It’s usually the first meal of the day. In the 80’s there was a movie about high schoolers in an in-school suspension who kind of form a Club associated with this word. And when I was a kid, the Newsboys sang a song about how it was not served in Hell. Breakfast. Some have called it the most important meal of the day. It’s so important, fictional characters called Hobbits even have Second Breakfast. I want to talk a bit about Breakfast today. I’m not a Nutritionist, I’m a pastor. So instead of looking at the FDA’s food pyramid or something, let’s open our bibles to the Book of Amos. We will be looking at chapters 8 and 9 today.
As you are turning to that book, what is your favorite thing to EAT for breakfast? Mine? Well it’s bacon, eggs and pancakes. Maybe you have a favorite Muffin or scone you pick up somewhere? Doughnuts? Cereal or Oatmeal? What about some fruit? You see I have this bowl of fruit up here. I tried to arrange it in such a way that it looked nice and appetizing. Do you enjoy fruit for breakfast or perhaps with your breakfast? As we read Amos 8 and 9 this morning, this bowl of fruit does NOT represent a deliciously balanced meal to start your day right. It represents impending doom.
This is what the Sovereign Lord showed me: a basket of ripe fruit. 2 “What do you see, Amos?” he asked.
“A basket of ripe fruit,” I answered.
Then the Lord said to me, “The time is ripe for my people Israel; I will spare them no longer.Amos 8:1-2 NIV
Fruit Bowl (of Doom)
Fruit can be very delicious or very disgusting depending on when you enjoy it.
The perfect example of this is a Banana. Bananas that you buy from the supermarket are picked while still green, not ripe. There are a couple of reasons for this. 1) So they don’t rot before they get to the store. 2) So they are not bugged by bugs! Insects and bats like to eat ripe fruit too. If you wait too long to harvest, some might be eaten or contaminated. So the bananas are harvested so they are ripe or almost ripe when we buy them at the store.
Have you ever bitten into an unripen banana? BLECH! It tastes like the color green! It has not matured. So we enjoy our bananas after they have ripened and gained some sweetness.
Back to this passage in Amos, I’ve got to say I LOVE it when God spells things out for us. Doesn’t make the prophet work too hard. It’s like when Jesus tells a parable…then explains it plainly, in great detail to his disciples.
Here God says, “Amos, look what I got you!”
Amos: “I didn’t know it was prophet appreciation day! Thanks for the fruit basket!”
Ok that’s obviously not what happened. But the message from God was very clear: This RIPE bowl of fruit is a symbol. The TIME is ripe for judgment on Israel.
God, What in the WORLD are you talking about? If I was Amos, I’d begin to wonder what kind of message I was going to deliver. Maybe how I might soften these rough edges… “Bodies flung everywhere?” That sounds scary. Almost like a horror movie. And even if those movies scare us, we might think “well that’s not real…it won’t really happen.”
Verses 4-6 are kind of like evidence in a court case. If God was accusing them of guilt, pronouncing a sentence on them, what was the proof? Why should his people suffer?
Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,
“When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?”—
skimping on the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,
6 buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat.Amos 8:4-6 NIV
When will the New Moon be over? – There they are talking about religious festivals, observances. Like a kid who is just waiting to get out of a family reunion and back home playing video games. Like a businessman who’s had to close his shop for the holiday…anxiously desiring to open it up again, to regain some more profits. Their attitude is not on worshiping. It’s not on resting. It’s getting back to making money, amassing earthly wealth. On top of that, they aren’t just doing business and grinding and working hard. No. They are using dishonest business practices. It goes beyond being shrewd. The ramifications of these practices harm the poorest of poor. Those who’d buy a pound of flour only to find that ¼ of the pound is inedible.
The next part gets pretty extreme. Maybe uncomfortable concerning our view of God. Verse 7
7 The Lord has sworn by himself, the Pride of Jacob: “I will never forget anything they have done.Amos 8:7 NIV
Why is this so important? It seems that the people have done things so offensive that the God of Creation won’t forget it.
Hold on! doesn’t the bible say he forgets our sins? “Sea of forgetfulness and all that?”
Lets look at a couple verses for comparison:
“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”Isaiah 43:35 NIV
And in Hebrew 8:12 the author quotes Jeremiah 31:34. Here it is straight from Jeremiah:
“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”Jeremiah 31:34 NIV
This is uncomfortable and disconcerting. How do these two ideas coexist? Forgiveness and unforgiveness? Is forgetting required for forgiving? That will also be a topic of discussion in the upcoming series, #Uncomfortable. We may get some answers here today in this study of Amos, but in the coming weeks we will look at topics from life today and from the bible that don’t sit well with us…topics that maybe we’d rather ignore. Today we recognize that the message for the children of Israel is they are not forgiven. Their sin is egregious and it’s time to deal with it. Time to balance the scales.
“Will not the land tremble for this,
and all who live in it mourn?
The whole land will rise like the Nile;
it will be stirred up and then sink
like the river of Egypt.Amos 8:8 NIV
Here we have the reaction of creation itself. As if the land itself weeps and regrets the actions and injustice of the people. Next we have what God is actively going to do.
9 “In that day,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.
10 I will turn your religious festivals into mourning
and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.Amos 8:9-10 NIV
Note verse 10, “I will turn your religious festivals into mourning and all your singing into weeping.” God identified how the people don’t take the religious festivals seriously, itching to get back to making money, now any joy, benefit or fun that could have been had from those will now be stripped away. The good times are over! He says, “I will make that time like mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.”
The grief of losing a child is not something you can just explain to someone and have them fully comprehend it. The example is so extreme here it is the “only son” that has died. The mourning can’t be quantified.
All of this leads up to a time of famine.
Famine of Silence
11 “The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord,
“when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.
12 People will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the Lord,
but they will not find it.Amos 8:11-12 NIV
Famine. We live in a country where this is not frequent. In our current day and age, we have a diverse amount of crops and food. We have various water sources that can assist farm land. We have international trade to get food from all around the world. For some items, we actually depend on other countries to provide the majority of those products. I don’t share this to scare you, just to make you aware. The top exporter of wheat to the world is grown and shipped from Ukraine and Russia. Anything that disrupts them from being able to export this item means it affects the customers: i.e. the rest of the world. Here in the US, California produces 80% of the world’s almonds and nearly 100% of U.S. commercial almonds. That’s a lot of nuts in one basket!
Weather issues like drought, and social issues like civil unrest disrupt the supply.
But here in Amos, God is not talking about wheat or almonds. “…a famine of hearing the words of the Lord.” Amos 8:11d
And the effects will be felt by even the youngest among them.
13 “In that day
“the lovely young women and strong young men
will faint because of thirst.
14 Those who swear by the sin of Samaria—
who say, ‘As surely as your god lives, Dan,’
or, ‘As surely as the god of Beersheba lives’—
they will fall, never to rise again.”Amos 8:13-14 NIV
In verse 14, he identifies their sin. The fickle heart. They are swearing by false gods as if they were a God. But they are making oaths that mean nothing, again the dishonesty kicks in even for these “lovely young women and strong young men.”
I’d like to stop and point something out. Amos ministered during the time of King Uzziah of Judah and Jeroboam II of Israel. A possible timeframe would be 760-750 B.C. At that time, we are still about 300 years away from Malachi’s scaling oracle, calling for repentance in ad reformation around 433 B.C. Malachi, in case you didn’t know, is the last book of the Old Testament. Though the Books of the bible aren’t always organized chronologically, this was the case for when Malachi was written. After him, nothing in the Torah, the old testament teaching. No word from the lord. No Good news. Nothing until we get to the gospel accounts.
Did history cease to be recorded during this time? No. Plenty of life happened to the Jews and the world around them. Ancient history (recorded outside of the bible) includes “six major Israelite time periods: Persian (highlighted by Cyrus), Greek (Alexander the Great), Egyptian (Ptolemy), Syrian (Antiochus Epiphanes), Maccabean (Judas Maccabees), and Roman (Herod and Caesar)”
But again, no inspired or prophetic words were given during this time from God to man.
You know what this sounds like to me? Famine. People hungry for a Word from God. Fainting away, turning to things that are not of God. The 400 years is also a call back to the days of slavery in Egypt. During the intertestamental period, they were reaping what they sowed.
I’ve also got a bit of confession to make. When I started writing and reading for this sermon, I thought we were stopping right there. A downer. A “Hey, get right or get left” kind of message for us. It seemed very opposite of last week’s message. Last week was about being able to be encouraged. This one started to shape up to be “What are all the things we are doing wrong? Let’s stop that. Amen.”
But even simple 1-2-3 step processes like that can’t compare to when God intervenes. When God himself restores. When God brings a harvest so abundant, you can’t barely stop to pick up all the grain or grapes. That’s what we get to hear about in Amos 9. And overwhelming harvest.
11 “In that day
“I will restore David’s fallen shelter—
I will repair its broken walls
and restore its ruins—
and will rebuild it as it used to be,
12 so that they may possess the remnant of Edom
and all the nations that bear my name,”
declares the Lord, who will do these things.Amos 9:11-12 NIV
In the previous verses we looked at, God is making natural disasters occur, causing people to be remorseful. He’s not forgetting their sin. Happy church songs are turned into dirges. But now something different is occurring. God says he will restore “David’s fallen tent.” The temporary, but yet important home of the line of David. God will repair and put it back together.
13 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills,
14 and I will bring my people Israel back from exile.
“They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them.
They will plant vineyards and drink their wine;
they will make gardens and eat their fruit.
15 I will plant Israel in their own land,
never again to be uprooted
from the land I have given them,”
says the Lord your God.Amos 9:13-15 NIV
This is a picture of a great and glorious era. My question is, “have we seen it yet?” Are God’s people restored to their land and flush with prosperity? So much blessing that it’s overwhelming? I’m not sure.
One thing I am for certain, this time of overwhelming blessing, this time of restoration, is an act of God.
Many times, we are waiting for this time of great blessing, restoration. If the Famine of Silence was like a fast, then we need to…
Break the Fast
And here we are, back at the bowl of fruit. Back onto the topic of breakfast. The word “Breakfast” seriously means to “Break a fast” or “break the fast.” When we go to sleep at night, ideally we don’t eat again until the morning…until we break our fast.
The fast or famine in this passage of scripture is one where God’s word is not present. The greatest blessing a person can ever get is suddenly absent. God leaves a note with his profits “tell them why. Tell them the time was ripe.” The people will weep. They will look for God everywhere, but not find Him. I think we would all agree we want the times of restoration, of overwhelming harvest. To get there, we’ve got to break the fast. We’ve got to do something to end the famine.
The problem is…in regards to the book of Amos…there seems to be little we can do to “make something happen.” God says, “I will restore David’s fallen tent.”
How do we do that? Like usual, it comes down to praying for…
- Salvation – Do you have 1 person you know personally who is not a Christian? Has not given their heart to Jesus? If you don’t know for sure, I want you to assume they are not.
- Pray daily for that one person to receive Christ. Ask God what else you can pray for that person. Consider asking that person what you can pray about for them.
- If we each prayed for 1 person a day for the next year, imagine if they each got saved sometime during that 12 month period, that’s 10 more people that came to know Christ. 10 more people who are going to need guidance in their life.
It also comes down to…
- Baptism is an outward sign of an inward work of Grace. The changed life becomes evident through baptism. [Don’t say it out loud…do you remember the last time our church baptized someone?] I’m currently in talks with Pastor Jonathon Young to coordinate a Sunday night joint baptism service at Richland Center Nazarene. More on that in the coming days. Just know that if you are interested in taking that next step in your faith, you will have an opportunity this summer. For Blog readers around the world, if you’d like to find a Nazarene church near you and talk to a pastor about getting baptized, follow this link https://findachurch.nazarene.org/
Salvation and baptism. This is just a start. We need to need the overwhelming harvest. God is the one who goes ahead, with his prevenient grace to lead people to him. Our prayer life needs to be inline with his will. His will is to break the fast. We need an end to a time of spiritual famine.
This bowl of fruit isn’t just a prop of today’s message, I want it to be a reminder when we leave here. Church, if you desire to see lost people get a fresh start with Jesus, if you desire for Christians to move further in their faith, (HINT, HINT: these are things the Christian faith could not have continued without).
The Fruit bowl symbolized the time being ripe for consequences for the Israelites. For us today, I want you to remember breakfast. Are you ready to break the fast of spiritual movement in your life? In the life of this community? If so, the paper you take has two sides.
One side has a pretty clear statement.
(1) Person I am praying to receive salvation is _______________________________________.
When you know the person you will pray for each day that needs salvation, write that down. It can be someone you don’t know if they are a Christian. It might be that they need to move further in their faith and it just doesn’t show to you yet. I recommend you pray for their salvation and let God work that out with them.
The other side of the “Breakfast Plan” is a generic calendar. This is a place for you to put people’s names on it to pray at least once a month for them. This may or may not be a salvation prayer. It may be something else God lays on your heart. You might not know their names. (example, the family that lives three houses down the street) but you can write that on your calendar. As you pray for them, pray God will give you opportunities to get to know them.
One last thing about this fruit. Not all of it actually is ripe. Especially the bananas. You should still take it. Ripeness of fruit is also a metaphor for when the time will be ripe for a person to take their next step with Jesus Christ. Our call is faithfulness in prayer.
One last challenge. Periodically, I will mention this Breakfast Plan. In about 3 months, on Oct 16, I want to take some time that Sunday for us to reflect on how this focused time of prayer for the lost impacted us, our families and our community. Think of this, on average we have about 9 people in-person attendance each week. I get about 5 people interacting with this blog each time I post. If we each prayed for 1 person to receive salvation and they DID, that’s about 14 more people headed to heaven. 14 more people into the Kingdom of God. 14 more people starting to grow in faith and relationship with Jesus.
13 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when the reaper will be overtaken by the plowman
and the planter by the one treading grapes.
New wine will drip from the mountains
and flow from all the hills,Amos 9:13 NIV