Monday, October 10, 2011

where worship begins

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Amos 5:24

God would have none of the dead, ritualistic activity that passed for worship in Israel and Judah. He longed instead that moral character and actions would flow out from His people. But they had abandoned Him and obedience to His Word long before this. What was left was a stale formalism devoid of personal meaning that only ensured that judgment would fall upon them. Chapter five of Amos details this in prophetic, poetic urgency.

God promises a judgment that would remove 90% of the able-bodied men among the Jews (Amos 5:1-3). He offers a chance for them to return to Him and see a different outcome (Amos 5:4-9; 14-15). To do so would mean a return by the people to hearts and hands that practice the kind of living that righteousness demanded in the Law.

God lists all the societal sins of His people. The collective nature of selfishness led to a societal inequity that God would punish. The truth of the Law was hated (Amos 5:10). The rich among them were abusing the poor to further enrich themselves (Amos 5:11). The result was a cumulative culture of greed and abuse (Amos 5:12-13). When judgment fell, it would consume this entire culture (Amos 5:16-17). It would be so intense that it would cause people to wonder if indeed it was the final Day of the Lord judgment come to the earth (Amos 5:19-20). Amos clarifies that although it would be a horrible day, God would have a further day with all of humanity in the future.

God pronounces disgust with the formalistic religion and headnod to Him that was offered as "worship". He hated their cultural observances without personal commitment (Amos 5:21). He refused to accept offerings and sacrifices that came from hearts turned away from Him (Amos 5:22). He refused to listen to praise songs sung from lips that generally spoke against His truth (Amos 5:23). He had enough of their duplicity, promising to remove Israel's idolatry in His acts of judgment (Amos 5:25-27).

It is in this context that God's heart for His people is borne on the poetic reminder in Amos 5:24. Too many people today pull this verse from its context to support activism and "cause" righteousness. We should see it for what it is, recognizing the principles only within their proper context. It is a message calling for repentance. And the fruit of such repentance would be seen in real worship of Yahweh that would transform a culture with His character. Justice would be known. The poor would not be abused. God would be worshiped. All people rich and poor, small and great would know a living justice that would pour over the nation like a rolling river, starting with righteous obedience to God by individuals.

- Posted on an original iPad.
prepare your minds for action...
1 Peter 1:13

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