Whenever you read Scripture, you never know what might stand out to you—usually something you don’t expect. That’s how the Spirit of God works. This morning I was reading in the Old Testament book of Amos, a prophet who spoke directly to the people of Israel about their sins. They thought they were doing fine and that God accepted their worship. Amos had a different message for them.
Chapter five is filled with thoughts and phrases that pierced my own soul, especially as I think of the current state of America and the sad condition of the church in America—the church that is supposed to be the witness God has placed in the midst of a deceived people.
“There are those who turn justice into bitterness and cast righteousness to the ground,” Amos warned. Don’t many who clamor for justice in our day rest their claim on a bitterness that seeks not to forgive injustices done to them or their ancestors? When that is the case, righteousness is cast aside. Who cares about righteousness when revenge is the motive?
“There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth.” Sometimes, truth-tellers are attacked because they refuse to go along with the conventional wisdom (or lack thereof).
“There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts.” Who is more innocent than those who cannot speak for themselves, particularly those in the womb? Yet organizations like Planned Parenthood get rich off of this oppression and politicians are bribed (also called campaign donations) to look the other way.
Amos then provides this directive: “Seek good, not evil, that you may live. . . . Hate evil, love good, maintain justice in the courts.” And he gives a warning to those in his day who think they are right with God but are not:
Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?
What brings this warning? It has to do with the hypocrisy of their professions of faith. I see it as a warning also to the church in our day: “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. . . . Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps.”
Do we just go through the motions of worship or is that worship real? Do we simply give ourselves a mental check mark because we went to church last Sunday? Do we now think we are right with God for that “sacrifice”? How do we know we are truly connected with the God of our salvation? Amos concludes with these stirring words:
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream.
When our lives reveal the heart of God in this way, then we are one with Him.