The Book of Amos, and why it doesn’t freak me out (even though it probably should)

I’m often amazed at what the Bible has to say about the character and personality of God. Weirdly enough, I find that there’s a lot in his character that I can identify with.

Passionate, emotional. Fiery and protective. Ferociously loving.

I think some people may find these aspects of God a little frightening, but I find them comforting. It’s almost a relief sometimes to read passages about God thundering and emoting and raging. It makes me feel a little less crazy (I know I may seem shy and docile, but those of you who know me well…well, you know better).

But unlike me, he always gets angry about the right things.

Example? The Book of Amos.

I read it in one sitting a few years ago, and it was scary, but somehow affirming. And if you’re at all familiar with the book, you’re probably wondering what I’m talking about, because it’s harsh. You don’t see Christian bookstores promoting Bible study materials for this one, and there’s a reason for it.

If you’re looking for a comforting read, go for Psalm 23 or something.

Amos will make your hair fall out.

But Amos became a weird favorite for me that day in that it solidified something for me concerning the character of God.

You know what makes him angry? Truly, really, burning angry?

Abuse of power. The strong subjugating the weak. The rich taking advantage of the poor. Unjust systems of “justice.” Rape. Slavery.

Here are some of the things he has to say in Amos –

He calls rich women who oppress the poor and needy “cows.”

With regards to types of injustice:

5:11 “You trample on the poor and force him to give you grain.”

5:12 “…You oppress the righteous and take bribes and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.”

Excess:

6:4 “You lie on beds inlaid with ivory and lounge on your couches. You dine on choice lambs and fattened calves.”

Hypocrisy:

5:21-22 “I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will have no regard for them.”

In summary, God rails against excess and pride, and speaks of the exile and death that is in store for those who are living richly off of the poor, destitute, and helpless.

Yes, Jesus talks about the poor and oppressed, as does Paul. And they’re not the only ones.

But in Amos, Papa-Bear-God-the-Father lays it out unmistakably: This is where my heart is. Subjugate the weak, trample the poor, and I will END you.

What makes God angry?

Injustice.

How I love that. This is a God I trust. Is it a little scary? Sure. But his priorities are straight. And of course, he is a God of grace and forgiveness. That aspect of God is present in Amos as well.

But what a clear directive for us. Jesus said we are to love our neighbors as ourselves, and if we truly begin to live that out…poverty, hunger, slavery…

Dare I say it could really end?

It freaking boggles my mind.

So yes, Amos is a little bit terrifying. But the character of the God who wrote it…this is a good, good God.

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