Newer translations help us to see the connection between “ripe fruit” and the ‘ripeness’ of Israel. Older versions referred to “summer fruit” and the “end” of Israel, and the reading was more difficult. In Hebrew, it’s a word play really where the word for “ripe summer fruit” sounds very much like the word for “end.”
In any case, the end has been decreed, and there will be no going back.
The reasons for Israel’s punishment are summarized and rehearsed in chapter 8: She not only has no feeling for the poor, she believes the poor are there to be abused. She is religious, but only ritually so and frankly finds religion a hindrance to commerce (can’t wait for the Sabbath to be over so she can get back to making money). She is a nation of cheats who package the chaff with the grain and sell the result as grain. Her end is sealed.
Two thoughts come to mind on this chapter about how to apply it.
First, surely our main application will be to living the Christian life. Christians cannot cover up their sinfulness by church attendance or any other important ritual associated with our faith. Rituals do not balance our sins and make us square with God.
But it would be well to consider a second application. Christians cannot expect the pagans around us to buy our ethics without buying Jesus. But we should remember from the first two chapters that God holds even pagan nations (and that’s what ours is) responsible for bad behavior. Our only way to change our nation is by bringing its people to Jesus. But absent change and filled with immorality, cruelty, materialism, oppression and a lack of concern for the least of its citizens, no nation can survive. It will fall, never to rise again.