So, what verse does God’s Little Instruction Book have for us today? It’s none other than Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” And this is one verse where taking a bird’s-eye view of its context will not lend us any particular insight into its meaning. There do exist passages in Proverbs which are not simply successions of maxims and wise sayings, but chapter 16 is not one of them.
You’ve probably heard countless pastors, speakers, authors, and other theologizers tell you, in one form or another, “Start with God,” and that’s exactly what Nahum does. Right off the bat, he paints us a prophetic picture of God: his character, his actions, and how he engages with his creation. But this isn’t a warm-and-fuzzy Joel-Osteen-style God. His primary aim is not your happiness, and insofar as he wants you to live your best life, that best life involves judgment, trial by fire, and grave consequences for any sins you may have committed. This God might conceivably be your friend–but he’s certainly not your buddy.
It’s time for some new prophecy. Today we start the book of Amos, who was a shepherd by trade when God called him to be a prophet. At the time, Israel and Judah had divided into two separate kingdoms; during Amos’ ministry in the mid-eighth century BC, Uzziah ruled Judah to the south, and Jeroboam ruled Israel to the north. Amos was an older contemporary of two prophets whose messages we’ve already seen: Isaiah and Hosea. When you consider that multiple prophets were on the scene at the same time, you have to conclude their audience was in dire need of their message. That audience, of course, is primarily Israel.
If you follow me on Instagram (and let’s be honest, you don’t follow me on Instagram, but whatever), you know that there’s only one meal I ever actually fix, and that’s fajitas. When I need to heat things, I use the microwave, the stovetop, and my automatic rice cooker almost exclusively. The oven for the most part only sees use when I reheat my leftover french fries. And, of course, it’s an electric oven. As a result, when Hosea starts making similes comparing Israel to an oven, I–who am by no means a baker–find myself at a bit of a loss.