The Book of the Twelve for Lent 2016
A God Whose Bark is Worse than His Bite – Amos (6)
The last phrase of Amos’ prophesying says all that really needs to be said. He has thundered and blustered on God’s behalf against the egregious faithlessness of his people Israel. He has sliced and diced them in every was imaginable. And all with perfect right. Every indictment he pressed against them was true.
If this were merely a political arrangement, surely the Lord would have washed his hands of these ingrates.If it were merely a contractural agreement, God would have taken them to court to sue them for breach of contract.
If it were an economic relationship, God would have run them out of business and closed down their shop.But it is not any of those kinds of relationships. It is a family relationship. A marriage. An indissoluble bond between a utterly faithful groom and a largely unfaithful bride (remember Hosea 1-3). The groom is driven to the extremity of grief, disappointment, and despair over this bride, and even utters threats and declarations that seem to be the end for them.
“The end has come upon my people Israel;
I will never again pass them by.
The songs of the temple shall become wailings in that day,”
says the Lord God;
‘the dead bodies shall be many,
cast out in every place. Be silent!’” (Amos 8:2-3)
If it is not too irreverent an image, God has barked and snarled at his people for their violations and transgressions. It seems inevitable that a deadly bite will soon follow. The people are laid out and defenseless. They have no complaint for they richly deserve what is coming.
But the deadly bite never comes. Instead, God closes Amos’ book by saying “says the Lord your God.”
Did you hear it? “Your” God?
God hasn’t and never gives up on his people!
-“Your” God – despite all the tough love parenting his people have required, God keeps the relationship alive.
-“Your” God – despite all the disappointment and grief they have caused him, love trumps all that and the relationship continues on.
-“Your God – where sin abounds, says the apostle Paul, grace “superabounds” Romans 5:20), and the relationship continues.
Yes, God’s bark is worse than his bite. He will always be “our” God, faithful to himself and his promises, no matter how faithless we turn out to be. This is the only reason we can do Lent. If our relationship to God hinged on our performance, we could never bear to look at ourselves honestly or in depth. But our relationship hinges on him, his love and faithfulness as shown in Jesus Christ, the one who said of his executioners (which is all of us), “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” With such a God we can be open and honest. Indeed, only with such a God can we be open and honest. And such a God we have!