One day Jesus will return to earth, not to suffer again for our sins but to judge the nations and to rule with perfect justice
Just over a century ago an Irish archaeologist was on a dig in Gezer, an ancient village to the west of Jerusalem. He unearthed an ancient tablet, probably from the time of king Solomon, inscribed with the farming calendar. In paleo-Hebrew script it reads:
‘Two months of planting’
‘Two months of late planting’
‘One month of hoeing’
‘One month of barley-harvest’
‘One month of harvest and festival’
‘Two months of grape harvesting’
‘One month of summer fruit’
This last line is the concluding agricultural activity of the year and is the context of a vision given to the prophet Amos, his fourth.
As a farmer I know that the arrival of the combine harvester heralds the end of the arable year. It is the culmination of a year of work and inputs as grain is off-loaded into trailers and weighed into the store. The next arable year is about to begin as the first seeds are planted straight into the harvested ground.
Returning to our text and to 750BC Israel; summer fruit is the late harvest, and produce such as figs gathered in late summer would spoil quickly, rather like our soft fruits that would perish without the help of freezers and would have to be consumed quickly. Being mostly rural, hearers and readers of this vision would immediately know that the Lord, through the prophet Amos, was referring to something that was about to end. The kingdom of Jereboam II was about to be harvested. Despite the expansion, the power and the wealth of this godless dynasty and the accompanying complacency it was in reality as fragile as a basket of perishable fruit, already past its best.
In verse 2 there is an important play on words that we miss in translation. The word for ‘summer fruit’ is ‘qayits’, then in the next sentence, using the same root letters, comes the word ‘qets’ which means ‘the end’. God himself is saying that the end has come for his people.
The first two visions threaten destruction by locusts and by fire but the Lord relents as a result of the prophet’s intercession. In the third vision Amos sees that the royal house and the religious establishment will be measured by the plumb-line of God’s standard. Now in this fourth vision he comes into line with God’s plans and goes on to pronounce the reasons for Israel’s downfall. The divide between rich and poor was widening due to exploitation and dodgy trading practices, giving scant lip service to God’s laws as they persisted in selfish abuse of others, treading on heads to scale the social ladder. Corrupt practices that kept the poor in debt meant that ruthless merchants could sell even the chaff that had been winnowed out of the wheat. Worse still by stealth they were forcing needy people into unofficial slavery.
There was to be one final warning for the kingdom. Right at the beginning of the book we are told that within two years there would be a significant earthquake (Amos 1:1). Historical accounts record that in 763BC there was an earthquake on the scale of 7 – 8, and in the very same year there was a near total eclipse of the sun (Amos 8:9). Nevertheless the people just rebuilt and carried on with their greed and abuse, until the Assyrians came in 721BC to take them away.
The parallels for today are clear. The nation that rejects the Word of God becomes obsessed with making money and the controlling power it brings, deceiving others to the point where they themselves are deceived into thinking that this is acceptable. And God says that the end is nigh for those who refuse his Word.
One day Jesus will return to earth, not to suffer again for our sins but to judge the nations and to rule with perfect justice.
Author: John Plumb
May God bless and enrich your life
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