The raw power of a storm is magnificent — the towering, ominous clouds, the announcement of rumbling thunder, the unrestrained force of the gusting wind. A storm is one of those unique opportunities in life where a person can watch the dynamic strength of nature — the same sort of unfettered energy found in an unstoppable hurricane, a supercharged bolt of lightning, or in the gentle caress of the sun.
As a human spectator, I am in awe of such power. It reminds me of my place in the world, that there is greater power beyond what my own two hands can accomplish.
Matthew 19:26 says, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
With God, everything is possible. But I tend to view God’s power in much the same way I view human power: eventually, it gets abused.
In our culture, wealth, status, and power tend to distort one’s way of thinking. Dictators with unchecked power have destroyed millions of lives in an attempt to retain it. The wealthy in our world continue to prey on the less fortunate. Nations go to war over self-interest in their pursuit of furthering their own territory.
So how do I reconcile this view of power with our Christian belief that God has absolute power to do as he sees fit?
When God looks over creation, how exactly does he use his absolute power? Is he the friendly hotel manager, who welcomes me in and makes sure my room is clean (forgives my sin), but in the end just wants my money (life)? Or does He abuse his power like a crazed scientist and create cruel circumstances to see how I’ll react?
I get a glimpse of the power of God in Amos 1:2: “The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem; The pastures of the shepherds dry up and the top of Carmel withers.”
In the Bible, God takes on different names to convey the attribute that best describes his character in that particular moment. “The Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23:1) is one example where God is shown to be a gentle and wise leader.
In Amos, though, God is described as roaring from Zion and thundering from Jerusalem.
I recently experienced this sort of unbridled power while hiking in the mountains. I’m not savvy on wildlife behavior, and the dominant thought during my hike involved how to avoid being eaten by animals who jump out of trees. As I hiked further from my vehicle and the trees closed in, one thought pressed in on my mind:
“Could I kill a bear with my bare hands?”
The thought of a bear, with power coursing through every muscle fiber, charging at me while I patiently waited for the moment to lock my hands around its neck and squeeze for dear life didn’t make me feel more brave. It was an experience much like telling ghost stories around the campfire. It just made everything that much scarier.
Amos 1:2 constructs an image of God as a roaring lion ferociously attacking, ripping apart its prey with both efficiency and brute strength. Is this an example of God using his sheer power to terrify a group of people because he’s bored and he wants to see some excitement? Or is this an example of something else?
In Amos’ day, exploitation, wealth, and profit were societal hallmarks. The rich owned several houses and could afford to do whatever they pleased. Moral standards, authority, and rule of law were afterthoughts. Society had lost its awe of God and who he is.
North American culture is in much the same rut as the Israelites of Amos’ day. And as a resident of that culture, I comfortably live in the mindset where possessions are collected, wealth is pursued, and morality becomes increasingly gray. And yet, God is powerful enough, concerned enough, and loving enough to roar like an untamed lion because he sees that we're not living the fullness of life that he has intended. He is roaring not out of a bloodlust for destruction, but because he is a God who is intent on saving his people from their bondage to materialism and greed.
I am in awe of such power. The God of the universe is roaring.