“I hate all your show and pretense—
the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
an endless river of righteous living. (NLT)
This is a disturbing text given that the same God who inspired these words also invites, even commands us, to meet together to praise him. It seems as if the mere fact of meeting together is not the point.
What is being attacked here is the failure on the part of those meeting together to practise what they preach, to live out in actions what they declare in words. People in Amos’ time put a lot of emphasis on religious rituals. They didn’t put equal emphasis on things like justice and mercy in wider society.
All our hand-waving enthusiasm, all our earnest bible teaching, all our fervent prayer, mean nothing unless we reflect the character of God day by day. God is even offended by rituals that don’t have any effect beyond the ritual.
We can spend so much time and effort on getting our church services right that we fail to see that our discipleship has to extend beyond those gatherings. Worship is not just what we do when we gather together as a church but has to do with what we do when we scatter.
Making a joyful noise to God on Sunday is not much use if we neglect him on Monday.