Green and Growing, Ripe and Rotting

Scripture: Amos 8:1-12

Key Verse: The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. (verse 11)

Observation: Amos doesn’t sugar-coat what lies ahead for Israel. He relays a message of God’s unrelieved judgment. The problem is identified in verse 4, “you who trample on the needy, and bring ruin to the poor of the land.” Israel has become Egypt. They were liberated by God in love and they have turned on their own people to enslave through economic injustice. They can hardly wait until their feast days are over to get back to robbing and cheating the poor. Sabbath has lost its importance and the result is a desire to acquire as much as possible by any means available. Their willingness to enslave the poor and become the oppressor even though they know what it feels like to be oppressed is a manifestation of the rotting of Israel. Israel has become a place where poor people are devalued and vulnerable to abuse. God’s judgment is to bring a famine. It will not be a famine of food or drink but of the words of the Lord. Israel doesn’t recognize this yet, but there will come a time when they will want to hear the words of the Lord but will not find any place to hear them. They have become so rotten that they are unable to hear what God is saying to them to free them from themselves.

Analysis: I had a professor who said, “you are either green and growing or ripe and rotting.” She was speaking in terms of seeking continual growth because we never achieve perfection; we never know or understand all there is to know regardless of the subject or discipline. The image of ripe fruit is seemingly inviting until we consider that pulling the fruit from the tree is the beginning of the end for the fruit. I hear a connection to this idea of green and growing in this passage from Amos. When the nation of Israel enters the Promised Land they were no doubt committed to the God that freed them from slavery. They were willing to commit to hearing and applying the words of the Lord in their daily lives. However, it doesn’t take long for them to become ripe and begin to rot by taking advantage of the poor among them. We live in a time when people are certain they are right but maybe they are just ripe. We live in a time when economic injustice is commonplace and is often justified using the words of the Lord taken out of context. Amos invites us to take a closer look at our condition to be certain we are green and growing not ripe and rotting.

Prayer: God of judgment and God of mercy, we come to you in prayer asking to hear your words of instruction. We pray for ears to hear and eyes to see all the ways you are calling us out of slavery and into the freedom you have for us. We pray that we do not use this newfound freedom to enslave others. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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