Week Nineteen – July 31-Aug 6, 2016

Amos – Pointless Worship

Think

  • Have you ever gotten away with something that you shouldn’t have but were happy because everything still worked out for the best?
  • Have you ever been given more change than you were owed at a store but kept it anyway?
  • Imagine trying to talk a friend out of a bad decision or a risky behavior. Yet they ignore you and things even continue to g great for them. Do you think they’d listen to your advice in the future or keep doing what they’re doing?
  • When things are going great for you, how hard is to change up what you’re doing?

Listen

Amos was living a comfortable life in the southern kingdom of Judah. He owned a herd of sheep and a fig farm. Yet he found himself called by God to travel north and prophesy to the people of Israel. This was a difficult assignment because at that time Israel was doing great. It was winning victories over it’s enemies, expanding it’s borders and gaining riches. So why would they listen to this strange man from Judah telling them they were in the wrong?

The ruling class of Israel was unduly benefiting under the current conditions. They were cheating the poor out of their fair share – paying them less than their fair share, bribing judges in disputes, moving boundary markers and mistreating those who were weak. Yet the rulers continued to go through the motions of following God’s commands – keeping the religious calendar and very seriously worshiping God in public. Through Amos, God chastised and warned that their religious routines in no way made up for the economic injustice in the kingdom….

I hate, I despise your festivals,

And I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer me your burnt-offerings and grain-offerings,

I will not accept them;

And the offerings of well-being of

Your fatted animals

I will not look upon.

Take away from me the noise of

Your songs.

I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

But let justice roll down like waters,

And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

(Amos 5:21-24 NRSV)

According to Tom Duley (our church’s Minister of Missions), justice means that all people are treated fairly and equally no matter who they are. So when people are using their positions of power to unfairly treat others, God finds no value in their worship according to Amos. And so even though he had been living a pretty good life in another country, he couldn’t sit by and watch it happening without speaking the truth – that what they were doing was wrong.

  • During the Civil Rights Era, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quoted the Book of Amos in his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Why do you think particular prophet was significant to him?
  • Can you think of an unjust situation in our world right now?
  • Why does justice matter to God?
  • What can we do about injustice? What cost is there to pay for speaking up or trying to affect change? What is the cost that we might pay for not doing something to bring about justice?

Remember

Attempting to worship God while injustice reigns around you is pointless. Being the “right” religion or nationality won’t cut it. God cares for everyone. Because of this, people who claim to love God must love what God loves. And God loves justice.

Pray

Ask God to give you strength to stand strong when things are unjust, to be on the side of those being treated unfairly. Ask God for forgiveness for those times you perpetrated injustice.

More

The late 1960’s and early 1970’s were a period of great cultural upheaval and violence. Many people were trying to speak out against injustice but were not being listened to by those who had access to power. In 1971, country singer Johnny Cash wrote and performed a song about how he would use his influence to bring attention to the nation’s problems. Click HERE for his prophetic performance.

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