For me one of the biggest clues that it is summer is the appearance of roadside fruit stalls at either end of the Princes Motorway or along Appin Road. We have all seen the signs along the road alerting us to the truck ahead – Mangos (spelt incorrectly) $10 a box.
I love the summer stone fruits – peaches, mangoes, nectarines, apricots and cherries!!! It is something I look forward to tasting this time every year. But not so in our Old Testament reading from Amos 8, where in the vision the prophet is confronted with of ripe summer fruit – ordinarily associated with the joys and provision of the harvest becomes a sign of mourning and judgement.
The connection between summer fruit and judgement is not readily apparent as we miss the play on words in the original language where the word for summer fruit “qayis” is similar in sound to the word “qes” which means end – or as the NIV ominously puts it in verse 2 – “The time is ripe for my people”.
In this scene from God’s courtroom, the verdict is handed down. Just as the apparent promise of summer fruit was turned into the assurance of Israel’s destruction, so the joyous temple hymns would give way to the wailing when the wrath of God’s judgement fell on them (v3).
The nation has been charged with exploiting and mistreating the poor and vulnerable. Merchants could not wait for the holy days to be over and the Sabbath to end so they could resume dishonest trading with short measures and inflated prices. The Message paraphrase of verses 4-6 puts it a modern context:
Listen to this, you who walk all over the weak, you who treat poor people as less than nothing,
Who say, “When’s my next pay cheque coming so I can go out and live it up?
How long till the weekend when I can go out and have a good time?”
Who give little and take much, and never do an honest day’s work.
You exploit the poor, using them—and then, when they’re used up, you discard them.
The judgement to follow will surely come because God does not allow his glory to be sullied. The metaphor of an earthquake (v8) represents the calamity that Amos has referred to throughout the book. Such catastrophic language is used to foreshadow the fear and dread in the hearts and minds of the people. The destruction of Samaria (v10-12) will be the cause of bitter of bitter mourning. Amos describes the event in terms of a funeral for an only son. He then goes on to depict a coming famine – not starving people searching for food and water but for the word of the Lord. They had rejected the word, not realising its great value, and had lost it forever.
In case we are under some allusion that such scenarios are strictly “Old Testament” – our New Testament reading from Luke 16:16-31 contains the equally confronting vision of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Again neglecting the needs of the poor are met with judgement. From his place of torment, the rich man makes a desperate appeal that his family might warned and spared. But Abraham answers him –
‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’
Let us heed the warning signs – that we too hear the words of prophets like Amos.