Amos – a Prophet from the Past – a Message for the Present
Last of a 5 part series
The Fourth Vision of Amos
Consider Amos Chapter 8...
The vision presented in this chapter, is of a basket of ripe summer fruit that is soon to perish. This was significant, not only for the people then, but also for our world today. Remember, the key to this entire series on the book of Amos is that our society is an almost perfect reflection of the one Amos brought his prophecy to.
Today, the lies of Satan abound in our society. “There are many paths to God; God is doing something new; God wants you to be rich; it doesn’t matter what you believe, so long as you try to live a good life; etc. etc.”
Perhaps the most insidious, and some think the most effective, is: “You don’t have to worry about God, or religion right now, there’s lots of time for that later. Enjoy yourself now while you’re young.” This, or something similar, is a very prevalent philosophy today, and it still is and always has been, a lie of the devil. It was no different in the time of Amos.
God had already shown His mercy and His patience with the people of Israel twice, in the first two visions of Amos, but there had been no repentance, no turning from sin. Amos had brought his warnings in the first few chapters, but to no avail. The people thought they still had plenty of time. God said no more, they were like ripe summer fruit; their time had come.
There are a number of possible interpretations of what is meant by the word translated ‘summer fruit’, but all agree that it symbolises God’s imminent judgement upon His people. Interestingly, the main association with the word has to do with Harvest. In fact, the word translated ‘end’ in verse 2, can also be translated ‘harvest’.
In the agrarian world of the Old Testament (OT), the annual harvest was of great significance at both a natural and spiritual level. It is tied up with the whole principle of sowing and reaping. It was the reward for a person’s labour. Much of the dating of events in the OT was linked to specific harvests, such as the wheat harvest in Genesis 30:14, or the grape harvest in Isaiah 24:13. Even the three main Feasts of Israel were linked to specific harvests. A failed harvest was often a sign of God’s judgement against His people for failing to uphold their covenant obligations. Isaiah 16:9 and 17:10-11, among many other scriptures, bear this out.
Because you have forgotten the God of your salvation, And have not been mindful of the Rock of your stronghold, Therefore you will plant pleasant plants And set out foreign seedlings; In the day you will make your plant to grow, And in the morning you will make your seed to flourish; But the harvest will be a heap of ruins In the day of grief and desperate sorrow. – Isaiah 17:10-11 (NKJV).
A harvest could either be a time of great opportunity and abundance, or a time of great fear and judgement; ‘as you sow, so shall you reap’. However, the topic of sowing and reaping is far too large to deal with here.
What has been suggested is that what Amos saw was an empty harvesting basket, signifying the result of God’s coming harvest. Whether it refers to a basket of fruit about to perish, or even an empty basket, God’s patience and mercy with the people of Israel was finished.
The message for the world today is the same as it was then. Stop playing games with God, His patience and His mercy are almost finished. You do so at your own peril. Look to the Harvest, and pray it’s not an empty basket
I find verse 3 interesting.
“And the songs of the temple Shall be wailing in that day,” Says the Lord GOD -- “Many dead bodies everywhere, They shall be thrown out in silence.”
Perhaps it’s just my personal taste in music, but I consider much of what passes for modern Christian music to be little more than the ‘howlings’ spoken of here. While I can’t really say much about a literal interpretation of the second part of that verse, I do believe that on a spiritual level, this has already happened. To me, the silence speaks of mourning, as for the dead.
So many in churches today are spiritually dead and don’t know it. They are under deception and sadly many prefer it so. They not only don’t want to hear the truth, they will actually run away from it. They prefer the lie, because it is more comfortable and in most cases, more pleasant; the truth can be and often is painful. Therefore, almost no one speaks up for truth anymore; the silence is deafening.
Verses 4-6 flow together, and verse 6 in particular, refers to Amos Chapter 2 and the concerns I presented in my first article. I don’t intend to deal with that again here, but I will elaborate on some of the other issues raised. Let’s consider those verses once more:
Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, And make the poor of the land fail, Saying: “When will the New Moon be past, That we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, That we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, Falsifying the scales by deceit, That we may buy the poor for silver, And the needy for a pair of sandals -- Even sell the bad wheat?” – Amos 8:4-6.
Note first, that this section is addressed specifically to those who oppress the poor and needy. Look what Matthew Henry has to say about these verses:
They were so eager to increase their wealth, and make it more, that they robbed the poor to enrich themselves; and they fastened upon the poor, to make a prey of them, because they were not able to obtain any redress nor to resist or revenge the violence of their oppressors. Those riches that are got by the ruin of the poor will bring ruin on those that get them.
Somehow, I doubt that those who practice such things today will heed this warning. After all, it might affect their ‘ministry’!!
Consider verse 5 for a moment, especially in terms of its modern implications. For someone who professes to be a Christian, either every day is a Sabbath, a day of resting in the Lord and in His completed work, or it is a day to be a part of the world and all it entails. There is no compromise possible. Either you serve God, or you serve the world and its ruler Satan. The Bible says it is IMPOSSIBLE to serve both. How then, can someone who belongs to God wish for a Sabbath to be over. To me, that is a contradiction. Therefore if that is your wish, then your true focus is on the world and not on God.
Of additional interest, is the fact that these people, who had an outward display of piety, cheated their fellow men, especially again, the poor and needy. They used false weights and measures in their buying and selling. The books of Leviticus and Proverbs give God’s view on this.
‘You shall do no injustice in judgment, in measurement of length, weight, or volume. You shall have honest scales, honest weights, an honest ephah, and an honest hin: I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe all My statutes and all My judgments, and perform them: I am the LORD.’ – Leviticus 19:35-37.
Diverse weights are an abomination to the LORD, And dishonest scales are not good. – Proverbs 20:23.
In some middle-eastern countries, this practice, if discovered, brought the death penalty. It probably still does. Are people being cheated today? Are the poor and needy still at the mercy of men like these? On both a natural and a spiritual level, I believe the answer is “Yes”. Many who are desperately seeking the Lord are being cheated by the charlatans out there masquerading as servants of Christ. These false ministers will one day feel the full weight of God’s wrath.
In verse 6, we are told these people were even selling the refuse of the wheat. This, according to the book of Leviticus, belonged to the poor, so they had no right to do that either. Once more, they were cheating those most in need of help. God cannot and will not standby and allow that to happen. His judgement was coming. The time for patience and mercy was past. Verse 7 clearly illustrates this point.
The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: “Surely I will never forget any of their works.”
From here, the Lord proceeds to outline the judgment He will bring.
The imagery is of death and destruction. The reference to a flood is significant, as it conjures up images of Noah and the destruction caused by the great flood. However, combined with this should be these well-known verses:
For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. – Matthew 24:38-39.
They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. – Luke 17:27.
I’m struck by the expression in Matthew 24, which ties in with the context of that verse, that our Lord will return when the times are like those of Noah. How much closer can we get! How many more signs do we need? When will people wake up? No, like the foolish virgins, they fall asleep and let their light burn out.
Verse 9 echoes how quickly, how suddenly, this will happen. The sun will go down at noon; the day will be cut short. There isn’t much time. Not only is it to be a time of mourning and lamentation, but as we pointed out in an earlier article, it will be marked by a famine of the Word of God. Is this not what we are seeing in the world today? How many people really know and understand the Bible? How many believe it? How many even read it!
In how many churches is the Word still being preached, or is it the case as was reported from one so called mega- church, “If you want to learn about the Bible, go to Bible College.” What an unbelievable statement. What has happened to the preaching of the Word? How have we let this happen in a society where Bibles are so freely available? How have we allowed the Holy Scriptures to be so diluted, that in many cases, what is called a Bible bears little resemblance to the true Word of God! It is alleged that only 54% of AOG pastors believe in the literal Truth of Scripture? Truly, the words of Amos have come to pass.
Take a look in any so called Christian bookstore today and make a note of what is being sold on the shelves and/or marketed in their catalogues. Most of it is blatant heresy, but few know or really care. Why? Quite simply, they aren’t reading their Bibles, so they have no idea how far from the true and living Word of God these books have strayed.
In verse 12, we are told of a people who wander the world seeking God and His Word, but they do not find them. They are not satisfied; they still thirst and will continue to thirst. There is only One who can quench that thirst - the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s certainly not a man, nor a place, and definitely not a ministry. People are searching, but they aren’t looking in the right place. Doesn’t this too echo the words of our Lord in Matthew 24:26?
Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.
The entire context here has to be referring to His second coming. This vision of Amos then, I believe, is also pointing to this same event. When Christ returns, the vision will be fulfilled in our time, in our society, and all the signs in the vision are already present. The message should be clear, let us heed it while we still may. There isn’t much time. Like a basket of ripe fruit, we have to act on it now, or all we’ll have is an empty harvest.
The Fifth Vision of Amos
Now we turn to chapter 9, for the final vision.
Note very carefully, the opening words of this vision; they give us two extremely important pieces of information that are central to understanding what is happening here. First of all, God is standing i.e. He is taking direct action in judgement. Whereas sitting indicates taking none. A good example of this would be how Jesus dealt with the woman taken in adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus was sitting, teaching in the temple when the woman was brought in. Jesus didn’t rise in judgement against her to condemn her but told her to “sin no more”.
This vision of Amos relates to where God is standing, which is the second important piece of information. He is at the altar, where sin offerings are made, and judgement is given. God symbolically sits on the mercy seat to show mercy, but when He stands, mercy is finished and sentence is about to be passed. This then, is the controlling image of this final vision. God has passed sentence on Israel and there is nothing that can change it.
This point is further emphasised in verse 1, with the next image. Reference is made to lintels and doorposts, and these are key images for the people of Israel.
And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. – Exodus 12:22-23.
This image was given as a symbol of God’s protection from His wrath and judgement. Now see how this has changed: ‘Strike the doorposts, that the thresholds may shake’ (Amos 9:1). The protection has been removed so that the wrath of god may fall on them. The Bible clearly states in the Book of Hebrews, that everything that can be shaken, will be shaken.
How does this apply to us? It is my understanding, that the New Testament (NT) equivalent of this symbol of the lintel and posts is the Cross. It was here, that the shed blood of the sinless Lamb of God redeemed us, and placed us under God’s hand of mercy and grace. All those who do not come to the Cross of Christ, all those who spurn His Cross, all those who deny its saving power and its relevance in our society, are placed outside of its protection. If the Cross is not central to our lives, then Almighty God is standing to pass judgement on a sinful and rebellious people.
Note next, where God’s first blow will fall: on the Head. If, as the Bible says, judgement begins in the House of God, then this makes it quite clear, that this judgement will begin at the Head. Those who are in leadership will take the first blow.
Our God is a God of justice and His righteous anger will be let loose upon those leaders who have fallen into those sins already detailed by Amos in the earlier chapters of his Book. Remember, this is ONE book and everything in it, is linked. This final vision is the culmination of all that has gone before.
The next few verses outline how complete and unrelenting God’s judgement will be. There shall be no escape possible; there will be no place to hide in that terrible Day of the Lord; but what of us? I think verse 9 contains the first part of the answer.
For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As grain is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground.
We, as part of the ‘grafted in’ House of Israel will be sifted, we will be shaken. This is a necessary part of sifting, so that the chaff will be blown away, but note that ‘not the least grain shall fall upon the earth.’ We will still be under His protection. Note too that the promise extends also to the nation of Israel and it has yet to be completely fulfilled in that regard.
Consider the Book of Hebrews:
But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel. See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire. – Hebrews 12:22-29.
If this isn’t a NT parallel to Amos 9, then I don’t know what is. This is the Hope that springs forth from the terror of the vision. This is part of what the rest of Amos chapter 9 speaks about. Let us consider the closing verses.
Verses 11 to 15 clearly speak of restoration and the coming of the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Book of Amos, so full of dire warnings and judgements, finishes with a rousing acclamation of God’s eternal plan.
The word translated tabernacle in verse 11, is actually the Hebrew word sukkah which means a temporary booth or hut made from leaves and branches. It was primarily used to shelter cattle and warriors in the field. It is the same word used in what is known as the Feast of Tabernacles, or Booths; a feast which has yet to be completely fulfilled since it points to our Lord’s second coming. In a sense, its use in verse 11 symbolises how the once great Kingdom of David had fallen, both naturally and spiritually.
Note also the three part restoration: ‘close up the breaches; raise up the ruins; rebuild it as in days of old’. Closing the breaches made by Israel itself came first. These were discussed in part 3 of this series. Look though at who was going to do it all, God. This could only happen when the Lord Jesus Christ, the true son of David, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born so that shelter, sanctuary could be found in Him and in Him alone. He is the restored tabernacle of David.
Verse 12 is worth closer examination because it and verse 11 are referenced by James in Acts 15:13-18 during the Council of Jerusalem. I’ll quote only verse 17:
So that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things.’ – Acts 15:17.
There are several complex theological arguments about the differences between Acts 15:17 and Amos 9:12, but they aren’t important here. However, there are some issues to address. The most significant is what is meant by the remnant of Edom?
Edom was the nation descended from Esau the brother of Jacob. Despite the fact the two nations were related, they were usually bitter enemies. As such, I believe that here they represent all the nations which hate Israel, both then and now. Some have suggested that the Muslims are the modern day equivalent since they too have common ancestry with Israel.
The “heathen, which are called by my name”, must be the Gentile nations which are now through Christ engrafted into God’s vine. I think it is fairly obvious that these provisions in verses 12-15 have yet to be fulfilled and like the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles, will have that complete fulfilment only when the Lord Jesus Christ returns.
What is important to note here, is the clear provision for the Gentile nations in verse 12, and the eventual restoration of the Jews in verse 14. Verse 15 becomes even more significant in light of what is currently happening in the Middle East. God is in control, hallelujah!
Verse 13 is interesting. It speaks not only of Harvest, a common theme in Amos as we have seen, but also gives some indication of the way in which it will be brought about. There are initially, three elements presented here, and as we all know three is the number of divine completeness and perfection.
We see the plougher, the sower, and the reaper, the three key persons of any harvest These reflect what should be the three key functions of the church; preparing the ground, sowing the seed, and eventually reaping the harvest.
Then we have the fourth person in the sequence. Four is the number of creation, and God’s creative works, and that is what this person is doing, treading out the grapes to create wine, another well known biblical symbol. This is the final key function of the church, after taking in the harvest, we have to turn it into the new wine. We have to train up and equip the people for their new life in Christ.
The time will come, says Amos, when we won’t be able to keep up with the number of people coming to the Lord; each worker, will overtake the other; there won’t be time to get one harvest gathered before more workers are in the field preparing it for the next season. This is but a part of the blessings God will pour out on His people.
Earlier on in Amos 5, God decreed that under His judgement, the people of Israel would plant, but not reap, nor would they enjoy the fruits of their labour. Now, in the time of His restoration, this will be reversed as verse 14 tells us.
‘...They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them.’
I don’t know when this time will be; I’m no expert on the Book of Revelation which also deals with these events. What I do know is that the time is coming soon and we need to be prepared. There is going to be a final harvest and we will have our parts to play in it. Some of us are best fitted to prepare the ground, some will sow the seed; others will go out as labourers into the harvest field, while still others will tread the grapes into new wine. Each one is just as important as any of the others, and each is in his/her own way necessary for the rest to function properly. Are you ready to take up your task when the call of God comes upon your life?
We began this series because the times and society of Amos, were very much like our own, so his message to the Israelites, was also God’s message to us. Let us not miss what the Lord is saying to His people in this day and at this time. Let us not make the same mistakes as they did. Let us not therefore come under His judgement as they did, but rather stay under His Mercy and His Grace.
These can be exciting times, and the Lord has much to accomplish. We are His voice and His hands and His feet to this world and to this generation. We all have a responsibility; we all have our own tasks. But we also need to be obedient to what God wants us to do. As Paul said of himself,
For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! – 1 Corinthians 9:16
About The Author:
David Yarwood is a retired high school teacher, a semi- retired church pastor and a foundation member of CWMF. After many years with both CLC and the AoG he and wife Margaret became associated with Philip and Kathleen Powell in 2001. David recently completed his current preaching series on the Book of Amos. David and Margaret have two adult children. They live in Tanah Merah, Queensland.
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