The LORD roars from Zion
and thunders from Jerusalem;
the pastures of the shepherds dry up,
and the top of Carmel withers (Amos 1:2, TNIV).
J. A. Motyer writes, “Affluence, exploitation and the profit motive were the most notable features of the society which Amos observed and in which he worked. The rich were affluent enough to have several houses apiece, to go in for rather ostentatiously expensive furniture and not deny themselves any bodily satisfaction… standards had gone to pot. Authority and the rule of law were despised and national leadership, while reveling in the publicity and dignity of position … seemed to be contributing to the complete breakdown of law and order.”
This setting is eerily familiar. Our mindsets today are the same, our outlooks are similar, and our motives for doing things are often from the same source of selfishness that those Israelites were struggling with during Amos’ time, almost three thousand years ago.
Amos begins with a simple statement proclaiming the character of God. “The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem.” This is powerful indeed, for the word “roars” is not a pretty thing describing the roar of the ocean or something of similar grandeur; rather, it is a ferocious term telling of viciousness and terror, of a lion ripping apart its prey with expediency. This is the context in which Amos writes.
If you notice throughout the overlying context of the Bible, the names of God are used to describe in a summary statement the current attribute that best describes God’s character. They aren’t just names you associate with God; they are the actual characteristics describing God’s character. Amos’ book is no exception, and he describes a God that is ferociously attacking and screaming at the current sin in the Israelite’s lives. What we need to notice, however, is that our God, the God of the twenty-first century, is the same God that filled His people with awe and fear almost three thousand years ago. We are dealing with the same struggles, struggles like materialism and lewd conduct, and our Lord is roaring ferociously today.
Amos goes on in the same verse to describe the altar of God and how both God’s wrath and mercy meet at that wonderful place where sacrifices are offered and accepted. It is a beautiful picture of God’s holiness coupled with God’s redemption. That is the character of God. God is a holy God, but He is also our Savior, applying the balm of forgiveness and atonement. Amos talks about God’s character, one passionate for His people to stop living the way they are—in bondage to materialism.
And this is what we are left with after contemplating the roaring passion of a Father who wants us to honor Him in all that we do. In response to His holiness, we as His chosen ones could live lives that resemble this righteous character. Likewise, because of the fact that He also is the savior of sinners, we respond to God’s revelation in humble living, constantly confessing our sins and living in a state of repentance toward the living Yahweh. These are the only ways with which we can respond to our mighty and terrible God.
At the end, after contemplating this one verse, God is roaring and pouncing, ready to attack the materialism in our lives. His holy wrath burns like fire on the altar of sacrifice, consuming, so that in the end only He remains. Will you respond to the revelation of His character as a roaring lion with sanctified living and a repentant heart, or will your life be defined by that which makes our mighty God tremble with anger? Yahweh roars. How will you respond?