Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Amos 8:1-6

Amos 8

Basket of Fruit and Israel's Captivity
1Thus the Lord GOD showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit.

2He 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.

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."

4Hear this, you who trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land,

"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,

6So 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?"

When I think "basket of summer fruit," I have a picture in my head like that featured above. Beautiful colors and delicious flavors waiting to be enjoyed. God did not have the same picture in mind when He told Amos to see His view through Vision #4.

God is creating a picture of the end of summer, when the last of the fruit has been pulled from the trees and collected. But the fruit does not represent good things done by the nation, Israel, but rather a ripened judgment prepared to befall His people. This is not the final harvest, but the judgment is definitely severe. The plumb line has indicated maximum sway. The "basket" is soon to be opened! Israel, you have been chopped!!

"The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day...."
--vs. 3

We have seen references to songs throughout Amos. But in all cases, Israel's use of song in worship was not for the praising of God, but for the praising of their myriad other gods and songs of self-righteousness. God says the song heard now will be the howl of the palace songs as He will bring destruction upon the people, and they will be cast forth with silence or a hush. This will be a time in which nothing can be said against the "Consuming Fire."

Israel is again reminded, in verse four, of its terrible reputation for not taking care of the poor. 'Trample' or 'swallow up' in the King James' can also mean "snap at" or "to set traps for" in the Hebrew, or "to inhale eagerly." [Strong's] Israel did not just verbally put down the poor but they cunningly stole what little they had, to add to their own fortunes and status.

"These who pant after the very dust of the earth on the head of the helpless. Also turn aside the way of the humble...."
--from Amos 2:7

Celebrations of the Day of the New Moon would be marred by the greedy intent of merchants.

"[The Day of the New Moon] marked the commencement of each month, and was celebrated as a holiday. Offerings were made as ordained (Num. 28:11,15). All business was suspended (Amos 8:5). The Day of the New Moon was recognized as a family festival with religious observances, although not especially ordained. It was proclaimed by the trumpet-sound (Ps. 81:3). After the establishment of Christianity the observance was discontinued."
--Smith's Bible Dictionary

Anxious to get through the holiday and back to business, the merchants hatched schemes to cheat their customers. "To make the bushel smaller," or the ephah--the standard measure of grain in those days--smaller. "And the shekel bigger." In this case, shekel is not used as a unit of money--although a shekel was a coin--but as a unit of weight. The merchants figured out a way to make the amount of grain received smaller while making the customer's bundle look bigger--all for the same price.

"A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is His delight."
--Proverbs 11:1

Obviously, they had found a way "to cheat with dishonest scales."

Verse 6 is a reminder clear back to Chapter 2, a reference from the "Thus says the Lord" passages. Love the consistency in God's message through Amos:

"Thus says the LORD, 'For three transgressions of Israel and for four, I will not revoke its punishment, because they sell the righteous for money and the needy for a pair of sandals.'"
--Amos 2:6

"And sell the refuse of the wheat," which we know to be the chaff. How did the merchants succeed in deceiving its buyers? By bulking up on the chaff and surrounding it with the choice, although heavily rationed, grain. The basis of so much advertising and merchandising today, is it not true? What has come bundled with your latest good deal, and was it such a good deal after all??

God does not take kindly to chaff. To me, the merchants' bundle might as well have been Israel itself--a few Godly folks surrounding an otherwise bulky bloating of chaff!

"'His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.'"
--Matthew 3:12

Again, not the end-times, but a severe judgment at God's hand, to purify and perfect His chosen.

Continuing with Chapter 8, how judgment will come down, " a bitter day." .... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Amos 8:7-10

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).