Feast of Dedication Devotion
Read: Amos Chapter Eight
"Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD,
"That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread,
nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD."
In the final chapters of Amos's prophecy, the Lord gave His servant five special visions to illustrate His message of judgment for Israel. After receiving the visions of the locusts that would cripple the economy and of the fire that would devastate the land, Amos pleaded with the Lord to grant a stay on His heavenly decree before it was accomplished on earth. Amos knew that the people were unfaithful; Israel had violated their covenant with the Lord. They were without excuse and deserving of judgment; therefore, they could not debate the Lord's decree, so the prophet appealed to the Lord's faithfulness and asked Him to extend His hand of mercy upon His spiritually weakened and impoverished nation. Out of His love for His chosen nation, and in response to His servants' fervent intercession, the Lord relented (Amos 7:3, 6). "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much" (James 5:16b). However, when the Lord dropped the weight of His plumb line over the nation and revealed how far His people had deviated from His truth and righteousness, He did not give Amos an opportunity to intercede. The Lord had made a careful evaluation of the hearts of His people and declared that they were entirely "out of plumb" with His commands. They had polluted the land with their idolatry, immorality, and injustice, and the time had come to purge the land of all the filth. The nation had gone too far, they had forgotten that their land belonged to the Lord. He alone decided who would or would not live in it. This time judgment would be executed. "...and Israel shall surely be led away captive from his own land" (v. 17b).
"Thus the Lord GOD showed me:
Behold, a basket of summer fruit.
And He said, "Amos, what do you see?"
So I said, "A basket of summer fruit."
Then the LORD said to me:
"The end has come upon My people Israel;
I will not pass by them anymore."
(Amos 8:1, 2)
The nation was ripe for judgment. Amos, the sheepbreeder, who had spent his days sitting in the sycamore groves piercing the figs on the trees so that the fruit would ripen properly, understood the gravity of the Lord's message when He showed him in a vision a basket of summer fruit (Amos 8:1, 2). "Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My Word" (Jeremiah 1:12). A bitter harvest was about to come upon the rebellious nation when they would finally reap what they had sowed. They robbed their customers with their deceitful business practices, and cheated and oppressed the poor and needy, as well as desecrated the weekly Sabbath, which was meant for worshiping God alone. "Hear this, you who swallow up the needy, and make the poor of the land fail, saying: "When will the New Moon be past, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may trade wheat? Making the ephah small and the shekel large, falsifying the scales by deceit" (Amos 8:4, 5). Israel had broken God's law and violated His covenant, and there would be no escaping His judgment. The people had put their business ahead of obedience to God's commands. They were making slaves of the poor and giving the needy no rest, because they themselves had forsaken their commanded day of rest. Even the land groaned under the weight of their sins which flooded the land like the Nile River (v. 8). "For the sacrifice of My offerings they sacrifice flesh and eat it, but the LORD does not accept them. Now He will remember their iniquity and punish their sins. They shall return to Egypt" (Hosea 8:13). Amos describes the horrible judgment that was about to come upon them when darkness would fall upon the land not only physically, but spiritually. "Behold, the days are coming," says the Lord GOD, "That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD" (Amos 8:11).
"They shall wander from sea to sea,
and from north to east;
they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD,
but shall not find it."
The punishment would fit the crime as the physical darkness of the coming days of judgment would be a visible demonstration of the enormity of the people's sins. They would join with all of creation in its' great lamentation over the sin which has enslaved it to death and decay. "For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now" (Romans 8:22). A darkness like they have never known would soon fall upon the land which at one time had been bathed in the light of heaven. In the wilderness the Israelites had been divinely instructed and prepared for times like these. The Lord personally led them for forty years, to humble them and test them, to know what was in their heart, whether they would keep His commandments or not. "So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD" (Deuteronomy 8: 2, 3). They had been the privileged people of God whom the Lord sent prophets to bring them His word. Sadly, they only looked for His guidance in times of terrible distress, yet when the Lord had sent physical famine upon the land in previous acts of mercy to call them to repentance, they refused to return to Him. Their ears had become deaf to the Lord's appeals, so His ears would be deaf to theirs. He would no longer listen to their cries for relief. "We do not see our signs; there is no longer any prophet; nor is there any among us who knows how long" (Psalm 74:9). The people had plenty of "religion", but they had deprived themselves of true spiritual nourishment and sustenance, by neglecting the word and true worship of God. Therefore, the worst possible judgment, which revealed the Lord's highest displeasure, would engulf the land and last from the time of Malachi to the time of John the Baptist. "A famine of the hearing of the Word of God." As we gaze upon the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, and feast upon the full revelation of "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (John 1:14) in this season of our Lord's first Advent, let us bring an offering of thanksgiving and praise for the abundant light, life, nourishment, direction, protection, and peace that is ours when we discipline ourselves to daily feast upon the rich banquet table the Lord has provided for us in His Word, so that we will never know true famine when it comes to our land. Let us pray for the spiritually impoverished all around us to come and find the true satisfaction their souls are longing for this Christmas season! "Come! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and mild without money and without price. Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance. Incline your ear, and come to Me, hear, and your soul shall live" (Isaiah 55:1-3a)!
"Their heart cried out to the Lord,
"O wall of the daughter of Zion,
let tears run down like a river day and night;
give yourself no relief; give your eyes no rest.
Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the watches;
pour out your heart like water before the face of the Lord.
Lift your hands toward Him for the life of your young children,
who faint from hunger at the head of every street."
(Lamentations 2:18, 19)
The Feast of Dedication
The Feast of Dedication is a memorial feast of the dedication of the new altar and the purging of the temple by Judas Maccabeus in December, 165 B.C. after it had been profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes, as prophesied by Daniel (Daniel 11:31). Today the Feast of Dedication (see John 10:22-38) is known as the Festival of Lights or Hanukkah. In commemoration of God's plan of complete restoration for His people through His Son Jesus Christ, an additional "feast" is provided each day of this journey to be enjoyed with your family. As we celebrate this week of the Feast of Dedication and light the candles on our tables, may the light that is within us grow ever brighter as we feast upon the Word of God and share His love with others. Continue today's journey with a time of prayer and blessing for the whole family with the devotional link below. May your home in this season be filled with the sweet fragrance of Christ and may every heart overflow with His joy and be permeated with His peace as we celebrate the birth of our Savior!
"You are the light of the world...Let your light so shine before men,
that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."
(Matthew 5:13, 16)