There is nothing like a stroll through Farmer’s Market. The baskets of ripened fruit line row after row and entice you to reach out and take a bite of a big juicy peach, delicious plum, or a plump strawberry. If you have ever visited the Farmer’s Market then you know exactly what I am talking about. When we visit the Farmer’s Market, or see all of the fruits and vegetables at a grocery store, most of us don’t see any hidden messages or spiritual symbolism in the items at all, but for Amos, a basket of ripened fruit contained a disturbing message.
The fourth vision that God gave to Amos was a basket of ripened fruit. If you will remember our studies of the past few weeks, we have been working our way through Amos 7:1-9:4. In these verses we find five visions that God showed Amos. In the first two visions, the destruction of the land by locusts and fire, Amos interceded for the people of the Northern Kingdom and asked God to stop. God heard Amos’ prayer and He decided that He would not carry out what He had planned. In the third vision, the vision of the plumb line, Amos was silent. He didn’t say a word. The vision of the plumb line taught us that God was going to measure the faithfulness of His people by His standard and as a result they would be found crooked in all of their ways. This morning we are going to take a look at the fourth vision that God showed Amos, a vision of a ripened basket of fruit. Let’s take a look at our Scripture and then we will get started.
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!” 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 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 the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done. 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. 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 feasts 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 Men 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 They who swear by the shame of Samaria, or say, ‘As surely as your god lives, O Dan,’ or, ‘As surely as the god of Beersheba lives’– they will fall, never to rise again.” (Amos 8:1-14 NIV)
God showed Amos a basket of ripened fruit. The Hebrew phrase which is translated “basket of ripe fruit” is “????? ???????” (kelub qayits). The phrase literally means, “basket of summer fruit.” The King James and New American Standard translate the phrase as “basket of summer fruit,” but if you are reading the New International Version of the Bible then you can see that the translators have “basket of ripe fruit.” The New International Version does a good job of showing us what God was seeking to show Amos because the vision is based on a word play. Let’s read Amos 8:2 and I will show you what I mean. God asks Amos,
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. (Amos 8:2 NIV)
The word play that I was referring to is found in the phrase that we just read, “The time is ripe for my people Israel.” The Hebrew word, “???” (qets), translated as “ripe,” sounds very similar to the Hebrew word for “fruit” (qayits), but this word literally means, “end.” The basket of ripe fruit signified the end of harvest season. It was the end of the agricultural season for the people of Israel and God wanted Amos to know that it was also the end of God’s patience with His people. The time of harvest, or the time of judgment, was now at hand. At the end of verse 3, God says, “I will spare them no longer.” There is a great lesson in this for us if we will pay attention.
Throughout the years God had been very patient with His people. He had called them out of slavery, set them up in a land of their own, given them guidance as to how they were to live their lives, and promised His abiding presence with them…if they would obey Him and honor Him with their lives. If they refused to listen to God and turned away from Him, then God would judge them and they would suffer the consequences for their decisions.
What we are seeing in our study of Amos is the fulfillment of the promise of God to His people. They had turned away again and again. God had sent His prophets to His people over and over again, but they had rejected God’s prophets, rejected His counsel, and now the time for judgment had come.
This lesson should be studied and taken to heart by every one of God’s people today. What we see in history is still in effect today. When an individual, or a nation, turns away from God, rejects His counsel to turn back to Him, then God is bound to carry out His promise of judgment. This lesson should lead me to ask some questions about my own heart and my own nation. “Is my heart fully surrendered to the Lord? Do I view my relationship with the Lord as nothing more than going to church and carrying out my “religious responsibilities” on Sunday? Or, do I view my relationship with the Lord as a daily opportunity to grow in my love and understanding of His will for my life? Is my faith seen as a private thing? Or, is my faith a calling to go into my day and share God’s great love and purpose with those around me? Do I seek the Lord when it is convenient or when I am in a jam? Or, do I seek Him throughout the day because He is the Bread of Life and the Water of Life to my hungry soul?” These are important questions I need to ask myself on a regular basis.
I also need to ask questions about my nation and our relationship with God. “Do we understand the blessings that have come our way as gifts from the hand of God? Or, have we come to believe that the blessings we have experienced are the product of our own hands? Have we turned away from God? Or, are we as a nation turning to God? Do we seek to allow God’s Word, God’s counsel, to guide us as a nation? Or, have we turned to other sources to provide meaning and purpose for us as a nation?” These are such important questions for any nation to ask of itself because these questions, answered honestly, can give us insight into our future.
I say, “answered honestly,” meaning, allowing God’s Word to be the plumb line that measures us, because the people of the Northern Kingdom convinced themselves that their blessings were from God, they convinced themselves that what they were doing was pleasing in God’s sight, but they were misled because they refused to listen to God’s prophets. They tuned God out and God let Amos know that they were “ripe” for judgment. They were getting ready to experience a catastrophe brought on by their own rebellion. In Amos 8:3 we read,
3 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign LORD, “the songs in the temple will turn to wailing. Many, many bodies–flung everywhere! Silence!” (Amos 8:3 NIV)
The songs of the temple were joyous songs, songs of celebration, songs that reminded the people of the goodness and glory of God. The songs that they were accustomed to singing were soon to be replaced with songs of wailing. Death and destruction was coming and God didn’t want them to have to wonder what was going on—they could trace the origin of the death and destruction back to the hand of God. And the reason for God’s act of judgment? There was only one reason—their complete and utter refusal to listen to God which led to their increasingly crooked ways.
In Amos 8:4-6, God calls the guilty nation to listen to the evidence He has gathered to support His charges against them. I’ll list them for you.
• They trampled the needy.
• Their actions were eliminating the poor from the land.
• They observed the religious holy days with their minds preoccupied with getting back to business.
• Their business practices were corrupt.
• They were treating the poor like some cheap commodity.
This is not the first time God had brought these things to their attention. These verses, in Amos 8, remind me of indictments that we’ve already read about in Amos 2 and in Amos 5. Let’s read Amos 5:11-12 so you can see what I am talking about.
11 You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts. (Amos 5:11-12 NIV)
We’ve seen over and over again, not just in our study of Amos, but in our study of all of the Minor Prophets, that God will not tolerate taking advantage of the poor, weak, and disadvantaged. God will not tolerate unethical business practices. God will not tolerate His people behaving like the people of the world.
In past studies we have seen how God highlighted the idolatrous practices of the people of the Northern Kingdom as well as their leaders. They had turned the House of God into a pagan worship center complete with a golden calf. They wanted to worship YHWH, but at the same time worship like the other people around them. Today, in Amos 8, it is clear that God is highlighting the corrupt business practices of the nation. The corrupt business practices led to the exploitation of the poor of the land and God would tolerate it no longer. I want to give you a glimpse into what I am talking about. In Amos 8:5-6, God was privy to what was going on in the people’s minds while they sat quietly in worship. God revealed the secret thoughts by saying,
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 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. (Amos 8:5-6 NIV)
The people were observing their weekly Sabbath worship and they were coming together for the monthly New Moon worship. They closed their shops so they could go to worship on those important days, but the truth of the matter is that while they were in worship, worship was the last thing on their mind. They were watching their clocks and counting the minutes so they could get back to taking advantage of people at their places of business.
In Ezekiel 46:1-3 we get a glimpse into what was supposed to be taking place at the Sabbath and New Moon celebrations. Read along with me.
1 ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: The gate of the inner court facing east is to be shut on the six working days, but on the Sabbath day and on the day of the New Moon it is to be opened. 2 The prince is to enter from the outside through the portico of the gateway and stand by the gatepost. The priests are to sacrifice his burnt offering and his fellowship offerings. He is to worship at the threshold of the gateway and then go out, but the gate will not be shut until evening. 3 On the Sabbaths and New Moons the people of the land are to worship in the presence of the LORD at the entrance to that gateway. (Ezekiel 46:1-3 NIV)
For six days the gate of the inner court was to be shut so that the people could work, but on the seventh day, on the Sabbath, they were to draw near to God and worship Him. They did shut down their shops so they could worship, but the truth is that they never left their work. I’m sure the people who heard God’s indictment against them were probably thinking to themselves, “Hey, at least I go to church! At least I keep the Sabbath and the New Moon services. My neighbor hasn’t been to church in years. You’ve got to give me some credit. So my mind tends to wander from time to time. I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve got a lot of things I have to take care of at the shop.”
This past week, as I was studying this chapter, I was really convicted about preparing my mind for worship before I ever arrive on Sunday morning. How many of us come each Sunday, take a seat in a pew, sing the songs, and look like we are focused on what God desires to do in our lives? Yet, the truth of the matter is that even though we may be in church, our minds are somewhere else. We sit in worship and never worship. We are thinking about what we are going to do once we get out of church. We are thinking about the ballgame that is TV on in the afternoon. We are lining out our schedule for the upcoming week. I’ve found grocery lists scribbled on the back of worship bulletins left after church. Is this really what God desires of us?
I’ve got something I want you to consider. Does our worship on Sunday have anything to do with our work throughout the week? I believe that if my worship on Sunday is nothing more than fulfilling a religious duty then I am more prone to cut corners, make compromises, and act unethically in my work. I’m convinced that Christ-centered worship leads to Christ-like work. I’ll use the business people of the Northern Kingdom as evidence of my theory. First let me set the foundation for how they were to conduct their business. In Leviticus 19:35-37, God gave His people guidance concerning how to conduct their business. He said,
35 “‘Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. 36 Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt. 37 Keep all my decrees and all my laws and follow them. I am the LORD.'” (Leviticus 19:35-37 NIV)
If you go to Home Depot to buy an 8 foot 2X4 you expect it to be 8 feet long. Right? What if Home Depot used a tape measure that was designed to cheat its patrons? What if their ruler was only 10 inches long instead of the standard measurement of 12 inches in a foot? Or, what if you went to Crest Foodsto buy hamburger meat for your cook-out and they had rigged their scales so that a pound was really only 13 ounces? Or, let’s say you were a farmer and you wanted to take your wheat to market. A bushel of wheat is 60 pounds, but the elevator where you sell your wheat is run by an unethical Christian whose bushel is 65 pounds. That same unethical elevator operator has another “bushel” that he uses to sell wheat to those who want to buy it. That bushel is not 60 pounds, it is only 55 pounds. Do you see what is happening? God says, “Use honest standards.”
An “ephah” was a way to measure dry goods like grains and it was equivalent to 22 of our liters. God says, “Use an honest ephah.” A “hin” was a way to measure liquid and it was equivalent to 4 of our liters. God says, “Use an honest hin.” Don’t cheat people.
David Darnell told me that when he was young his dad ran a public scale at an elevator in New Mexico. During the winter months people would chop firewood and bring it to the elevator to sell. Some of the people would wait until they had a freeze or sleet to sell their firewood because the ice would add weight to the wood. Mr. Darnell, when these folks would come to sell their firewood, would spin the counter weight on the scale to offset the added weight of the frozen wood. Then one day he read Proverbs 11:1.
1 The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight. (Proverbs 11:1 NIV)
The next day Mr. Darnell called a welder. The man came, and once the scales were perfectly calibrated, he welded the counter weight so that it could never be moved it again. Mr. Darnell knew that there would be people who would cheat him, but he resolved to never cheat anyone again. Those who cheated him would be accountable to God for what they did, but Mr. Darnell wanted to do what was right in God’s eyes. He wanted to use accurate weights. And he did from that day forth.
If you have a business, or you work for a business, you want to make sure that what you are doing is ethical, that it is right in God’s eyes. Some things might be ethical according to the standard business practices of our day, but that doesn’t mean that they are right in God’s eyes. You do right, you follow God’s guidelines for how you treat your employees and your customers, and you can rest assured that God will take care of you my friend.
I want to jump down to Amos 8:11-13 before we leave here this morning. God said that He would never forget what the people of the Northern Kingdom had done. He was going to judge them and the end of the nation was soon coming. God’s judgment would be carried out by an enemy nation and it was going to be a dark and horrible day for those in the Northern Kingdom. I want to show you one aspect of God’s judgment included in these verses. Read along with me from Amos 8:11-13.
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 Men 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. (Amos 8:11-13 NIV)
God had sent His prophets time and again, but the people had rejected them. God had sent trials to His people like famine and drought to try and turn them back to Him, but they had refused. Remember Amos 4:6-8? Let’s read it together.
6 “I gave you empty stomachs in every city and lack of bread in every town, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD. 7 “I also withheld rain from you when the harvest was still three months away. I sent rain on one town, but withheld it from another. One field had rain; another had none and dried up. 8 People staggered from town to town for water but did not get enough to drink, yet you have not returned to me,” declares the LORD. (Amos 4:6-8 NIV)
None of these attempts to draw the people near, to turn them away from their rebellious ways, had worked. Because they refused to hear the Word of the Lord—God would be silent. There would be a famine of the Word of God in the land. The people who refused the counsel and guidance of Almighty God would be left to themselves.
What happens to people when they are left to do what they think is best? What happens to a nation that turns its back on godly counsel and seeks to do what it thinks is best? Well, we don’t have to look too far to find examples of this. During the period of the Judges, God raised up leaders, Judges, to lead His people, but like the people of the Northern Kingdom who would come after them, they refused the counsel of God. Let’s read Judges 2:16-17.
16 Then the LORD raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders. 17 Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them. Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the LORD’s commands. (Judges 2:16-17 NIV)
Later, in Judges 17:6, we read, 6 In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit. (Judges 17:6 NIV) Everyone did what they thought was best. They put their best thinking to work. They collaborated. They networked. They formed “think tanks.” They did the very best they could, but seven times in the book of Judges we read, “They did evil in the eyes of the LORD.” (Judges 2:11; 3:7; 3:12; 4:1; 6:1; 10:6; 13:1) What can we conclude from this example? Left to ourselves we will naturally slide into the abyss of ungodliness. Left to ourselves we will find a way to justify our actions, even if we know we did wrong. Left to ourselves we are lost and hopeless.
As we take a look at history. As we read about the people in the days of the Judges, as we have studied the people of Amos’ day, what should all of this lead us to conclude about our own day? Are we, as a nation, heading into the same future as those who turned away from God in the past?
What is the remedy? Is there a cure? Is there any hope? I believe there is, but I don’t think that our hope is in the prospects of a national revival. I believe our only hope is for us, as individuals, to return to God right now. Stop waiting until the time is right. Stop treating the Lord like He is a past-time. Stop doing wrong and start doing right. And for those of us who have never committed our lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior—don’t wait another minute. Come to Him this very morning. Cry out to Him and commit your life to living for Him for the rest of your days.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114