The great reason why sinners defer their repentance de die in diem—from day to day, is because they think God thus defers his judgments, and there is no song wherewith they so effectually sing themselves asleep as that, My Lord delays his coming; and therefore God, by his prophets, frequently represents to Israel the day of his wrath not only as just and certain, but as very near and hastening on apace; so he does in these verses.
I. The approach of the threatened ruin is represented by a basket of summer-fruit which Amos saw in vision; for the Lord showed it to him (Amos 8:1) and obliged him to take notice of it (Amos 8:2): Amos, what seest thou? Note, It concerns us to enquire whether we do indeed see that which God has been pleased to show us, and hear what he has been pleased to say to us; for many a thing God speaks, God shows once, yea twice, and men perceive it not. Are we in the midst of the visions of the Almighty? Let us consider what we see. He saw a basket of summer-fruit gathered and ready to be eaten, which signified, 1. That they were ripe for destruction, rotten ripe, and it was time for God to put in the sickle of his judgments and to cut them off; nay, the thing was in effect done already, and they lay ready to be eaten up. 2. That the year of God’s patience was drawing towards a conclusion; it was autumn with them, and their year would quickly have its period in a dismal winter. 3. Those we call summer-fruits that will not keep till winter, but must be used immediately, an emblem of this people, that had nothing solid or consistent in them.
II. The intent and meaning of this vision is no more than this: It signifies that the end has come upon my people Israel. The word that signifies the end is ketz, which is of near affinity with kitz, the word used for summer-fruit. God has long spared them, and borne with them, but now his patience is tired out; they are indeed his people Israel, but their end, that latter end they have been so often reminded of, but have so long forgotten, has now come. Note, If sinners do not make an end of sin, God will make an end of them, yea though they be his people Israel. What was said Amos 7:8 is here repeated as God’s determined resolution, I will not again pass by them any more; they shall not be connived at as they have been, nor the judgment coming turned away.
III. The consequence of this shall be a universal desolation (Amos 8:3): When the end shall come sorrow and death shall ride in triumph; they are accustomed to go together, and shall at length go away together, when in heaven there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, Rev. 21:4. But here in a sinful world, in a sinful nation, 1. Sorrow reigns, reigns to such a degree that the songs of the temple shall be howlings—the songs of God’s temple at Jerusalem, or rather of their idol-temples, where they used, when, in honour of the golden calves, they had eaten and drunk, to rise up to play. They were perhaps wanton profane songs; and it is certain that sooner or later those will be turned into howlings. Or, if they had a sound and show of piety and religion, yet, not coming from the heart, nor being sung to the glory of God, he valued them not, but would justly turn them into howlings. Note, Mourning will follow sinful mirth, yea, and sacred mirth too, it if be not sincere. And, when God’s judgments are abroad, they will soon turn the greatest joy into the greatest heaviness, the temple-songs, which used to sound so pleasantly, not only into sighs and groans, but into loud howlings, which sound dismally. They shall come to the temple, and, finding that in ruins, there they shall howl most bitterly. 2. Death reigns, reigns to such a degree that there shall be dead bodies, many dead bodies in every place (Ps. 110:6), slain by sword or pestilence, so many that the survivors shall not bury them with the usual pomp and solemnity of funerals; they shall not so much as have the bell tolled, but they shall cast them forth with silence, shall bury them in the dead of the night, and charge all about them to be silent and to take notice of it, either because they have not wherewithal to bear the charges of a funeral, or because, the killing disease being infectious, none will come near them, or for fear the enemy should be provoked, if they should be known to lament their slain. Or they shall charge themselves and one another silently to submit to the hand of God in these desolating judgments, and not to repine and quarrel with him. Or it may be taken not for a patient, but a sullen silence; their hearts shall be hardened, and all these judgments shall not extort from them one word of acknowledgment either of God’s righteousness or their own unrighteousness.