God asks the same question twice in Amos 7:8 and 8:2, “What do you see, Amos?” Amos saw two different things. First, he saw a plumb line; second, he saw a basket of ripe fruit. The plumb line symbolized true justice was coming for Israel. The ripe fruit indicated the time was at hand.
Amos chapter seven begins with the Lord showing Amos a vision of divinely prepared locusts about to strip the land bare. God spoke again to Amos saying that He was preparing a heat wave that would bring devastating drought to the land. At that point, Amos joined a select group of intercessors. After each vision, Amos prayed that God would not bring the indicated destruction. Abraham interceded for Sodom in Genesis 18; Moses interceded for the children of Israel in Exodus 32 and Numbers 14; Samuel interceded for the nation of Israel in 1 Samuel 12; Elijah interceded for the nation in 1 Kings 18. Each of these persuaded the Lord to put off or end judgment. At their request, the Lord seemingly changed His mind in this regard: He changed His methods but not His purpose. God never changes His purpose. It is always and forever the same; only His methods are subject to modification.
There is no indication of how much time passed, if any, between the vision of the plumb line and the two visions of judgment. The Lord showed Amos a wall built true to plumb and a plumb line, indicating that God would evaluate His people with absolute justice. Amos faithfully declared the message that Israel did not measure up; they did not stand straight and true according to the plumb line God had set. Amaziah, a false prophet and advisor to King Jeroboam, ridiculed Amos and told him to go back home to Judah. Amos stayed. He remained faithful to message. God showed him the vision of the ripe fruit and said, “The end has come for My people. I will spare them no longer.” The time was ripe; the nation was overripe. God would wait no longer. Punishment would come and swiftly. God made an absolutely chilling statement in 8:7, He swore by their pride, “I will never forget any of their deeds.” If that promise does not strike terror into your heart, I have no idea what will. I shudder to think of the end that awaits me if God swears by my pride to never forget any of my deeds.
In the rest of chapter 8, God used the seasonal rising and falling of the Nile River to describe a great earthquake that would shake the whole land of Israel. He promised drought and famine and war. In chapter 9, He graphically described the futility of any attempt at escape. In these passages, God makes reference to the whole nation and individuals in the nation. Almost 3,000 years later, shall we, as a nation and as individuals, neglect so vivid a warning? Surely God sees our nation. Surely God sees us as individuals. Surely His plumb line has not changed. Surely He has not stopped using that plumb line. Surely He will judge and punish. Surely any attempt to escape will be unsuccessful. There is only one way to escape. That is to heed the early warnings which He always gives, and repent. Now. If there is to be any hope for us, we as individuals and as a nation must turn from our idols and worship the God of the Bible. We must not trample the poor and the needy. I shudder to think what our end will be if we reach the point where God swears by our pride, “I will never forget any of their deeds.” May God have mercy on us all.