in case all of the signs that we see today, that align with this passage, means that are Savior is coming back soon!