Reader: “The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land—”
Response: “not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.”
Scripture: Amos 8:4-12
Listen to this, you who rob the poor
and trample down the needy!
You can’t wait for the Sabbath day to be over
and the religious festivals to end
so you can get back to cheating the helpless.
You measure out grain with dishonest measures
and cheat the buyer with dishonest scales.
And you mix the grain you sell
with chaff swept from the floor.
Then you enslave poor people
for one piece of silver or a pair of sandals.
Now the Lord has sworn this oath
by his own name, the Pride of Israel:
“I will never forget
the wicked things you have done!
The earth will tremble for your deeds,
and everyone will mourn.
The ground will rise like the Nile River at flood time;
it will heave up, then sink again.
“In that day,” says the Sovereign Lord,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth while it is still day.
I will turn your celebrations into times of mourning
and your singing into weeping.
You will wear funeral clothes
and shave your heads to show your sorrow—
as if your only son had died.
How very bitter that day will be!
“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine on the land—
not a famine of bread or water
but of hearing the words of the Lord.
People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from border to border
searching for the word of the Lord,
but they will not find it.
By now you might be thinking, “I wonder when we will leave all this Last Days and Final Judgment stuff and focus a little more on Christmas?” Good question. As we said in the first days of these Advent devotionals, it is important to remember to grasp the whole of the significance of the Nativity of Jesus. This baby came essentially to die to make possible the restoration of a fallen creation. The Fall meant that sin had entered the world and there was only one solution―God himself in the form of a baby.
Sin meant evil, injustice, cheating, lying, murder, corruption . . . If there was to be justice then sin must bring God’s ultimate judgment. Sin could not go unpunished or there would be no justice. No one or thing will escape his judgment. For believers the good news is that Jesus Christ has already paid the penalty for your sin and mine as we put our trust in him. Our judgment happened at the cross.The baby of Bethlehem covered us. However, we are not in a perfect world yet.
In Amos’ day, not unlike the days in which we live, people were not always honest. Businesses in that day were closed on the Sabbath and religious holidays in obedience to the Law. However, the Sabbath was treated superficially, like any other day by the merchants, something to get over and get back to cheating. They would cheat by adding chaff to the grain to make it bulk up visually and weigh less when they sold it. Their quart basket wasn’t quite a quart. Then the cheaters would use heavy weights when the buyer put their coins on the scale to pay. Not surprisingly, they would then have to add more coins to balance the scale. In effect, they were being cheated twice. Through Amos, the Lord makes very clear that he will never forget this kind of activity.
There are also some haunting words in this passage about “a day when the sun goes down at noon and darkens the earth while it is still day” and your celebrations turn into times of mourning and weeping and sorrow. Do those words remind you of the sun growing dark at noon on Good Friday . . . and sorrow “as if your only son died?” How bitter that day will be. As often happens in Scripture, a specific prophecy can work on several levels, an immediate concern and also be a shadow of an event to come in the future. Such is the case here.
Then our pericope concludes with another prophecy that challenges our day. “The time is surely coming when I will send a famine on the land―not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Many denominations have abandoned the authority of the Scriptures entirely, making their own twisted interpretations resulting in the hearing of the infallible words of the Lord scarce. The world is filled with all manner of “spirituality” and nothing of the Holy Spirit.
Through Amos God is warning his people and us that his ultimate plan for the restoration of all peoples and creation will most certainly come to pass. God is sovereign and in that we can rejoice. Amos closes his prophecy with wonderful words of healing and fulfillment to the children of Israel. His final words are, “I will firmly plant them there in their own land. They will never again be uprooted from the land I have given then,” says the Lord your God. That came true in 1948. Jesus came as a baby and he will most certainly come as Lord and King. Rest in peace with this wonderful truth.
Music: “On Christmas Night All Christians Sing” Chet Valley Churches (England)
Prayer:Grant us, Lord, to imitate the watchfulness of those who waited for your resurrection, so that day and night, Lord, our souls may be turned toward you. In that hour when we shall be separated from men, from the traffic of men, be to us, Lord, a Giver of good things; bring joy to our sadness, your peace into our hearts, and your rest to all our striving, that the darkness of that night may be to us as day. Amen. ―St. Ephraim, from In the Presence of My Father, p.173-174