If we are unjust, we will have nothing but ugly worship.
We must realize that justice impacts our worship. We often do not think on those terms, but they are inextricably linked. We see this in Amos 5:21–24.
As we saw in the first passage (Amos 2), which you can click on here, Israel is a sin-soaked, power-grabbing, self-centered, socially unjust people. And yet, at the same time, they are continuing to offer sacrifices to God and pretend to be God’s people! The audacity! Can you imagine? On some days of the week they are povertizing and abusing people and on other days they are going to the temple to worship God. The hypocrisy! You can imagine what God thought of their worship…
In Amos 5:21, God opens the text by outright declaring His rejection and disgust with Israel’s religious practices.
And the phrasing is very strong – God says, “I hate, I depise.” Although the people of Israel make their regular treks to Jerusalem for the feasts, God abhors it. God is not impressed that the people are going to great lengths to visit the temple.
Moreover, God is not pleased with their daily worship.
In verse 22, we see that God will not accept their offerings and sacrifices. He does not even want to look upon them. Even their music and their songs are a bother to God (verse 23). To God, even their best instruments and their best singers are nothing but an awful sound. All of Israel’s practices, these practices that the people find fun and exhilarating; these practices that had been performed for centuries; these practices mean nothing to the LORD.
The reason is because God sees their worship as dead.
They are offering up dead worship. It is dead because the people will go to great lengths to travel to Jerusalem, they will go to great lengths to offer their sacrifices, they will do all that they can to sing to God, but when it comes to noticing and caring for the vulnerable, they could care less. They are pretending to be spiritual, they pay lip service to it, but their life does not reflect this. Their worship is dead because their justice is dead!
God relays this to Israel and explains what He truly desires in verse 24. What God truly desires is not elaborate or extravagant services and offerings, but justice. God desires justice! If Israel wants to truly worship God in their practices, they must worship Him in their justice too. This is sobering! To put this into our context, this is what God is saying: Our faithful attendance on Sunday mornings, our faithfulness to reading the Bible and praying daily means nothing if we are not doing justice. We could have a dynamic time during worship, I could preach the best sermon, and none of it matters to God if justice does not categorize our lives. This is what is at stake!
If you are doing unjust things, how do you think He will respond to you when you try to sing to Him on Sunday?
The way you think and act out justice throughout the week is intimately connected with your relationship with God. So let us ask you: how have we acted over the week? Have we mistreated our spouse, co-worker, or neighbor? Have we rejected helping a homeless person on the street? Have we neglected people in need? Have we committed acts of injustice? If so, we must repent. You see, we must check ourselves daily and weekly about whether we are loving and caring for people, about whether we are doing justice.