Creator God, help me to worship You as I should--with all of my life.
Consider: "If worship is to be acceptable, there must be the intention of giving to the Lord the glory due his name. Drawing near to God with our lips but not with our lives offered in sacrificial obedience, is unacceptable to God" (Stephen Winward).
Amos's hearers longed for the "day of the Lord," when God would enter history to punish the wicked. That would mean destruction of their enemies and Israel would then become top nation. "You've got it wrong," says Amos. "God will punish his enemies, and that includes you because you've broken the covenant." He uses a brilliant cameo to say that there will be no way of escape (19).
To paraphase, God says, "And don't think you can talk me around by your enthusiastic worship and numerous sacrifices. I hate them and won't listen to your noisy songs (21-23). What I want is not Temple worship but justice and righteousness in your everyday life" (24). It is as if God said to us, "Close down your Sunday services and get out into the community and fight for justice and righteousness."
So, what is wrong with worship? The problem is that "worship," understood as what we do in church services, can become an end in itself, an idol. We think it is all that God wants and we ignore God's demands on the rest of our lives. In Israel "keeping the covenant" came to mean enthusiastic Temple worship while the moral life and the social justice it demanded was neglected. It is not that worship in church is wrong in itself, but that "worship" means giving God his due ("worthship") in the whole of our life. The moral and social laws in the covenant set out the framework of what that meant. Ignoring them made Temple worship meaningless and hateful to God. This is probably the point of verse 25, which can be translated, "Did you bring me only sacrifices and offerings for forty years in the desert?" Temple or church, worship was never meant to be the sum total, or even the main part, of worshiping God (1 Sam. 15:22; Isa. 1:10-17; Matt. 9:13; 12:7).
Apply: In the light of Amos's critique, take a look at how you, and the church you attend, understand and practice worship.
Lord, I know I sing and talk way beyond my heart devotion. Spirit of God, work with me until I am sincere before You and others.
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