The End of Summer is Coming
Sermon Text: Amos 8:1-14
Sermon Theme: God’s patient restraint does end, and His judgement will come.
Amos saw a basket of summer fruit gathered, and ready to be eaten, which signified, that the people were ripe for destruction, that the year of God’s patience was drawing towards a conclusion. Such summer fruits will not keep till winter but must be used at once. Yet these judgments shall not draw from them any acknowledgment, either of God’s righteousness or their own unrighteousness. Sinners put off repentance from day to day, because they think the Lord delays his judgments. But the rich and powerful of the land were the most guilty of oppression, as well as the foremost in idolatry. They were weary of the restraints of the Sabbaths and the new moons, and wished them over, because no common work might be done. This is the character of many who are called Christians. The Sabbath day and Sabbath work are a burden to carnal hearts. It will either be profaned or be accounted a dull day. But can we spend our time better than in communion with God? When employed in religious services, they were thinking of marketing. They were weary of holy duties, because their worldly business stood still for awhile. Those are strangers to God, and enemies to themselves, who love market days better than Sabbath days, who would rather be selling corn than worshipping God. They have no regard for man: those who have lost the savor of piety, will not long keep the sense of common honesty. They cheat those they deal with. They take advantage of their neighbor’s ignorance or necessity, in a traffic which concerns the laboring poor. We witness the fraud and covetousness, which, in such numerous forms, render trading an abomination to the Lord. And riches that are got by the ruin of the poor, will bring ruin on those that get them. God will remember their sin against them. This speaks of the case of unjust, unmerciful men, to be miserable indeed, miserable forever. There shall be terror and desolation everywhere. It shall come upon them when they think little of it. Thus, uncertain are all our creature-comforts and enjoyments, even life itself; in the midst of life, we are in death. What will be the wailing in the bitter day which follows sinful and sensual pleasures! And here was a token of God’s highest displeasure: at any time, in a time of trouble, a famine of the word of God is the heaviest judgment. To many this is no affliction, yet some will feel it very much, and will travel far to hear a good sermon; they feel the loss of the mercies others foolishly sin away. But when God visits a backsliding church, their own plans and endeavors to find out a way of salvation, will stand them in no stead. And the most amiable and zealous would perish, for want of the water of life, which Christ only can bestow. Let us value our advantages, seek to profit by them, and fear sinning them away.
[From Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary]
- God asked Amos a simple question: “What do you see?” Have we taken a look of the world around us to see what is happening? God can declare “time’s up” for any people, even a world power — judgment time will come. Just as the fruit was ripe for eating, the nation of Israel was ripe for judgment. The significance of the summer or ripened fruit is explained by God by means of a wordplay. The Hebrew word for “summer fruit” is qāyiṣ, the word for “end” is qēṣ, and both were probably pronounced in a similar manner in Amos’ time. Thus, the emphasis of the oracle of Yahweh, in Amos 8:2-3, is on “end,” finis, close, termination of Israel’s life in the dark day of the Lord that is coming, a judgment that Ezekiel later pronounces also on Judah by means of a deadly repetition (cf. Ezekiel 7:5-7). It was the end of the harvest for the farmers, and it would be the end for Israel when the harvest judgment came (cf. Jeremiah 1:11-12). “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved” (Jeremiah 8:20). There comes a time when God’s longsuffering runs out (Isaiah 55:6-7) and judgment is decreed. There is a stark reality coming to the end of Israel as Amos spells out the graphic details of that end. The songs at the temple would become funeral dirges with weeping and wailing, and corpses would be thrown everywhere and not given proper burial. It would be a bitter harvest for Israel as the nation reaped what it sowed. For a deathly silence will prevail throughout the land — the still, sad silence of sin punished by the Lord over all life and death. Israel has refused to honor God’s sovereign name in obedience and faith. Its death will therefore show forth the fact that God is Adonai Yahweh, ruler of heaven and earth. For God who is Lord of both its beginning (Amos 2:9-11) and its end. This was said of Israel. Do we think we are exempt from God’s judgment if we lack obedience and faith?
- Why was the end coming for Israel? Where could God gather evidence for such an accusation? The reason was simple: Israel had broken God’s law and failed to live by His covenant. The first tablet of the law has to do with our relationship to God and the second tablet with our relationship to others, and Israel had rebelled against both. They did not love God, and they did not love their neighbors (Matthew 22:36-40). They trampled on the poor and needy and robbed them of the little they possessed (Amos 8:4), an indictment that Amos had often brought against the people (Amos 2:6-7; Amos 4:1; Amos 5:11-12). To line their own pockets with unjust gain, the merchants falsified the size or content of the ʾêpâ (measure), which was a forty-liter vessel used to measure out a standard portion of grain. They added to the size of the shekel, which weighed about 11.5 grams, and which was placed on a balance scale to determine how much silver was owed for the grain. And they even bent the balance scale out of shape in their own favor — the verb ʿût has the meaning “to bend” or “to distort.” All such dishonest practices were specifically forbidden in Israel’s law (Leviticus 19:35-36; Deuteronomy 25:13-16; cf. Micah 6:10-11) and were an “abomination” to the Lord (Proverb 11:1; Proverb 16:11; Proverb 20:10), finally violating the covenant command not to steal (Exodus 20:15). Added to their deception was their desecration of the Sabbath and the religious holy days ― evidence of the avarice of the merchants and profaning the name of the Lord of the covenant. The worship of God interrupted their business, and they didn’t like it! You might expect Gentile merchants to ignore the holy days (Nehemiah 13:15-22), but certainly not the Jewish merchants. The poor were unable to pay for the necessities of life and had to go into servitude to care for their families, and the merchants would have them arrested for the least little offense, even their inability to pay for a pair of shoes. These evil merchants would not only alter their weights and measures and inflate their prices, but they would also cheapen their products by mixing the sweepings of the threshing floor with the grain. You didn’t get pure grain; you got the chaff as well. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10). How could people who did this think of themselves as God’s people and of their worship as pleasing to God?
- Have you been thinking that the Lord can overlook those things which must be righteously judged? God’s judgments work out in the ordinary and the humdrum. They are not confined to great supernatural explosions of wrath at the “last day” as if the Lord were merely waiting in the wings of life’s drama, until the curtain finally falls. He is God the Creator and therefore His judgments will be seen within the operations of human and physical nature. How lightly expressions like “godforsaken” (i.e. neglected and miserable in appearance or circumstances) are used! They are part of terminology of casual blasphemy in cultures where religious formalism prevails or where the mass of the population is in a post-religious phase. Neither formal religion nor post-religious man can take seriously the possibility that such a thing could ever happen. Surely God is not like this! But He is! Let Him but just decide that probation is over, that the “one year more” (cf. Luke 13:1-9) of life’s last opportunity has run to its harvest time. Thus, when we see society opening at the seams, old bonds weakening, old norms relaxing, old absolutes rejected, when we see the human person not as able to stand the strains of life and there are more breakdowns, more suicides, God is telling man, collectively and individually, that life apart from Him is not possible, that inherited spiritual capital drains away and, left to himself, man becomes progressively unable to cope. In the same way, the evidence of his sinful alienation from God infects the world around him, its resources are squandered, its treasures rifled, its beauties ravaged, and its powers tapped for its own destruction. We must take God’s oath in Amos 8:7 as ominous: “I will never forget any of their deeds.” Some things we wish God would forget, but sins without repentance he cannot forget. They remain on his list until judgment day.
- Old Testament predictions are moral and not simply a carnal curiosity about the future. It tells about the future in order to prepare for the future. It says the days are coming in order that the interim before they come may be filled to the utmost profit and the threatened dangers may not strike home upon unready people. But, do we have time for God’s Word? Do we study it as God’s great gift to us in this age of his grace? Our attitude should be that of James I. Packer, “Let us, then, take our Bibles afresh and resolve by God’s grace henceforth to make full use of them. Let us read them with reverence and humility, seeking the illumination of the Holy Spirit. Let us meditate on them till our sight is clear and our souls are fed. Let us live in obedience to God’s will as we find it revealed to us in Scripture; and the Bible will prove itself both a lamp to our feet and a light upon our path.” We must always remember that the vacuum in the word of God does not, however, remain unfilled. The cults press in eagerly to fill it (Amos 8:14), not only one but in quantity, and the people who would not hear the Word of God taste the poor fare of man-made religion. For “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). Apart from the Word of God, human life knows only chaos (cf. Genesis 1:2; John 15:5). It is the Word that speaks order into creation and that sustains all the processes of nature (Nehemiah 9:6). It is the Word that motivates all history and brings it to fulfillment (Isaiah 55:10-11; John 19:30). It is the Word alone that gives guidance (Psalm 119:105) and forgiveness (Psalm 27:7; Psalm 143:7) and blessing (Numbers 6:22-27) and fruitful life (Psalm 1:2-3). It is in the Word that God draws near to his chosen people (Deuteronomy 4:6-8; John 14:9) and abides with them (John 15:10). Nothing more clearly signals the end of Israel than the fact stated in this oracle that it will no longer be given the Word of God. And when that blessing is withdrawn, there is no way to recover it. But, let our thoughts be that of John Wesley, who wrote: “I am a creature of a day, passing through life as an arrow through the air. I am a spirit come from God and returning to God. Just hovering over the great gulf; till, a few moments hence, I am no more seen; I drop into an unchangeable eternity! I want to know one thing — the way to heaven; how to land safe on that happy shore. God himself has condescended to teach the way: For this very end he came from heaven. He hath written it down in a book. O give me that book! At any price, give me the book of God! I have it: Here is knowledge enough for me.”
- Will you go everywhere but where you know the truth is, everywhere but where your pride would be humbled? Would you rather stay in error yet have the pride of being known as a seeker of the truth than find the truth at the expense of losing your pride? And just as man is powerless to recover the truth, so he is powerless to recognize and to resist error. We must learn these things from the Word of God. Have we got a Bible still in our hands? Let us prize it, read it and commit its precious truths to heart and mind. It is not an inalienable possession; it may not be ours forever. Is the Bible still preached in our church? Let us love to hear the Word of God; let us be urgent to bring others within earshot of it. It is not our guaranteed privilege; the voice of the preacher could be silenced. The truth of God is our only defense against error. In this as in everything else the way of strength is to keep close to God and to fear much, much more the peril of falling out of His power and truth than of falling into the power and error of Satan. So look to the places that you can place your confidence. For if the Word of the Lord is withdrawn from worship, as it was in Israel, we have nothing and no one upon whom to rely. We are bereft of all help and salvation. Relying on man or false religion is like relying on the fantasy of the tooth fairy to grant your wishes to supply all your needs. What a tragedy to have plenty of “religion” but no word from the Lord! That means no light in the darkness, no nourishment for the soul, no direction for making decisions, no protection from the lies of the enemy. We would stagger like drunks from place to place like the people of Israel, always hoping to find food and drink for our bodies and spiritual sustenance for our souls. So, what will the end of all this be in that day when common grace is withdrawn and man is left to his sin? That day will come and, when it does, there is nothing that man can do about it. When it comes hope dies.
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