Every so often in the history of a people, there is an event that is a giant “re-set.” It becomes THE event of a generation, or a century. Clearly, after that moment, everything is going to be different.
My parents’ generation had that experience in 1929 with the great depression. Others recall Pearl Harbor Day as having this life-altering reality. For many of us, we recall 9/11 in some measure in this way. I know I did – being up in Pennsylvania when it happened, listening to the events on the radio while driving home, I knew that this was a watershed moment in my life and generation.
The ultimate “re-set” for a nation is of course when they are essentially wiped out as an independent entity. And that is the nature of the prophecy of Amos to the people of Israel just a few decades before the Assyrians (and later the Babylonians) would pillage God’s disobedient children. Their sin had made them ripe for judgment …
8:1 – This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. 2 “What do you see, Amos?” he asked.
“A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.
Then the Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.
3 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies—flung everywhere! Silence!”
The reading of these verses about a basket of ripe fruit is more dramatic in the original Hebrew, because the words translating “fruit” and “time is ripe” sound very, very similar. It would be like saying, “The dog snarled at the boy like he wanted to take a bit of a bite out of him.” Yes, the time was ripe for ripping Israel from their false security, and their pleasant songs of (hypocritical) worship would be replaced with wailing. The devastation would call for … SILENCE!
The reasons God would do this to his chosen people are rehearsed yet again …
4 Hear this, you who trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land, 5 saying, “When will the New Moon be over that we may sell grain, and the Sabbath be ended that we may market wheat?”—skimping on the measure, boosting the price and cheating with dishonest scales, 6 buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, selling even the sweepings with the wheat.
7 The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.
Amos repeats a theme from chapter 5 – the issue of their material exploitation and injustice. The picture is of merchants who tolerated holy days – Sabbaths and festivals – yet were impatient to see them end so that they could get back to selling and cheating people in varied ways.
8 “Will not the land tremble for this, and all who live in it mourn? The whole land will rise like the Nile; it will be stirred up and then sink like the river of Egypt.
Here is another picture of the “re-set” that Amos said was coming. The Nile River in Egypt was known throughout the ancient world for its annual flooding. This would bring on the one hand a good deposit of rich silt for agriculture, but on the other hand, if the flood was too high, towns would be wiped out. The Aswan Dam of 1970 has brought order to this cycle in modern times. But the picture is that Israel would experience a “judgment flood” and would find everything “re-set” on the other side – if they survived.
The scope of the re-set is seen in the following verses …
9 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10 I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping. I will make all of you wear sackcloth and shave your heads. I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from north to east, searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it.
13 “In that day the lovely young women and strong young men will faint because of thirst.
14 Those who swear by the sin of Samaria—who say, ‘As surely as your god lives, Dan,’ or, ‘As surely as the god of Beersheba lives’—they will fall, never to rise again.”
This final verse is a bit odd, but, it references those who had confidence in Samaria = Israel = Northern Kingdom. Whether their faith was placed in the god over Dan or Beersheba, the land was getting wiped out. Dan was the northernmost area, whereas Beersheba was the southernmost. It would be like us saying, “from Caribou, Maine to Key West, Florida.”
Be sure to note this major idea from these final verses: the greatest loss was not of food or water or anything of the material world. The most-felt loss was of the Word of the Lord. God would be silent; he would not be found; he would not be speaking through prophets anymore. He.Was.Gone!
It is a hard sell that the greatest need any of us have is the live-giving Word of God. It is nice to have material and measurable success in your life or in the corporate life of the church family. But the greatest need is knowing God’s Word. It is nice when everything about life and church is going well and booming and progressing. But, the greatest need is knowing God’s Word.
To you reading this … thank you for investing in knowing God’s Word. It is exceedingly difficult to get anything even close to a majority of people in a church like TSF to make such an investment. Why? Because, like Israel, too many do not actually believe their greatest need is the life-giving Word of God, or that their highest commitment needs to be growing in it and their knowledge of God.
A big life calamity that is a “re-set” might change that, but why wait for disaster?