“When Amos turned his gaze upon the church, he found a religion which was very religious, which adored what was traditional, but which had shaken free from divine revelation. The religious centers were apparently thronged, sacrifices were punctiliously offered, the musical side of worship was keenly studied. But it had no basis outside the mind of man” (J.A. Motyer, The Message of Amos, 15).
Amos 5 begs the question: “Who do you worship and why?” It’s a question I had to ask myself, and painfully, a question I had to ask the congregation sitting before me on that Sunday. It’s a question that has stuck with me and with our church these many years. “Who do you worship and why?”
This is what the Sovereign LORD Yahweh said through Amos:
“I hate, I reject your feasts, nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies. Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings. Remove from Me the tumult of your songs; I will not even listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,’ says Yahweh, whose name is the God of hosts” (Amos 5:21-27, LSB).
Who do you worship and why? The Israelites seemed to think their relationship with God was secured on the basis of their worship and offerings. We think, we even know, how silly that is, or if we don’t, we should. Let me just go ahead and tell you: it’s silly to believe with the Israelites that their worship and offerings to God made them right with God.
It’s utterly ridiculous to believe a relationship with God can be secured by our worship or offerings. And yet, that’s what the Israelites started to believe (Amos 5:21-23). If they held the right festivals, and gathered together for the right assemblies; if they brought God burnt offerings and grain offerings and fellowship offerings, if they sang the right songs and played the right music on the right musical instruments, well, then God would be pleased. Do you know what the LORD thinks about that and similar ideas? Do you know what He says about that kind of religion? His is “divine distaste” for religion that believes it can secure a relationship with God. The Lord says: “I hate, I despise, I cannot stand, I will not accept, I will not listen to” religion that teaches accordingly.
If your worship is directed to a god you believe can be bought or who will trade salvation for your worship, you aren’t worshiping the God of the Bible. The LORD cannot be bought. He doesn’t owe you anything. It’s not truly worship of the LORD if its intention is getting something from God. Even worse than worshiping the LORD with the mistaken belief that He would owe them something in exchange for their sacrifices and offerings, the Israelites were worshiping false gods, gods of the people around them: kings, idols, gods.
Look at verse 26 again: “You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves.” The Israelites were parading shrines of other gods, lifting up images of false gods for all to see, gods they made for themselves; their worship was not directed to the One True God, the LORD Almighty.
Do you ever think we might just be guilty of worshiping false gods, the gods of the people around us? Do we ever bow at the altar of a false god, an idol like family, country, money, sports? Our worship is very important; it might be the most important thing we do. The songs we sing cannot be just songs. The words we speak can’t be just words. They have to mean something.
If what we sing and what we say doesn’t honor the LORD alone and doesn’t match up with our lives and beliefs, they are meaningless at best and sinful at worst. Without justice and righteousness, it is all just noise the LORD refuses to hear. The LORD doesn’t want empty worship which bargains with Him. He tells us in verse 24 what He wants: “But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” The LORD desires justice and righteousness: daily living which conforms to God’s Word and is obedient to Him.
How does the Lord feel about songs that don’t really worship Him, about words that don’t really honor Him?
He hates them and despises them. He cannot stand them. He will not accept them and will not listen to them. “Offered without a sincere heart, every form of worship is a solemn sham and an impudent mockery of the majesty of heaven” (Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, Morning December 18).
A relationship with God is not based upon sacrifices and offerings we can bring Him. The LORD asks: “Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel?” (Amos 5:25, LSB). The answer is “yes and no.” Certainly they were unable to make sacrifices and offerings to the LORD as they wandered in the desert in the same way they could after the temple was established. So the point is clear: offerings and sacrifices aren’t what moved God to care for them and provide for them and protect them. He did that entirely on His own, motivated only by His sovereign, covenantal love. A relationship with God is not earned by our worship of Him. A relationship with God is granted to us by God. Period.
Don’t be deceived: your worship doesn’t earn you anything from God. Ask yourself who you worship and why you worship. Let’s not fool ourselves: only sincere, glad-hearted, empty-handed worship of the LORD Yahweh has any value.
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Barrett Case has served as Pastor of Rich Hill Christian Church in Rich Hill, MO since October 2010. Case served as preaching pastor, associate pastor, and interim pastor in churches throughout Kansas before moving to Rich Hill. He graduated from Manhattan Christian College in 2005 with a BA in Pastoral Ministry. Barrett and his wife, Meghann, were blessed to adopt four incredible children: Magal, Miracle, Patience, and Makai.
November 1, 2023
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