Christians love to proclaim that we worship a God of love. We get uncomfortable when the Bible talks about what God hates. That’s all the more reason to pay careful attention. In Amos 5:21-24, God despises feast
|Prophet Amos, old Russian Orthodox icon|
days, sacred assemblies, offerings, and worship music. He commanded all of those things in the law. Why did he hate them? They had become false worship, a failure of love for both God and other people.
First, Amos spoke to the Northern Kingdom, where worship took place at unauthorized altars in the presence of idols. No one can worship truly when distracted by things of the world. We might not make our offerings to statues and images any more, but our world has values (concerning politics, economics, entertainment, lifestyle, etc.) that are incompatible with God. They distort worship. Let no Christian claim to be free of them without having had a prolonged struggle against them.
Second, God considers rote worship, without faith love, or obedience, an abomination. Why should he appreciate our worship “services” when we merely go through the motions and ignore him entirely?
Third, as we read the the rest of Amos and other prophets, the rich oppressed the poor. God always takes the side of the suffering. He will not receive the worship of those who complacently expect that their worship attendance justifies their bad treatment of others less fortunate.
God demands justice. In the same breath, he demands righteousness: right standing with God. Justice without worship will not please him any more than worship without justice. God himself is trustworthy. Every denunciation of sin in the Old Testament is in close proximity to a promise of grace, reconciliation, and God’s presence (cf. Amos 5:14-15).