Amos’ message to the people of Israel indicated they were entering into a time of transition. Things would be different for them in the future in both good and bad ways. One thing that was going to change was the people of Israel would no longer live as a collective group in a single location. Captivity would not only remove the people from their land, but also permanently separate them from each other. Since the time when Jacob’s family went to live in Egypt, all his descendants had remained together, but that would no longer be the case.
It says in Amos 8:2, “The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more.” The LORD used an illustration of a basket of summer fruit to describe what he would do to his people (Amos 8:1). He intended to remove them from their source of nourishment and distribute them to other locations. The LORD had been developing his people, tending to them as a farmer would his crop, and it was time for them to be harvested.
While fruit is on the tree, all of it receives the same nourishment, sunshine, rain, and fertilizer. During the harvesting process, the good fruit and the bad fruit are separated out. I believe the basket of summer fruit represented the good fruit the LORD intended to keep for himself. The bad fruit would be removed and destroyed. It says in Amos 8:3, “And the songs of the temple shall be howlings in that day, saith the Lord God: there shall be many dead bodies in every place, they shall cast them forth with silence.”
The arrangement God had with his people was that they would worship and serve him only (Deuteronomy 29:20). Even before the people entered the Promised Land, God knew they would forsake him (Deuteronomy 29:24-26). Captivity was a part of his plan from the beginning (Deuteronomy 30:3). I believe the reason God allowed the Israelites to practice idolatry for so many years was because of the effect it had on the surrounding nations. As wicked as the Ninevites were, even they believed, if they repented, God would forgive them (Jonah 3:9).
God was targeting a specific segment of the population for destruction; those who refused to turn from their sin. The LORD declared, “All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us” (Amos 9:10). The people God had a problem with were the ones who thought they could get away with their sins; the ones who expected there to be no negative consequences for the bad things they were doing. God made it clear that Israel’s fortunes would be restored, but only those “which are called by my name” (Amos 9:12) would be there to enjoy it.