Amos 8 contains the message of the prophet in light of the fourth of the five visions. This vision, of summer fruit, indicates the time has come; Israel has ripened in terms of being ready to be judged. The times were quite prosperous; but this prosperity would soon end and the end would come. Note briefly:
· The vision and it’s meaning, 8:1-3. There will be no more delay from God. This picks up from the third vision of the plumb line.
· The sin of Israel, 8:4-6. The people could hardly wait for the (idolatrous) worship to conclude so they could get back to their very irreligious lives of cheating and oppressing those around them.
· The judgment on Israel, 8:7-14. The most terrifying words are from God: I will never forget! Because He remembers their sin His judgment will come, a judgment of a great upheaval in the land (v7-8; perhaps speaking of the earthquake that came 2 years after Amos’ ministry, 1:1), the end of joy in their worship (v9-10; apparently in their worship the people put a lot of stock in their music as indicated by references twice in this chapter, v3,10), and a famine of the word of God (v11-14). Either God would cease to speak or He would keep them from hearing.
There were times when God was significantly quiet with His people (e.g. Gen. 16:16-17:1; 1 Sam. 3:1; 28:6,15). And this famine of hearing the words of the Lord was part of the prophetic ministry of other prophets such as Micah (3:5-7) and Ezekiel (7:6). Psalm 74 is a Psalm from the time of the Babylonian exile and laments the fact that there were no prophets (74:9). We know that for almost 400 years, from Malachi to John the Baptist, there was no inspires prophet, no new revelation from God. Jesus acknowledged this famine in His day when Scripture says He saw the people as sheep not having a shepherd; so He began to teach them many things (Mark 6:34).
Let us also note that this type of famine is predicted for the Church in the end times. 2 Timothy 4:1-5 speaks of this famine as a time when people cannot hear. 2 Peter 2:1-3 speaks of a time in the Church when false teachers arise, thus obscuring the true word of God. Do we see this today? In The Integrity Crisis Warren Wiersbe decries the fact that the word repent is not in the vocabulary of popular preachers. As in the days of the Old Testament prophets the key word today is peace. Preachers today often refrain from references to hell or judgment since people was a positive message. Joseph Parker in The People’s Bible says people today do not sit, Bible in hand, testing the speaker by the revelation; and what they ask for they get. They ask for chaff, and they get it. Consider these words from A. W. Tozer in 1955 in The Root of the Righteous:
I remember reading in Dying for Change (Leith Anderson) the call for leadership that gets its authority from those who follow. After all, if no one is following you’re no leader. How unlike Amos who went and preached to a people that generally did not listed but who did not waver from the message of the One who gave him authority to speak. We live in a time when people will not do the hard work of daily reading and study in God’s word. They want to be hand-fed from the latest greatest icon of the evangelical world. Worse, they only want the word when accompanied by entertainment or self-enriching philosophy. For all this we will get what we deserve: a famine of hearing the word of God! And then where will we be?