The “roaring” God. This image sums up the entire book of Amos. Amos, the shepherd prophet, sent from the Southern Kingdom of Judah to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, begins his prophetic denunciation of Israel. Amos is one of the earliest prophets and his condemnation comes true not many years after he pronounces it. Assyria destroys Israel and whips it off the face of the earth (see 2 Kings 17:1-6).
God’s roar in today’s passage begins at Mount Zion and reaches all the way north to Mount Carmel, making everything in between wither and dry up. These 90 miles encompassed the entire Northern Kingdom. It could take ten days to make this journey in Amos’s day, but God’s voice moves at the speed of sound. When God’s roaring dries up the top of Mount Carmel, it reminds me how Elijah calls down fire to dry up the altar and consume the sacrifices presented before God and Baal, a story of God’s power that Amos likely knew.
This is not God’s tender voice. This is a consuming fire that vanquishes everything that it touches. God’s voice through Amos will burn hot and ravish the land and livelihood of Israel. God’s judgment leaves nothing but ashes and dust. All that remains are Amos’ prophetic oracles.
How do we come to terms with God’s violence in the book of Amos? We obviously want to be on God’s side here, so we assume that the Northern Kingdom must have seriously rebelled to receive such damnation. Or, do we read against the grain? Can we envision a God that is not bent on violence, but uses it when the world refuses to comprehend in a different way?
When have you experienced the roaring God?
God, help us realize that you are not indifferent to evil and wrongdoing. Help us respect the ways you are at work and seek to understand what you want us to know. Amen.