We recall Joshua asking the people, “Choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living” (24:15).
We recall God destroying two peoples with fire from the heavens: “Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven” (Gen. 19:24).
We recall God sending rain to the earth destroying every living creature: “The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights…and all flesh died that moved on the earth” (Gen. 5:12, 21).
We recall God sending darkness to the earth through the hand of Moses: “So Moses stretched out his hand toward heaven, and there was dense darkness in all the land of Egypt for three days” (Exodus 10:21).
The book of Amos embodies several ideas for the reader: reiteration just how worthless man has become, man’s worthlessness is a direct result of his own choices, God’s numerous attempts to reach out to His creation, God’s sovereignty over the planet, the stars and heavens, and man, and the ultimate punishment man will endure for his blasphemy and apostasy. (But more on that ultimate punishment later…)
Amos, in stanza after stanza, marks the various peoples who will suffer at the hand of God for their transgressions. God is clear and direct in stating why they will suffer. He is also clear in stating the forms in which suffering will occur: plague, famine, drought, etc. The power of God’s sovereignty is marked in 4:13 where we hear the creation story of Genesis echoing in the background: “For lo, the one who forms the mountains, creates the wind, reveals his thoughts to mortals, makes the morning darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth—the Lord, the God of hosts, is his name!”
The first four paragraphs above seem to echo through chapter 5 verses 8 and 9 in Amos: “The one who made the Pleiades and Orion, and turns deep darkness into the morning, and darkens the day into night [Moses in Exodus], who calls for the waters of the sea, and pours them out on the surface of the earth [flood in Genesis], the Lord is his name, who makes destruction flash out against the strong [Sodom and Gomorrah], so that destruction comes upon the fortress [Joshua]…” Amos would have known these stories as part of his cultural oral tradition, and these stories reveal themselves again through his writing.
I read the Book of Amos much like I listen to Ravel’s Bolero: it begins softly and builds throughout the piece using a gradual crescendo ending with a significant climax of sound and emotion. The crescendo builds as Amos recalls and foretells of God’s warranted and deserved punishment of the people. The climax is tucked within a verse and could possibly be missed…sometimes the loudest sound is its absence. God has striven with His creation long enough. Chapter 8 verses 11-12 is the climax to the book of Amos: “The time is surely coming, says the Lord God, when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.” (emphasis mine)
God has thundered. God has punished. God has assaulted. God has stripped.
This final and deserved punishment, the one to which will bring the people to its knees, will be the silence of God.