Apologetics Thursday – When God Destroys Cities

In the Sanders-White debate, James White quotes Amos 3:6 as saying every destruction of every city is the work of God:

Amo 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

But contrary to White’s accretion, the context points to the exact opposite conclusion. The chapter starts with a warning to Israel:

Amo 3:1 Hear this word that the LORD has spoken against you, O children of Israel, against the whole family which I brought up from the land of Egypt, saying:
Amo 3:2 “You only have I known of all the families of the earth; Therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities.”

God is going to punish Israel. In the next series of verses, God uses metaphors to illustrate that this destruction will happen.

Amo 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?
Amo 3:4 Will a lion roar in the forest, when he has no prey? Will a young lion cry out of his den, if he has caught nothing?
Amo 3:5 Will a bird fall into a snare on the earth, where there is no trap for it? Will a snare spring up from the earth, if it has caught nothing at all?
Amo 3:6 If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid? If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it?

The verses are not very cause-and-effect. Yeah, two people can walk together without agreeing, but it is not usual. Lions roar sometimes for no reason, but most likely they have a prey. Sometimes traps spring and birds die on their own. The exceptions are not the point. God is saying in Amos that He is the lion and He has found His prey. Amos is warning Israel of this destruction, and that warning will prove the destruction is from God. The very next verse debunks the claim that all destruction everywhere is from God:

Amo 3:7 Surely the Lord GOD does nothing, Unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets.
Amo 3:8 A lion has roared! Who will not fear? The Lord GOD has spoken! Who can but prophesy?

God highlights His power by first telling people what He will do before He does it. That is the point of Amos 3:6, God does what He declares. This is especially true concerning cities of Israel, to whom the warning is addressed. God had a special relationship with Israel which involved extra attention (both positive and negative).

Now, in the modern and ancient world there were many cities that perished without a prophet from God. These cities may or may not have been destroyed by God. God may or may not reveal His punishments to prophets. But to get credit, that is how God normally operates. God’s point is that when He proclaims disaster, then the disaster that comes is from God. God needs to specify this because in Amos 3:9 God is recruiting Israel’s normal enemies. It would be easy to think that they are acting without any punishment from God.

The really destructive point towards White’s theology is that God explains why He has summoned judgment:

Amo 3:10 For they do not know to do right,’ Says the LORD, ‘Who store up violence and robbery in their palaces.’ ”

The people rejected God and therefor God is calling judgment against them. God is responding to the actions of people, something that White rejects as a possibility.

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