Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  September 14, 2013

After unrelenting rains, many in Carlsbad were amassed and bewildered when the normally dry Dark Canyon Draw was tumultuous with turbulence and the local dams in town were overflowing with cascading torrents of water.

Raging water is nothing new to me. After serving four years in the United States Coast Guard, I learned very quickly how powerful water can be—particularly when it is moving! One look at the now-destroyed San Jose Street crossing at Dark Canyon and one can easily see the vivid evidence of water’s powerful, destructive force!

The image of raging water calls to mind an equally powerful and very dynamic Biblical image from the prophet Amos. In that small prophetic book, Amos speaks for God in apocalyptic terms about justice and righteousness. In his vivid descriptions, he uses the image of raging water very similar to the torrents Carlsbad has recently seen.

Amos was deeply afraid that the people of God were not ready to face the reality of what God expected, or intended for them. They had become comfortable and even complacent in their ritualistic observances of God and God’s goodness. They took great pride in the assurance that they were on God’s side and had found emotional security in trusting that God would take care of them. In response, they went on with everyday life, taking care of business, giving a respectful nod to their faith in God, and turning a blind eye to the injustice, suffering, and inequality in their midst.
Through the witness of the prophet, God challenges their assurance in God’s return with harsh words. Rather than rebuke the sinners and evildoers in the world—a Divine action they all prayed and hoped for—the people of God found their very religion under God’s judgment!

God literally hates their festivals, assemblies, and gatherings. This strong judgment on the sacred work of the faithful is then followed by a warning that none of their worshipful sacrificial worship would be acceptable to God for God wanted something more—much more!
God’s call in Amos ends with a call to “let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” Looking at the Hebrew, the very words refer to a powerful flash flood in what would otherwise be a dry arroyo bed.

            When justice rolls down like waters, it is the goodness and majesty of God that rushes down through the dry riverbeds of ritualistic faith with the unrelenting force of unimaginable power. Barriers are uprooted and carried away like wasted debris. Anything that tryst to cross God’s rushing justice is carried right along with it. God is in control!

            “Justice,” however is not an easy term for modern American, English-speaking Christians to comprehend. So frequently we inappropriately associate justice with getting our way or seeing punitive revenge executed upon those we do not like. God’s justice, however is far different. Amos illustrates this point very clearly.

            The Divine justice that Amos call for is the power of God setting things right in spite of religious priority, doctrine, or belief systems. Much like the debris of Dark Canyon Draw, the unrelenting flow of God’s justice does not care if the religiously minded people think we are right or wrong, it does not care if we are in church every Sunday or how often we pray and read our Bibles.  Rather, God’s justice cares that the orphan and widow, the sojourner and outcast, and the ones on the margins of society are able to know and receive God’s love—a love that most come from the hands of God’s people in the midst of God’s world!