"Thus hath the Lord GOD shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit." (Amo 8:1)
You might think that summer fruit would indicate some pleasant thing. However, the meaning here is that the fruit is fully ripe. It is the fruit that must be picked and consumed right away or else left to rot. That was the condition of Israel when Amos gave this prophecy: ripe for plucking.
"Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of the land to fail, Saying, When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea, and sell the refuse of the wheat? The LORD hath sworn by the excellency of Jacob, Surely I will never forget any of their works." (Amo 8:4-7)
Reading this prophecy of Amos I can't help but notice the parallel with the world we live in. Everything in our world seems to be about economics, wealth, profit, business. The poor of the world are swallowed up by multi-national corporations seeking ever cheaper labor, while doing nothing to stop the declining conditions of the poor. It is a world with the attitude of use it up then throw it away, people included.
Beyond their injustice towards the poor, the Israelites had disdain for the things of God. Rather than rejoicing in the Sabbath, taking it as an opportunity to stop, rest, and praise God, they treated the Sabbath as an inconvenience. Because they could do no business on the holy days, it meant fewer days to make more profit. In their greed they treated the things of God as a hindrance not a blessing.
Is it any different today? People will tend to their own material well being first, then pay some lip service to God. Spiritual matters are pushed aside or distorted to insure greater economic gain. In America today, you can lose your job just for proclaiming your religious beliefs openly. If you dare to suggest that there is only one true path to God, you are likely to be shunned.
That attitude of the heart then is manifested in current business practices. "Making the ephah small" indicates they were using a smaller that true measure when selling. Making "the shekel great" indicates demanding more in money than what was just. In effect, increase profits by providing less while charging more. They "falsify the balances by deceit" - the all-too-common practice of cheating in an exchange by altering the standard weights and measures.
Isn't that a perfect description of the economics of today? There is no longer any stable unit of value. All money has become credit created by political and economic elites for the purpose of economic engineering. The constant inflation with ever increasing debt results in an impossible situation for those who have little or no wealth. Forced to live on credit with interest attached, most people have no way to get out from under the increasing mountain of debt. Entire nations collapse into ruin because of the monetary system.
In they end the money managers "buy the poor for silver." That refers to the ancient practice of sending someone to the depths of poverty with no option left but to sell their bodies into slavery just to have food to eat and clothes to wear. Although we don't have outright slavery of that type in most places today, the end result is the same. People are stuck taking menial jobs for low pay, effectively becoming slaves of those who can take advantage of the credit manipulation system. Or, they become dependent on government welfare programs where the bureaucracy defines where they live, what they spend money on and how much they can earn. In the most outrageous cases, entire nations are sold into slavery to the international money managers through various "debt for equity" programs.
Things seem very "ripe" to me. The tendency then is to think the plucking will happen soon. But, it is important to remember that the prophecy of Amos was given many years before destruction finally came on the House of Israel. By some calculations it was as much as 75 years before the events took place. Yet, I can't help thinking that the warnings of the economic corruption have been given for so long that we are very near that point when sudden plucking off of the ripe fruit takes place. So, it's good to understand the consequences of this condition.
"Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. In that day shall the fair virgins and young men faint for thirst." (Amo 8:11-13)
We usually think that God's wrath is to send economic or political destruction. But, this prophecy tells of something even worse. It speaks of a time when God's wrath is such that He removes from the land knowledge or Himself. The people search vainly for understanding but cannot find it. I see that very thing happening today.
There are many who talk all about making the world better, solving problems of poverty and disease, and seeking new and deeper spiritual understanding. Yet no answer is found. Economic policies simply make things worse while programs to help the poor create even more poverty. Technology to rid the world of disease creates as much disease as it purports to cure. And, worst of all, the attempts to seek knowledge of spiritual things deteriorates into trite, self-serving religion that provides a false hope. Religion is now a tower of Babel; a confusing cacophony of voices contradicting each other at every word.
This is the wrath of God. It isn't so much that He sends fire down from heaven as that He turns away and leaves mankind to the delusions that man prefers. Man seeks God, but cannot find Him because man does not truly seek for God's answers. Man only seeks some way to prevent the problems while allowing man to continue to go his own way. It didn't work before, and it won't work now. The overripe fruit is simply plucked from the tree and discarded. Even so, the prophecy of Amos ends with a promise of restoration.
"For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us." (Amo 9:9-10)
This final part of the prophecy is God's promise that He would not completely destroy the people of Israel. They still had work to do. They would be brought back to build the temple that Messiah would teach in. That promise was fulfilled and the Messiah did come.
In this day, we still have the same hope. The loss of the knowledge of the ways of God eventually results in destruction. But, to those who seek God's ways, He will preserve and replant them. And for the same reason as before: to proclaim the Good News of the Savior that redeems the world.