“You Say, What?”
Rev. Mark M. Vickers
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Amos 8:1-12New American Standard Bible (NASB)
8 Thus the Lord [a]God showed me, and behold, there was a basket of summer fruit. 2 He 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 [b]spare them no longer. 3 [c]The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day,” declares the Lord God. “Many will be the corpses; in every place [d]they will cast them forth [e]in silence.”
4 Hear this, you who [f]trample the needy, to do away with the humble of the land, 5 saying,
“When will the new moon [g]be over,
So that we may sell grain,
And the sabbath, that we may open the wheat market,
To make the [h]bushel smaller and the shekel bigger,
And to cheat with [i]dishonest scales,
6 So as to buy the helpless for [j]money
And the needy for a pair of sandals,
And that we may sell the refuse of the wheat?”
7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob,
“Indeed, I will never forget any of their deeds.
8 “Because of this will not the land quake
And everyone who dwells in it mourn?
Indeed, all of it will rise up like the Nile,
And it will be tossed about
And subside like the Nile of Egypt.
9 “It will come about in that day,” declares the Lord God,
“That I will make the sun go down at noon
And make the earth dark in [k]broad daylight.
10 “Then I will turn your festivals into mourning
And all your songs into [l]lamentation;
And I will bring sackcloth on everyone’s loins
And baldness on every head.
And I will make it like a time of mourning for an only son,
And the end of it will be like a bitter day.
11 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord God,
“When I will send a famine on the land,
Not a famine for bread or a thirst for water,
But rather for hearing the words of the Lord.
12 “People will stagger from sea to sea
And from the north even to the east;
They will go to and fro to seek the word of the Lord,
But they will not find it.
Once again, we have some rather strange, bizarre, and frightful words coming at us this morning. We seem to have simply been challenged by the words of the Old Testament and Old Testament prophet Amos. Here again, our common sheep herder was called to beckon the Word of the Lord, and that he does! Last week, things seemed a bit more tempered but we “amp” up the motion and the velocity this week. The judgement text, the visuals we see unwrapped by these words, present for us a state of judgement that is an immense vision of what God is going to do to Israel and God’s people. Holding fast to this notion, we have to understand that this injustice was imposed upon the people by their political and religious leaders that led to their demise.
Just look at the bowl of fruit that God showed to Amos. What did he see? Summer fruit!Summer fruit, sitting in the hot waste land with no water, drying and rotting, smelling like crazy! Ever had that piece of food vanish somewhere in your kitchen only to be found by someone else, weeks, months, years later? I have! Now, I was at work when they found the potato that had come to rest on top of my refrigerator, but I quickly was sent a picture of what looked like an alien body. Estimated time of “rest," 6-8 months! Imagine the imagery Amos has before him when God says to him, “The end has come upon my people Israel.” That was the image God intended for Amos to have! Wailing has started for the people. They are set apart as no other people shall be. “The dead bodies shall be many, cast out in every place. Be silent!” God has set before Amos and us the nature and the nurture of living out the law and the covenant faithfully.
For you see, the people of Israel saw Israel’s greatness as they were accountable to something higher and more substantive than their own ideas and opinions. Their trust and faith was found in God who oversaw all things that came into play. Thus, hearing these words of turmoil and demise coming from the Prophet Amos, their vision of moral decay was enhanced! The people of Israel were set to task in terms of being a people in need of a renewed covenant and life with God.
Yet the words of warning keep on coming!! It’s not enough that the dead bodies are laying waste in the land, but now we hear words of warning directed to those who abuse the poor. Immediately in verse 4, we hear these charming words, “Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land.” Obviously, the leaders of Amos’ time have abused their power, relegated themselves to the top of the heap of power and have now crushed the lowly. Now their warning lays hard on them as Amos has seen their injustice by laying in wait for the Sabbath to pass and for them to resume their crushing of the innocent poor people. Of course today, we see strongly the resemblance to current political leadership, current abuse of power, and it’s easy to take this text and apply it to where we are today in many ways.
However, the danger with doing that is that we only see and use “part” of the message and not the whole message of the prophetic utterance. The prophet calls us into a time of reflection and action. Amos comes from the South, the land of Judah and brings to the people of Israel a reversal of what they have lived with. He brings to them the ultimate understanding that destruction will occur under God. Everything will turn into a time of mourning and despise. No hope will be present for the people of Israel. Yet we must remember, historically the people of Israel have been trampled and laid to waste by those who were oppressing in power. The picture becomes so desolate that Amos prophesies to the point that all that God had promised is now gone and the famine will reign supreme.
The old adage, “You never quite miss something [or someone) until it is gone,” is very true here in this prophetic utterance. Amos’ word today is geared for those who have it all!! Or at least think they have it all. If we hear this in the context of our 21st Century Christian context, then we must evaluate the way in which we observe and claim our lives to be. We must ask ourselves the question, ‘do we have it all?’ I dare say we answer in the affirmative. Yet we must head caution from the words of the prophet Amos. No! We don’t have it all! The new commandment, the fulfillment of the law in Christ Jesus reminds us that we don’t have it all and we must constantly journey for the gifts that Jesus gives us. We must in our lives, lay claim to the understanding that to believe and act like we have it “all” is detrimental to our existence as Christians.
We need to be reminded who we are before it’s too late! The prophet Amos’ job was to inform Israel after it was too late, when doom had set in and the hope had vanished. We, as Christians come to seek that hope of new life and proclaim the love that God has for all God’s people.
This morning we come to the Table of Our Lord to be reminded of the ultimate sacrifice that Christ made for us when hope was being dashed against the rocks of the world and the vision for new life was dim. We come to be nourished and revitalized by the gift of God’s grace through the bread and wine that symbolizes for us, the greatest gift of all time.
Come, even in the midst of brokenness, anger, spite, questions, and conflicts to receive the gift that sets us free to live and to prophesy in a world such as ours.
Come, let us keep the feast!!
AMEN & AMEN.