Have you ever heard a lion roar? Perhaps at the zoo or the circus? It's an unnerving sound, even from the safety of the enclosure. Maybe it's the visuals that go with it–like the teeth in that open maw–that chill the spine and evoke fear.
There is power in the voice and message of the Lord , and it demands attention.
Imagine hearing a lion roar on the open plains. No glass or bars separating you from those claws and fangs. That's the image that the book of Amos opens with.
Amos begins, as many of the prophetic books do, with the introduction of the book's writer (Amos 1:1). He is a southerner (Tekoa was just a bit south of Jerusalem) who has been sent to prophesy to the northern 10 tribes. It's a tough assignment: Israel and Judah were separate kingdoms at this point, and though they were all descendants of Abraham, the family connection was very loose in Amos' day. But Amos obeys, and travels north during the reigns of Uzziah in the south and Jeroboam II in the north (v. 1). That was sometime between 767 BC and 753 BC, a time of relative prosperity for the northern kingdom–but prosperity doesn't mean God's blessing. Amos' journey and message will be proof of that.
The first words Amos utters paint a picture of what is to come. The Lord doesn't just speak; He ″roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem″ (v. 2). The effect is catastrophic: the power of Yahweh's voice dries up everything from the fertile plains to the top of the lush mountain (v. 2). This is a picture of judgment, the imagery of destruction and difficulty.
It's important to note the place from which Yahweh's powerful voice comes. In this poetic couplet, Zion and Jerusalem are synonymous. They refer to the same place: the temple that stood in Jerusalem in the south, where God had established true worship. This verse would thus have been an initial criticism of the religion of the north, emphasising that the Israelites were not worshipping God in the way they were supposed to. When Israel split into the northern and southern kingdoms, temples were built in Bethel and Dan (see 1 Kings 12:25-33). But, unlike the temple in Jerusalem, these places of worship were, in reality, places of idolatry. The ″sins of Jeroboam″ (see 1 Kings 14:16, 16:31; 2 Kings 3:3) were one of the major reasons why Israel was taken into exile. False worship is one of the sins Amos comes back to again and again in his message to Israel.
But it's the power of God's voice that arrests our attention in these opening verses. Israel–and we–have to reckon with the fact that when God speaks, things happen. There is power in the voice and message of the Lord , and it demands attention. The question is, are we listening?