Amos gets a fourth vision. In it he sees how the people are ripe for judgment. He acknowledges its righteousness, for he no longer intercedes. The actions of the people are described once more as an additional argument that the judgment is justified. Their behavior demands it. God will turn their situation completely upside down. He will darken the broad daylight with the clouds of His judgment and turn their feasts into mourning.
On top of that, He will give them a hunger and thirst for His words. But they have departed too far from the LORD to come to Him to satisfy that hunger and thirst. To satisfy their hunger and thirst they go to the idols in Bethel, Dan and Beersheba.
1 A Basket of Summer Fruit
1 Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, [there was] a basket of summer fruit.
The wicked king, Jeroboam, and the false prophet, Amaziah, cannot prevent the judgment from coming. On the contrary, they quicken it. After the fierce confrontation described in the previous chapter, Amos continues fearlessly to let himself be used by the LORD. He who has been called cannot do otherwise. He does not slow down, but brings his message with the same passion. He simply continues where he left off. He passes on the next vision.
A true prophet can only be silenced if you kill him. Otherwise he will not keep silent. He cannot because the LORD is not silent and he is His mouth. And even if a real prophet is killed, what he has said remains completely intact. For he has spoken God’s Word and that “abides forever” (1Pet 1:25).
This fourth vision is in line with Amaziah’s attitude, which shows total unwillingness to bow before the living God. His attitude is that of the whole people. Thus the people appear to be ripe for the judgment that was pronounced on Amaziah and his house in the previous verse. This judgment is presented in the basket of summer fruit, as the LORD will now explain to Amos.
2 Ripe for Judgment
2 He said, “What do you see, Amos?” And I said, “A basket of summer fruit.” Then the LORD said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer.
The question “What do you see, Amos?” (cf. Amos 7:8), forces Amos to look closely and answer. In this way, he becomes intensely involved in the vision. God wants us to really see what He shows and not give our own vision of what He shows. This is also important in view of what He says in His Word. It does not suit us to say ‘I do not see it that way’ when God has clearly shown in His Word how He thinks about certain things. In the same way, every time we read God’s Word, the question of the Lord comes to us, where He mentions our name, just like with Amos: ‘What do you see …?’
The question to Amos is clear and not difficult to answer. His answer is exactly what God shows. That is why he is told what the meaning is. Herein lies also for us the secret of growing “in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2Pet 3:18). When we ‘see’ what God shows in the Bible, He makes its meaning clear. He then gives us insight into His thoughts.
The summer fruit shows that the end is certain and also near. In Hebrew there is a play on words. The word for summer fruit is pronounced almost the same as the word for ‘end’ in: “The end has come for My people Israel.”
The verdict “I will spare them no longer”, literally “I will pass him by no longer” (cf. Amos 7:8), will bring mourning over Israel, as it did over Egypt at the time (verse 10). If people do not put an end to sin in their lives, God must put an end to man, even if it concerns His people Israel.
3 Songs Will Turn to Wailing
3 The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day,” declares the Lord GOD. “Many [will be] the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence.”
The feast they celebrate in their idol temple on the occasion of the harvest will turn to wailing with the coming of the end. But they do not think about this end. They do not think for a moment about the approaching judgment. And if they think about it, it will take their time. So they live happily on in the delusion of ‘after us the deluge’.
We find the same evil thinking in Christianity, as it is represented in the parable of the good and evil slave (Mt 24:45-51). There is no song with which the apostate people of God rock themselves to sleep like the song “my master is not coming for a long time” (Mt 24:48).
We can compare this with the attitude of the people that Amos describes and reproaches them because they “put off the day of calamity” (Amos 6:3). But God often reminds Israel of the day of the end and Christians also need to be reminded again and again of the coming of the Lord. This end will come at a time when one is in a festive mood and every thought of judgment is banished, for “the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape” (1Thes 5:2b-3).
Numerous are those who will fall prey to this judgment (Psa 110:6). The corpses will not be buried, they will not even be burned (Amos 6:10), but cast forth. Death rules everywhere. The flabby rest and the life of pleasure have given way to a grievous agony of death.
Silence fits this unusual event, for which man can only be awestruck. Any human speech would show total insensitivity to the terrible things that have happened. It does not fit to hear anything from man in these moments of the greatest seriousness of Divine intervention (Zep 1:7; Hab 2:20). It is the frightening silence because of the judgments of God.
4 Again: Hear!
4 Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land,
The silence is used to call again to listen to God’s voice that must be heard (Amos 7:16). Now no longer to listen to a way to escape, but to the accusations and the verdict. The prosecutor speaks again and resumes the accusations before the judge pronounces the verdict. There must be listening! Amos has twice pleaded before God as the advocate for the people. It was to no avail.
5 Man’s Big Talk
“When will the new moon be over,
So that we may sell grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat [market],
To make the bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with dishonest scales,
Amos exposes the thinking of these people here. We can apply this directly to our time. If we know ourselves a little and dare to take an honest look at ourselves, we recognize ourselves in it. It is about us when we use the time in the church or meeting to think of methods to earn even more. The day of the Lord cannot be over soon enough to be able to trade again and increase our possessions with ungodly practices.
In Israel, they do this by tampering with the bushel [literally ephah], the shekel, and the scales. An ephah is a measure of content with which corn is measured. Its content is probably between twenty and forty-five liters. They make an ephah in which less liters can be measured. The shekel, which weighs between ten and thirteen grams, with which they weigh their wares, is too heavy, the customer thus also receives less value for money. They sell corn using their own measure, while pretending it is the usual measure. They also do the same with weighing. Their weight is heavier so the price to pay is higher. Their deception is double. They give less and ask more. Moreover, the scales do not indicate properly. People are cheated in three ways.
This way of acting is an abomination to God (Deu 25:13-16; Pro 20:10). Here people are described who count with everything except God and therefore have counted wrong eternally. Don’t we know it? Singing nicely about Jesus as the highest Good, while life testifies that all earthly riches are the highest good. Time in church and work for the Lord does not bring hard cash and what brings nothing is loss. After all, time is money. While they hold the Sabbath outwardly, they are inwardly in the market square. Although the market square is empty, they are busy in their thinking with their trade. The Mammon is their god. Who would rather sell corn than worship God, is a stranger to God and an enemy to himself.
6 The Lust for More
6 So as to buy the helpless for money
And the needy for a pair of sandals,
And [that] we may sell the refuse of the wheat?”
This charge is a repetition (Amos 2:6). They want to take all the possessions. In doing so, they do not even shun taking people as their possessions. The law of the strongest applies (Job 22:8; Isa 5:8; cf. Neh 5:2-5). First the possessions are taken, then the freedom. They pride themselves on selling garbage, while pretending it is nutritious grain. Then they do so in addition to their scams with size, price and weight.
By supplying garbage they take away the health of those in their power. The meaner they have ripped off someone, the more they praise their skill. They lack decency, honesty and any sense of humanity.
A human being obsessed with money will want to enrich himself at all costs and without shunning any means to achieve this goal. Such people confirm the truth of the word: “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1Tim 6:9-10).
7 Another Oath of the LORD
7 The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
“Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.
Again the LORD swears that He will judge. Previously He swore by His holiness (Amos 4:2) and by Himself (Amos 6:8). Here He swears “by the pride [or: glory] of Jacob”, which is ultimately also He Himself. Thus the LORD is called “their Glory” (Psa 106:20; Jer 2:11). Jacob, that is the people of Israel, rejected that glory and trampled it underfoot by all the guilty deeds expressed by Amos. However, God will uphold His honor and glory in judgment.
He is not like an earthly judge to whom some of the atrocities committed escaped. A limitation period is unknown to Him. His glory is all that becomes visible of Him. He is glorious in upholding the law whereby He will righteously repay every deed. No act remains unpunished or unrewarded. If He would not do so, He would deny His glory.
For the execution of the judgment, God keeps accurate accounts. All man’s deeds are recorded with painful precision (Rev 20:11-15). When the books are opened and the deeds are seen and the indictment is read, it will not occur to anyone to oppose its accuracy. The judgment that is made will be just, without a semblance of error.
8 The Normal, Appropriate Response
8 “Because of this will not the land quake
And everyone who dwells in it mourn?
Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile,
And it will be tossed about
And subside like the Nile of Egypt.
The announcement of the judgments that God will bring on Israel should not leave the earth unmoved. It will have to disturb everyone who hears about it. Amos asks it as a question. He describes what is an appropriate response to the speaking of God. If there is no response to what God has said, indifference proves it. The whole land falls under God’s judgment.
It will go with the people, like with the Nile in Egypt: then it will rise up and flood everything, then it will retreat into its bed. The land will be tossed about, as it were, jumping from its place. It will go with the land like the river of Egypt, which is pushed and driven out of its ordinary bed, to subside into its bed again.
9 Darkness in Broad Daylight
9 “It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord GOD,
“That I will make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in broad daylight.
The expression “in that day” usually refers to the end time, to which Amos here refers for the first time in his prophecy. It is not a day of twenty-four hours, but a period in which the great reckoning of the LORD will take place. What Amos describes here is the same as what the Lord Jesus refers to in His end time speech (Mt 24:29-30). It is about the time when the Lord Jesus will appear on the clouds to judge the ungodly mass of His people, which at the same time will mean the deliverance of the faithful remnant, ‘His elect’.
The application to the generation that hears the words of Amos is that their glory will end at a moment when they do not expect it at all. While everything seems radiant, darkness suddenly sets in. It is like an airplane suddenly crashing or exploding in the air. It will be like the sun setting while it is not the time for it. In the same way, the sun sets for every person at noon, when he is suddenly torn away from life by death. The same goes for whole nations.
10 Mourning Instead of Festivals
10 “Then I will turn your festivals into mourning
And all your songs into lamentation;
And I will bring sackcloth on everyone’s loins
And baldness on every head.
And I will make it like [a time of] mourning for an only son,
And the end of it will be like a bitter day.
Amos has talked about “your festivals” before (Amos 5:21). There God expresses His deep contempt for them. Here Amos points out what will replace their festivals. If God’s judgments are on Israel, all festivals will turn into the heaviest mourning. The cheerful songs will give way to lamentations. Their festive clothes will be exchanged for robes of mourning. They will shave off all their beautiful hairstyles (Isa 3:24). Every thought of a festival is gone. The hopping mass has turned into a grieving crowd.
The mourning they will make heard is not one of repentance and remorse for the sins they have committed. It is the mourning of the judgment that God carries out and from which there is no escape. If an only son dies, the continuation of the family is out of the question, and thus the cause of the heaviest mourning (Jer 6:26). The end of mourning is not in sight; it remains a bitter day.
11 A Hunger Sent by the LORD
11 “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 words of the LORD.
In those days of deep sorrow, they will also miss the light and comfort of the Word of God. They will feel the need for what they have always despised. To fulfill that need, they will look for prophets who can tell them the Word.
Nothing seems to be wrong with that. On the contrary, it seems to be a very good pursuit. After all, God likes to see His people hungry and thirsty for His Word, doesn’t He? He makes us long for it (1Pet 2:2). But God sends this longing to His people as an extra judgment. That is what the following verse makes clear.
12 Searching and Not Finding
12 “People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD,
But they will not find [it].
They will stagger without any sense of direction. They will wander without orientation, because they are deprived of any guidance from the LORD. “From sea to sea” is from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean, that is from east to west, but also all over the earth. They will look for Him Who they have always despised. The call “seek Me and live” is silenced and does not sound anymore (Amos 5:4). That time is over. The hunger and thirst they will feel and which they can no longer satisfy will increase the bitterness of the time of punishment. On earth they will already experience some of the horrors of hell.
If the Lord now withholds His Word, the light of revelation, from anyone, it means that the judgment is final. Nothing more can be changed. All opportunities are offered, but rejected with contempt. In the Bible we encounter seekers who have not found. King Saul was such a seeker who did not find (1Sam 28:6,15). People like Saul are the most tragic persons the world has known.
Therefore, for everyone who reads this and has neglected the Lord Jesus so far: “Seek the LORD while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near” (Isa 55:6). The day may come when it is too late and you will seek and not find. Then you will call but He will not answer you anymore (Mic 3:7; Eze 7:26; Lk 17:22; Jn 7:34).
So it will be with apostate Christianity when the church and the Holy Spirit are taken away from the earth. God will then be silent, and then His silence is worse than His speaking.
13 The Beautiful and Strong Youth Succumbs
13 “In that day the beautiful virgins
And the young men will faint from thirst.
Hunger and thirst will be common. The usually carefree young people will also search for the words of the LORD. But no matter how much energy they have for that search, they too will search without finding. Their youthful attractiveness does not help to get the coveted and their youthful strength is not enough to keep them standing. If this is the fate of the youth, it seals the fate of the whole people.
14 Searched in the Wrong Places
14 “[As for] those who swear by the guilt of Samaria,
Who say, ‘As your god lives, O Dan,’
And, ‘As the way of Beersheba lives,’
They will fall and not rise again.”
The youth collapses and dies because they seek their support in the wrong places. Their hunger for the words of the LORD they try to satisfy by consulting the idols. “Swear by the guilt of Samaria” means swearing by the golden calf of Bethel, also called the calf of Samaria (Hos 8:6; 10:5). The “god of Dan” is the golden calf of Dan. They also swear by “the [pilgrim’s] way to Beersheba”, like the Arabs swear by the pilgrimage to Mecca.
So today, countless people are looking for a god. That may be Mary or a guru, as long as it is not the God of the Bible, the God Who can only be found and known by His Son Jesus Christ.
The hunger for the words of the LORD which He Himself placed in their hearts reveals their longing for the idols they have served. They will share in the fate of the idols, for they do fall and do not rise again. Thus their final end is determined.