Today’s Chocolate: Vosges Black Salt Chocolate with Caramel
Today’s Passage: Amos 8
A few days ago, I happened across some item from my school days. No, I don’t remember what it was. And while I could make this post more interesting by making up some specific item, we here at Chocolate Book are all about truthfulness over entertainment value. Anyway, whatever this item was, it amazed me to think that there were twelve years of my life where I spent one-fourth of the year not working. No obligations! But now those days are gone forever.
In Amos 8, God’s message to Israel is this: summer vacation is over. No more summer for the rest of your lives.
See, this isn’t mere back-to-school blues. God isn’t taking them to the classroom of hard knocks to teach them what they can’t learn in comfort. After chapter seven’s post-vision interlude with Amaziah the prophet-protesting priest (7:10-17), God gives Amos another vision; this time there is a basket of summer fruit, which Amos correctly identifies as a basket of summer fruit.
But what does the vision mean for Israel? God explains: “The end has come for My people Israel. I will spare them no longer. The songs of the palace will turn to wailing in that day…Many will be the corpses; in every place they will cast them forth in silence” (2-3). The people aren’t going back to school; they’re going back to the dust of the ground. Forget remedial righteousness classes. They’ve had their chance, and now they’re flunking out of life on this planet.
I’m really determined to drive this back-to-school theme into the ground, aren’t I? But with its pile of corpses and pervasive mourning, it’s more like a mass funeral. God asks, “Because of this will not the land quake and everyone who dwells in it mourn?” (8) and goes on to declare, “Then I will turn your festivals into mourning and all your songs into lamentation” (10). For Israel, the end of this summer marks the onset of sorrow and death.
Changing gears (“Oh good, he’s finally off the school thing.”), I noticed two verses which are overt callbacks to earlier parts of Amos. First of all, this new vision of summer fruit follows the pattern of the previous vision with the plumb line. In each instance, God asks, “What do you see, Amos?” (7:8, 8:6), and Amos states the object from the vision, whose significance God goes on to explain. As I’ve said before, Amos likes his patterns.
The second callback is a nigh-verbatim repetition of a verse we’ve seen before. Satirizing those who exploit the economically disenfranchised, Amos mimics their words: “When will the new moon [festival] be over, so that we may sell grain…so as to buy the helpless for money and the needy for a pair of sandals?” (5-6). This is precisely the reason that God cites for refusing to spare them in Amos 2:6, except that instead of “the helpless,” God says “the righteous.” Either way, Amos continues to insist that the affluent and the merchant classes of Israel are obsessed with wealth, and their neglect of the material needs of their countrymen is a sin. In fact, it goes beyond neglect; they actively exploit others by charging exorbitant prices for necessities, effectively enslaving those with limited means.
These destitute people? They’re people made in the image of God. Moreover, they’re members of God’s chosen people, the nation of Israel. The country has enjoyed its summer harvest through the exploitation of its most vulnerable, and God’s had enough: summer’s over.