The Lord Roars
Lions are a big draw at a zoo. Usually when I arrive, the lion is sleeping. But, if we were to see the lion at feeding time, I think that even the guaranteed protection of strong plate glass or stout bars would not diminish the effect of a lion roaring.
But, remove the bars, restore the lion to its habitat, replace the dead carcass by living prey, revitalize the caged ferocity until it matches again its unfettered and native intensity – and that is the portrait of God with which Amos chooses to open his book.
Amos 1:2 (ESV)
2 And he said: "The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers."
Roar does not mean purr, The verb shaag signifies the uttering of the loud deep rumbling cry of the lion.
Psalms 104:21 (ESV)
21 The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God.
The best commentator of this word is Samson. He heard just a roar as he walked through the vineyards at Timnah. “Attacked’ would be a better than just ‘roar, for the roar in question is the pouncing roar, the roar of a lion already committed to the attack, the roar intended to paralyze its victim with terror
This reality is turned into a metaphor by Amos but it presents a picture of God few actually have. For in this book, it is the Lord God who roars, and who is about to judge not only the whole world, but his people as well.
This introduction should get our attention.
Why does Amos describe the Lord in this way, and what does it mean.
He wants us to know that God is not a Big Delusion – as in Richard Dawkins’ recent book or that unlike Christopher Hitchen’s book God is not Great – that in fact God is awesome and powerful.
Yes, God is love, but love means more than well meaning and friendly. God is big enough to deal with our world; and that he is strong enough to create a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness dwells. And he will do it.
He is like a lion that roars.
Today, we’ll just look at the first 2 verses of Amos. Here, Amos tells us 3 major things: Our God is a God who speaks; he is the Lord of History, and he is the Lord of Creation.
Point One: God is a God Who Speaks
Unlike the baals in 1 Kings 18 who were deaf and dumb, owing to their non-existence, save in the minds of the deluded idolaters, the Lord, or Yahweh, speaks. He makes himself known to us.
Amos 1:1-2 (ESV)
1 The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years before the earthquake. 2 And he said: "The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem; the pastures of the shepherds mourn, and the top of Carmel withers."
The Lord speaks in 3 ways.
First, he speaks through his messengers. The word of God comes to us through human servants, in this case Amos. The word of the God is incarnated through human agents; and of course, his word is incarnated perfectly only when Jesus Christ comes.
We don’t know much about Amos. He was among the shepherds of Tekoa – a town 10 miles south of Jerusalem. Commentators say that the word for ‘shepherd’ may mean that he was the overseer of a number of shepherds. Nevertheless, Amos was not notable in any way and nothing is known of his family.
We know from these 2 verses that he was a prophet when Uzziah was king of Judah (Southern Kingdom) and Jeroboam II was king of the south. Amos appears only 40 years or so before the fall of the Northern kingdom, but at the time, all was well; the country was prosperous; it was a time of peace and prosperity, but didn’t last too long.
Secondly, God speaks to his servant in words and in visions. Notice the combination of words which Amos saw.
We will see that there are visions in chapters 7-9; and it is the role of the prophet to translate those visions into words, so that they can be understood.
He conveys these realities, depicted by the visions into words, which if heeded would bring transformation to his countrymen. But, they didn’t listen.
Thirdly: The Lord speaks directly into the world. He roars!
Job 37:2 (ESV)
2 Keep listening to the thunder of his voice and the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
Psalms 29:3-5 (ESV)
3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the Lord, over many waters. 4 The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty. 5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars; the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
Psalms 29:7-9 (ESV)
7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire. 8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness; the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh. 9 The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth and strips the forests bare, and in his temple all cry, "Glory!"
Nature testifies to the great power of the Lord. Earthquakes and upheavals remind us that the whole world is under God’s judgment since it is in rebellion against the Lord. God is powerful.
Romans 1 says the creation tells of God’s power and might, and so it does.
Point Two: The God is Lord of History
We often hear the question, “What do you think will happen?”…regarding the presidential election, the fate of Senator Stevens, the Seahawks, the Episcopal Church and so forth. Who knows? No one! All we can do is offer an informed guess. As we look at history, it seems like one crisis after another.
But for Amos, history has a clear purpose because the Lord is directing history, and has intervened in history in both a particular and in a general way.
(1) He has acted with particularity. Notice in verse 1 two years before the earthquake. Most think that to be between 765 and 760 BC.
Zechariah 14:5 (ESV)
5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
Zechariah seems to refer to the same event. Zechariah sees that earthquake as a harbinger of the final Day of Judgment.
The earthquake informs the reader that God does what he says he will do! God’s words do come true. Perhaps not at once; but they in time, rest assured, he will do what he says he will do…
Isaiah 55:11 (ESV)
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
(2) He acts Generally in History
That is, God is in charge of all history at all times involving all people. Commentators point to the use of Zion/Jerusalem as a Hebraic term which means all of God’s people. In chapters 1-2, Amos distinguishes between Israel (Northern kingdom) and Judah (Southern kingdom)
Zion is literally the ridge line between two valleys in Jerusalem where David put the city. It becomes associated with David and kingship, and is used in the book of revelation to represent the future for all of God’s people.
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
Ultimately, the solution to Israel’s sin and rebellion lies in the heavenly Jerusalem, called Mt. Zion.
Point Three: Lord of Creation
Notice verse 2 the pastures of the shepherds mourn. And the top of Carmel withers There is no place where the Lord’s sovereignty does not extend. And further, there is nothing which happens which is outside the sovereign purposes of God.
However, we need to say 2 things about this. Such events, as the earthquake mentioned in verse 1 is part of the God’s judgment on a fallen world. We are reminded daily, in countless ways that this world is not what it was intended to be, nor what it will be when the Lord returns.
Romans 8:19-22 (ESV)
19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
But we need to be careful also to say that because particular people are caught up in tragedies, they are especially wicked.
In Luke 13.1-5 Jesus speaks directly to this by saying that particular tragedies do not come on certain people because they ‘deserved it’ but, that all tragedies should point to all of us as needing forgiveness because we all are under the judgment of God.
What Can we Learn
1. God works his purposes out through ordinary people. Of course, people such as Amos are unique in that they are the source of God’s word. No one can say that today. Yet, Amos was also a man like us through whom the Lord conveyed his word.
2. The earthquake means that God will do what he says. The Lion roars – judgment is about to fall on Jerusalem, and the earthquake reminds that the Lord will act decisively.
3. God is over all world. Psalms 24:1 (ESV)
1 A Psalm of David. The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein,
4. God reveals his purposes to us. Not everything we want to know; but everything that we need to know for our salvation and for our lives in this day.
Also, it is not hard to see how the Lord Jesus fulfills both the judgment of God, and the mercy of God. For Jesus is the very Word of God in person; who came to show us who God is, but also to take action for the salvation of the world, by bearing the Lord’s just wrath and indignation against us.
He bore our sins in his body on a tree.
God is now working his purposes out. May we listen to him as he reveals himself in his word through his prophets, and of course through his Son to whom all the law and the prophets point. Jesus our Lord.