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A Famine Of The Word
The opening verses (1-3) contain the fourth vision, and its application. It will be noticed that, with the exception of the last of these object-lessons, all are of such a character as would readily come before the mind of a young man who had been reared in a rural district, and was familiar with agricultural life. Locusts are the dreaded plague of the Eastern farmer. Often too Amos may have helped combat a brush or forest fire, threatening destruction to crops and herds alike. The use of the plumb-line would be quite familiar to him, as stone walls were used almost exclusively both in dwellings and enclosures under special cultivation. And the subject of this fourth vision would be as familiar as the rest.
The Lord showed him a basket of summer-fruit; that is, overripe fruit, which could no longer be preserved. In reply to His inquiry, “Amos, what seest thou?” the prophet answers, “A basket of summer-fruit.” Then comes the explanation of the simple symbol. Israel had become like a decaying fruit. The end was near- the time of being cast away. No longer would grace be extended to those who had rejected it so repeatedly. The temple songs would be changed to woeful cries of anguish and despair, while the dead bodies of the despisers of God’s message would fill the cities, and be cast out in silence.
Accompanying this declaration that the end had come, we have a solemn summing-up of the sin of the people. They swallowed up the needy in their covetousness, making the poor of the land to fail, as in the last days of James 5:1-6, where the word is, “Ye have heaped treasure together in (not for) the last days!”
This same covetous spirit made the appointed feasts and the sabbaths a burden. Outwardly they observed them, but they longed for the close of the day to come, that they might buy and sell, and get gain.
For this the Lord sware, saying, “Surely I will never forget any of their works.” All were under His holy eye. All were noted in His book. All should be faced at His judgment-seat! If the eye of an unsaved sinner rests on this page, oh, let me press upon you this statement in all its solemnity. You may forget your own works, so great may be the number of your sins; but God has declared He will ever remember them. And if He thus remembers, you must be banished from His presence forever. But of all who now judge themselves and own their guilt, trusting the One who died to save, “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:34; Hebrews 10:17). Are your sins then, remembered or forgotten, dear reader?
For Israel’s sins the land had to tremble, and its people were to be carried away as by the overflowing river of Egypt, when the sun should go down at noon, and the earth be darkened in the clear day. It is a poetic figure for utter desolation; the result of their grasping selfishness, their heartless misconduct toward the poor, and God’s displeasure upon their ways. Bitter would be the mourning in that day, when, alas, repentance would come too late to avert the threatened calamity, which was to be as the mourning for an only son, and the end be a day of woe (vers. 4-10).
But more: a famine was to come upon them-who would “swallow up the needy,” and “buy the poor for a pair of shoes.” It would not be a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord, which they had rejected. From sea to sea, as a people forsaken, they should wander, seeking on all sides for the once-despised word of the Lord; but too late now -they “shall not find it”! (vers. 11, 12).
Undoubtedly this prophecy had its fulfilment in measure when the people of Israel were carried into Assyria. But a larger fulfilment awaits them in the days of Antichrist. Nor shall Israel and Judah alone pass through that famine. Guiltier Christendom, so richly blessed with the Holy Scriptures, will have utterly turned from the truth, and will be turned unto fables. The day will come when the grieved Spirit of God will have left the earth, and when the very Scriptures of truth shall, as it were, be taken from those who have esteemed them so lightly.
Then “shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst,” because the water of life, which they refused, shall be withdrawn, when they are left to die in despair, and given up to strong delusion, that they might believe a lie, and will all be judged who obeyed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. The famine will result, not in their turning to God, but they shall swear by their idols still, only to find, as in Elijah’s day, that there shall be none to hear, nor any to regard. So shall they fall, never to rise again (vers. 13, 14).
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Amos 8". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27