During all the years we had children at home, we also had puppies. While no four-footed, furry friends now share our living spaces, we can visit too-cute-to-be-true Zasu in New York, white ball of fur Gracie in San Diego and black, lumbering, lovable Sam in San Francisco. While these much loved pets are about as unlike a trio as can be found, they share one common trait: when thunder roars from the heavens, each prefers to find a cozy place of safety.
Probably few of you think of puppies and thunder when reading the Bible, but lately I’ve been soaking in two Old Testament prophets, Hosea and Amos, and repeatedly I’ve been stopped by phrases like these: The Lord roars from Zion and thunders from Jerusalem and He will roar like a lion. To be honest, I much prefer God and Jesus described as shepherds, mother hens or gentle lambs but there’s no getting around these stop-in-your-tracks words coming down through the ages.
One need not engage in deep theological study to discover why God’s voice rumbled from the heavens. His loved people refused to acknowledge him as Sovereign King, choosing instead to worship idols of their own making. Their worship had turned into self-satisfying acts of pride. They broke a covenant of love designed to both honor God and serve each other. God, with passionate, loving anger, wants them to see how much they’re missing and just exactly how far they’ve obstinately and intentionally strayed from a perfect plan.
It’s a little like a parent who sees a toddler run into the street. This is not the occasion for a gentle, “Johnny, remember how we’ve talked about standing on the curb, how we’re to stop, look and listen?” No, now is the time for a scream from the core of the parent’s being. A life is in danger of being snuffed out. It’s time to roar.
I am emphatically not advocating a return to hell-fire-and-brimstone preaching. My husband was deeply wounded by just one sermon of that ilk, wounds that took decades to heal. I don’t believe that thunder, lion-like roars are God’s preferred way of speaking to his people. But when it’s necessary to save us from ourselves, when gentle prodding has been ignored, when the knee has refused to bow, God’s roar of love is just one more effort to get our—my—attention.