For the past few weeks in my daily focused time with God, I have been reading through the book of Amos. This is one of those books that is easy to forget about when coming up with a Bible reading plan…and that is precisely the reason why I chose to read it.
This morning I was in chapter 5 and it really hit me. God is speaking and He says:
“I hate all your show and pretense—the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies. I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings. I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings. Away with your noisy hymns of praise! I will not listen to the music of your harps.” (Amos 5:21-23).
God is blasting the people living in the northern kingdom of Israel. To translate those verses to what we do in the 21st century — God is telling them He despises their weekly church services, the things they are fasting from during seasons like Lent, and the songs they sing for praise and worship.
It’s not that God hates those things in general. We should always be careful not to universalize a verse in the Bible, when God is applying it very specifically. For example, we should not read those verses and come to the conclusion that God is telling us to stop going to church on Sundays… or that He is telling us to blow off Lent… or that He is commanding us to throw away our Chris Tomlin or Jeremy Riddle CDs.
In fact, God clarifies why He is so fired up in the very next verse:
“Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.” (Amos 5:24).
That verse could be a summary statement of the entire book of Amos. The Israelites are focused solely on doing “religious” activities while at the same time they are doing things like “trampling on the needy” (8:4) and “depriving the poor of justice in the courts” (5:12).
But then they show up to their equivalent of church on Sundays and they stand up and sit down at the right times and recite their prayers from memory, and maybe they are even fasting from chocolate and Pepsi during Lent, and never listening to secular music.
They think they as long as they are doing those things, everything else doesn’t matter.
In fact, what God is saying in Amos 5:21-24 is we are wasting our time doing “religious” activities if the rest of our lives don’t match up.
I love going to church on Sundays. I love fasting because of the intimacy of God it creates. I love singing worship songs like “One Thing Remains” by Jeremy Riddle.
May I love justice just as much.
***Join us this Sunday at 6pm at The Eastside Vineyard Church. More info at tevchurch.org***