James Turrell, a contemporary artist, currently has an exhibit at Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art (LACMA). The exhibit consists of a room that Turrell created to experiment with the nature of light; an observer steps into this white-walled room and approaches what looks like a colored screen at the far end of it. After standing in the space for a moment, the light begins reflecting differently on the walls and it appears to be changing the colors of the room. You experience these colors changing, but you don’t really understand how or why they are changing.
After experiencing this exhibit and discussing it with others, I was thinking about my experience of God’s will and His character. How my understanding and perspective on His work in my life is dependent on where I am and the light that He is shedding on my heart and circumstances. When thinking on the vastness of His character, I came across the Book of Amos in the Old Testament, and it got me thinking about some characteristics of God that I don’t often dwell on.
At the beginning the book, Amos proclaims, “The Lord roars from Zion and utters his voice from Jerusalem” (Amos 1:2). From here, he boldly speaks of the Lord’s judgment on Israel, Judah, and all of the surrounding nations. Amos’ proclamation of the Lord roaring from Zion communicates a couple of details about God’s character— namely that He is Protector and Corrector of His chosen people.
The image of the Lord as a lion encourages us to consider His character as Protector. When a lion roars, he does so in an effort to protect his young, who are unable to protect themselves. Roaring is a defense mechanism to deflect danger and promote safety. The Bible tells us, “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love” (Psalm 103:8). God carries all of these characteristics while also being our fiercest Protector. His roar is a warning to us when we are in sin; in alerting us to our own sinfulness, He offers a form of protection that is ultimately flowing from His love and compassion for us.
Amos also introduces us to God the Corrector. Most of the passages in Amos consist of the Lord proclaiming judgment upon them as they persist in their sinful behavior. He explains to them the severe consequences of their disobedience. He makes known the reality of their sinful condition. The rebukes that God gives are clear evidence of his relentless advocacy for his disobedient children. In Amos 3:2, He speaks again to Israel, saying “You only have I known of all the families on the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.” Israel is God’s chosen nation – they are known and adopted as God’s children. Out of this close intimacy comes the need for severe discipline for the sake of correction.
Through Amos’ prophesy, God confronts Israel with their sin and gives them many opportunities to turn away from it. When they do not take these opportunities, He uses His absence as a means of reminding them of their overwhelming need for His presence. After proclaiming the turmoil and tragedy that will unravel when God leaves His people, He assures them “I will restore the fortunes of my people Israel” (9:14). He is infinitely aware of our inability to follow Him without His guiding presence and yet has chosen to move away in what would seem to be hopeless abandonment. Thankfully, God does not threaten to leave us without ever returning. He will welcome and receive them when they turn back to Him.
So, the God who created us is also protecting us by correcting us. His compassion and grace are made known through His rebuke. Unlike the disorienting light in James Turrell’s art exhibit, God’s light serves as a source of direction and peace. His will and character are infinitely complex, and it is only by His light that we can view them with clear eyes.