There’s a “quick sale” area in my local supermarket where fruit is offered at a huge discount. If not sold quickly, the fully ripened edibles will become soft, flabby, and infected with fungus.

In Amos’ day, Israel was militarily strong and economically rich. But prosperity increased the gap between the wealthy and the poor. In fact, being prosperous gave the rich even more opportunities to exploit the needy. Businesses were maximizing profits through dishonest means, cheating on the quantity and quality of their products, and using price-fixing to exploit the people. To pay for grain, the poor sold themselves into slavery, only to be further exploited and given inadequate payment—just enough to buy a pair of sandals! (Amos 8:4-6).

The basket of ripe fruit represented Israel’s wickedness (Amos 8:1). It included greed, dishonesty, social injustice, and exploitation of the powerless. Angry with His people, God warned, “Like this fruit, Israel is ripe for punishment! . . . I will never forget the wicked things you have done!” (Amos 8:2,7). That’s scary! God said His people would have to account for their wickedness—something He remembered clearly.

God spoke of horrifying punishment. The Assyrians would slaughter them, destroy their cities, and exile the survivors. There would be much death, devastation, and destruction. Instead of rejoicing, there would be wailing (Amos 8:3).

Ancient Israel had refused to do what God told them to do and so He punished them. Today, we have the opportunity to “do what is right” and live out the instruction of Micah 6:8. Our great God loves mercy and commands us to be merciful!

NLT 365-day reading plan passage for today: Mark 2:23–3:19