Summary: Seek God, do justice - before it is too late.
A BASKET OF RIPE SUMMER FRUIT
This vision and its interpretation is based in a pun: the Hebrew word for “Summer fruit” sounds almost identical with the word translated “the end” (Amos 8:1-2). Read Amos 4:6-11 for a litany of the temporal judgments which the LORD laid upon Israel, with its terse refrain, ‘Yet you have not returned to Me, says the LORD’! The LORD still calls them “My people Israel” (Amos 8:2), but there has been a steady ripening of divine judgment for the Northern Kingdom of Israel ever since the rule laid down in Amos 3:2.
The LORD had already set a plumb-line among His people Israel, and (because of their sins) there was no longer a pass-over for them (cf. Amos 7:8). Their religious innovations had failed, and even the king himself would fall before the plumb-line. The whole dynasty, the whole cult, and the whole Northern kingdom was doomed (cf. Amos 7:9).
Could you imagine the desolation of such a day? The songs of the temple become wailings; dead bodies are cast out everywhere. Silence (Amos 8:3).
There follows an indictment against the unscrupulous. You trample upon the needy and make the poor of the land fail (Amos 8:4). Your religious observances are hypocritical, and you cheat your customers with false weights and measures (Amos 8:5). You enslave the poor and needy and sell the sweepings of the floor (Amos 8:6). The LORD sees and cannot forget these sins (Amos 8:7).
So we see that, in the words of Gilbert and Sullivan, ‘the punishment fits the crime’ - at least for these people. “Shall not the land tremble for this, and everyone mourn who dwells in it?” (Amos 8:8a). The picture is of the swelling and subsiding of the River Nile in Egypt (Amos 8:8b; Amos 9:5).
“In that day,” says the LORD God, “I will” cause the sun to cease to shine (Amos 8:9). There follows sorrow, death, eternal bitterness (Amos 8:10). Then, for a people who choose to live without the word of God, the famine of all famines: a famine of hearing the words of the LORD (Amos 8:11).
Other famines pale into insignificance in comparison with a famine of the word of God. The LORD had allowed Israel to hunger long ago, teaching them that ‘man shall lot live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD’ (Deuteronomy 8:3; cf. Matthew 4:4). A constant refusal to obey causes the blessing of the word to be withdrawn.
What a horrible thing: to be left “wandering”: falling about like a drunkard; swaying in the wind; lips quivering in agitation - and all for the lack of a word from God (Amos 8:12). The LORD had said, ‘Seek Me and live’ (Amos 5:4-6), but now it was too late. As Mary sang in her song, ‘the rich He has sent empty away’ (Luke 1:53).
For us the call still goes out: ‘Seek the LORD while He may be found’ (Isaiah 55:6-7). God’s word is not far away for those with a heart to hear (cf. Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Romans 10:6-8). However, let us be ‘doers of the word, not hearers only’ (James 1:22).