Amos 1:6, 9, 11, 13(ESV)

Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of Gaza,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they carried into exile a whole people

to deliver them up to Edom.

[9] Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of Tyre,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they delivered up a whole people to Edom,

and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.

[11] Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of Edom,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because he pursued his brother with the sword

and cast off all pity,

and his anger tore perpetually,

and he kept his wrath forever.

[13] Thus says the Lord:

“For three transgressions of the Ammonites,

and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,

because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead, that they might enlarge their border.

The Old Testament prophets wrote the word and will of God powerfully and without holding anything back. The words of the prophets, especially the “minor” prophets wrote scathing accounts of the sins of Israel and its surrounding nations. It is, in part, because of the words of these prophets that God, in the Old Testament has the reputation of being harsh and cruel and unappeasable, while the God of the New Testament, it is believed, is gracious and loving and approachable.

This over generalized view of God is mistaken at every level. When we read the Book of Amos, for instance, what we see when we encounter the fierce wrath of God against Israel and the nations surrounding Israel, is that the reason He is so angry is because they have forsaken compassion and pity and justice and basic human rights. God’s anger is against people who show no mercy. He is treating them as they treat others.

In Amos chapter 1 God will judge because people were carried into exile, betrayed, showed no pity and mistreated the defenseless. The God who rages against such sins is not a God of wrath and retribution that He is so often portrayed as being. He is, rather, the God who defends those who cannot defend themselves. He is the big brother or protective father who comes to the rescue of the helpless sibling or child.

As I write this, a search is being carried on for the body of a little girl who was murdered by two adults for, it appears, the satisfaction of sexual desires. The person who is angry at such people and actions will never be accused of possessing no pity or of being harsh and without compassion. It is compassion that drives the very anger that wells up from within. Our anger at such unthinkable cruelty cannot compare to the anger of the thrice holy God who made all things for the praise of His glory.

If God does not get angry at the horrifying sins of abuse and cruelty and unimaginable horror that goes on in the world and has always gone on since the fruit was eaten, then we have a very inadequate God indeed. But our God is not inadequate. He is perfect in His holiness and His anger at sin is righteous. He cares for the oppressed and He shall have His justice levied against all who have abused the innocent.

And then we need to remember that when Jesus suffered on the cross He was receiving the just punishment for sins that were not His. We need to remember that our sins are offensive to God whether we have abused the innocent, forsaken the poor, or not. We deserve punishment for our sins.

The cross is the wrath of God in ways that transcend our understanding. We, and all other sinners, deserve to be on the cross and we are the ones who should be crying out about God forsaking us. But we are not – not because God has forgotten our sins but because God is merciful and holds out His hand to sinners to be rescued. The cross is the most complete and awesome demonstration of justice and mercy there has ever been or ever will be or ever can be. It was hatched in the pre-creation councils of God and prophesied throughout the whole Old Testament and accomplished in the Gospels and preached throughout history until Christ returns.

What a God! What a plan. Let us worship Him, who is holy in His righteous judgements and holy in the display of His mercy to all His chosen ones.