Last week an eclipse darkened much of the United States. My home was in the path of totality where greatest darkness occurred. Sadly, it was an overcast day, so I did not reap the full benefit of my eclipse glasses. It did get very dark just after one o’clock in the afternoon. I took pictures just before and after the height of the darkness. The rare total solar eclipse generated great interest. Many traveled to reach a place where they could experience it in its fullness. Like me, many sought special glasses that would enable them to watch without damaging their eyes. Some bought tee shirts that commemorated the event. Parties and other gatherings celebrated the event.
Amos chapter 8 describes a time of feasting and singing where merchants complained about having to stop selling because of the Sabbath. It was a time when shopkeepers used inaccurate scales to defraud their customers and considered selling the worthless chaff from the wheat. The wealthy regarded the poor as potential property rather than as people made in the image of God. God asked through Amos, “Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who dwells in it?” (Amos 8:8). Then the prophet reveals,
“And on that day,’ declares the Lord God, I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation..” (Amos 8:9-10a).
God then declares that he then will enact a famine, not of food or water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD. People will seek frantically for revelation from God, for words of hope to sustain them, but they will find nothing. Unsatisfied spiritual hunger will frustrate the people.
Two eclipses occurred during Amos’s lifetime in Israel. His prophecy foreshadowed the end of the kingdom following neglect of God’s law. The message of Amos 8 tempers our celebration of having witnessed a historic eclipse. Has the hearing of God’s word been eclipsed by the darkness of cultural distractions? Have we too lost our way, protesting calls to worship while we seek to profit at the expense of the needy? Amos prophesies at the end of chapter 8 that the eclipse in his time anticipated the ending of idolatry in Israel. People would no longer pray to statues they had built nor worship the oppression of the vulnerable.
The ending of vain prayer and false worship reminds of the need for fervent prayer and willing worship to a living God. Even as we marvel at an event in the heavens that we still cannot control, let us remember to pray to the One who created the sun and the moon. Let us consume the word of God as we read it avidly while we still can. Let us not take for granted the opportunity to hear the good news of Christ or the freedom to worship him in spirit and in truth.
Creator of the stars and our planet, Sustainer of life, we pray that we will heed Amos’s reminder to consume the spiritual nourishment of your Word while we may. You call us through your word to reserve time for rest and worship; you instruct us to conduct business honestly and to treat the poor with respect. Help us to realize when we are closing our minds to your guidance. When we walk in darkness, remind us to move towards the light of your way. In Jesus’ name, amen.