It sounded like the water sprinkler from my front yard.
Only problem was, we were well over a mile from our house, working our way up a narrow and winding trail on the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Switchback after switchback, the going was slow, but the views were more than rewarding. My wife and I were comfortably lost in casual Sunday afternoon conversation.
After a couple more seconds, it registered that we should not be hearing anybody’s sprinkler at this altitude and time of day. That’s when we both saw it.
Out of the corner of our eyes, my wife and I both saw the rattlesnake’s head and torso rising up out of the tall grass. Its tongue was flickering, and from about 4 feet off the trail to our right-hand side, its eyes had drawn a bead directly on us.
I turned to my wife and our eyes locked in unison before we booked it down the path.
Talk about an adrenaline rush. Whew, buddy!
My heart and demeanor jumped into high gear, from slightly careless and complacent, to ultra-vigilant and alert. I have thanked God dozens of times for protecting us from that close call.
While the comparison is not perfect, I think I understand a bit more clearly Amos’s message from our reading today: “Woe to the complacent!” Granted, we were simply taking an afternoon stroll, whereas Amos was addressing a people who had grown spiritually and morally corrupt in the midst of comfort and luxury. So, big difference in context. However, to be jarred rapidly out of your comfort zone is something that I am freshly familiar with.
If I’m honest with myself, my spiritual life can often be this way. Have you ever noticed that in your own life? It’s when we’re most comfortable materially and most secure socially that we begin to invest less and less into our spiritual well-being and our relationship with God.
There’s an old adage which says the truth ought to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted,” and that is exactly the paradigm we see in Amos and many of the other Minor Prophets.
The Lord gave the prophet a vision of the impending destruction that was the result of the people’s wayward behavior. This was an act of divine kindness. It was like the sound of the rattlesnake on the path.
When God uses affliction or trouble to wake us from our complacency or slumber, it is always a gift of mercy, lest we wander off into what can hurt us. And when Amos heard the warning and cried out, “Lord God, please forgive!” (7:2), the Lord heard his prayers, and they were answered immediately. Our God is a God of rescue and grace.
Written by Andrew Stoddard