Amos has been bringing the heat with his words from the Lord, and in this final vision of the Lord standing beside the altar, the heat is inescapable. It begins at the altar with the ceiling crumbling in, but those who are not killed by the rubble will be met with the sword, and there is no escape—not down to Sheol nor up to heaven, nor top of a mountain, nor bottom of the sea—“not one of them shall escape,” says the Lord.
Those of us who love a Gospel of Niceness don’t know what to do with this. But, in truth, we don’t need to know what to do with this. While there are other prophetic tasks in which we are called to participate, the execution of divine judgment is not one of them. But divine judgment from a God who is Goodness cannot be evil. Just as God’s love is inexhaustible (the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever), God’s judgment on sin and evil is inescapable. There is nowhere evil can hide that God cannot root it out. Even Sheol, the shadowy pit, is not a safe place for wickedness to hide. As verses 5-8 proclaim, the Lord is over all and this is ultimately good news. Make no doubt—it is terrifying for evil and corruption—but it is good news for creation, because God is actively involved in creation, setting the world to rights.
Amos, as a farmer, knew that a good farmer doesn’t just sit back and watch. The farmer actively drives out pests and predators, and weeds, and prunes. Divine judgment is good news because God doesn’t just sit back and watch evil taking over, God is involved in actively driving it out, weeding, and pruning.
Amos ends with this prophecy from the Lord of a garden that is whole—a place to be planted and thrive and enjoy the fruits thereof—a hearkening back to the first garden. This is what it has all been about: driving out evil to make space for creation to thrive as God intended.
Laura Weant is the pastor at Bethany, Boone, and bears almost no resemblance to the prophet Amos, except in a nearly opposite trajectory, as a preacher who is learning to farm, as a dresser of vegetable gardens, and raiser of chickens, and trying to learn about God in the process with her husband and two kids.
1. We always like to think we’re the hero of the story—in this case, an Amos—but what if we’re the ones he’s preaching to? Recognizing the sin and corruption in our own hearts, how do we hear God’s inescapable judgment as good news for us personally?
Lord God, you love your creation and hate what is evil. Drive out the sin that corrupts my own heart first—root it out; put it to death—so that I may be an instrument for your divine justice and righteousness in the world, for the sake of your Son, Jesus. Amen.