04 November, 2009

The Smallest Grain

You know, get out of the blogging habit for more than a week or two, and BOOM. It's just gone. :-)

Anyway, I recently spent some time in the book of Amos, and was astounded. With wedding planning and all, I don't have time to tell all that inspired me, but I'd like to focus on one amazing contradiction.

God, Yahweh, the very personal God of all the world and of Israel in particular, is finished with Israel. He spends the first chapter and a half explaining He'll repay everyone to whom justice is owed, but then 7 chapters explaining exactly what Israel (as opposed to Judah - Israel is the "10 tribes" and went into captivity 120 years before Judah, never to return) has done to deserve His wrath, and exactly what His wrath will entail.

In chapter 3 He explains that if He's once roused Himself, everyone who hears Him should know they are doomed. In chapter 5 He details their adulteries. In chapter 7 He allows Amos to reduce the pain they'll feel in their doom. But then, in the terrifying final chapter, He declares how He'll hunt down every member of Israel even to hell itself and slay them.

In the books of history, I read God's purpose and dependability. In Amos I see His wild eyes and His hair whipping with the passion of His declarations. God is furious, but coldly and calculatingly furious. His passion floods the banks of His patience. I've always heard the phrase, "wild-eyed prophet." That phrase sells God short. Those prophets were wild-eyed in a vain attempt to communicate the terror they'd faced, and they told the story because they had no choice. When one hears the fury of the living God, one doesn't go home, light a candle and center one's self.

After 8 1/2 chapters of fury, God says this:
Amos 9:8-10 "Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD [are] on the sinful kingdom, And I will destroy it from the face of the earth; Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob," Says the LORD. "For surely I will command, And will sift the house of Israel among all nations, As [grain] is sifted in a sieve; Yet not the smallest grain shall fall to the ground. All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword, Who say, 'The calamity shall not overtake nor confront us.'


In His fury He can make this promise. He will sift out His people among the nations, but He'll not lose one single grain. He'll slay the sinners, but He'll not allow one of His own to be mislaid, much less killed.

In the Old Testament I've been finding my every concept of God shaken. He is very much not Whom I imagine Him to be. He is entirely Who He Is. He holds fury and tenderness equally firmly, and never fails. His Word never goes forth, except it happens. Leviticus 26 continues to ring in my ears since I first heard it a few weeks ago. It took 1200 years for that chapter to be fully realized, but not one word of it fell to the ground.