“I hate, I despise your feast days,
And I do not savor your sacred assemblies.
Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings,
I will not accept them,
Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs,
For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
But let justice run down like water,
And righteousness like a mighty stream.
“Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings
In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?
You also carried Sikkuth your king
And Chiun, your idols,
The star of your gods,
Which you made for yourselves.
Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,”
Says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.
Festive celebrations; sober prayer gatherings; offerings being made to God; vibrant praise and worship music; who would ever enter such an environment with criticism? Well, the answer is Amos would and did! He knew that all that glitters is not gold.
It is important that we realize that the environment in which Amos prophesied was not one that was fundamentally wrong in form or substance. The feasts they celebrated and sacrifices offered were most likely the one’s prescribed by God in Torah. Theirs was no ecumenical service embracing the observances of Hinduism and teachings of Buddha. This was an assembly that is relatively orthodox in word and practice. The problem was that, like much of the church today, Israel’s religion had become event-centered instead of God-centered. Whether it was their cheery festivals or their solemn assemblies, it wasn’t the form or even the substance of Israel’s worship that displeased God, as much as it was the reality that their hearts were far from Him (Matt 15:8-9). Throughout history, such worship has offended God (see Gen 4:5-7, 1 Sam 4:3-11, Ps 51:16-17, Is 1:10-15, Mal 1:10-2:3, 13-14, Rom 2:29, 9:6, 2 Tim 3:5). This is most vividly illustrated in the story of 1 Samuel 15, where Saul disobeyed the Word of God by keeping the Amalekite’s best sheep and cattle so that he might sacrifice them to the Lord at Gilgal. Read Samuel’s memorable reply in 1 Samuel 15:22-23. When offered in pretense, religious services, singing, offerings, prayer, and similar activity are no substitution for holiness or obedience and as a result are hated by, and despicable to God.
Those who would be most vocal in their praise of God’s covenant love and grace, must themselves become channels of such grace to those who hunger and thirst for it. Such is an active consequence of genuine faith, but was wholly lacking in God’s people 28 centuries ago.
There is a significant nugget of grace in the midst of all this woe, whereby God announces another way, contrasting the religious hypocrisy of the day; it is in verse 24: But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream. These are the evidences of true religion (see also James 1:21-27).
Can it be said that justice rolls down like a river and righteousness in a never-failing stream in the church of this day? How about our church? your life?
Look up the following Scriptures to find out what matters most to God when it comes to your religious expression. Jer 17:9-10, Ps 14:1, 51:10, 66:18, 119:10-11, Prov 3:3, Matt 5:8, 12:34-35, 22:37, Lk 12:34, Heb 10:22, 1 Pet 1:22, Amos 5:21-27
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