Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Learning about worship in Amos

Amos 5

What can we learn about worship from a “minor prophet” like Amos? When we study about worship through music, the obvious passages come up from Psalms, Isaiah, and from the Levitical priesthood. I've found a passage that deals with worship in Amos that is a bit different. Perhaps this is why we don't hear about it as often; it challenges us to more than just music.
1 Hear this word, O house of Israel, this lament I take up concerning you:
This is how the prophecy begins. It is a lament against God's people. Hear the word of the Lord. The next to verses are hyperbolic comments used to express how lost Israel has become, introducing foreign gods into their land. Because of this, God says they are “deserted” and that he will not protect them.
4 This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel:
"Seek me and live;

5 do not seek Bethel,
do not go to Gilgal,
do not journey to Beersheba.
For Gilgal will surely go into exile,
and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.

6 Seek the LORD and live,
or he will sweep through the house of Joseph like a fire;
it will devour,
and Bethel will have no one to quench it.
Verse 5 appears on the surface to continue this theme. But we see in verses 4 and 6 that the Lord says to seek Him and live. The following is a contrast between God as savior and man's attempt to save himself. This is often the case with us as we fear so many things, fueled by the media and their sensationalistic reports about deadly household items, terrorist plots, and scary men outside your window. We remember that Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” (Matthew 10:28) We are then reminded to “seek the LORD and live,” for this is the chief goal in life, to obey God. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

At this point, the Lord speaks through Amos concerning justice and righteousness. Justice here is not punishing wrongdoing, it is making all things right, thus the corollary with righteousness. Then He proclaims His power; turning darkness to light, day into night, and even bringing rain from the sea (before man knew of evaporation).
11 You trample on the poor
and force him to give you grain.
Therefore, though you have built stone mansions,
you will not live in them;
though you have planted lush vineyards,
you will not drink their wine.

12 For I know how many are your offenses
and how great your sins.
You oppress the righteous and take bribes
and you deprive the poor of justice in the courts.
This passage speaks of justice. This is directed at the wealthy who have mansions made of stone, and vineyards. They ignored the plight of the poor and righteous. They have devised plans to support the wealthy while oppressing the poor.

He then goes on to give some hope and a command:
14 Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.

15 Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph.
At this point you may be wondering what this all has to do with music and song. Where is the worship here? Hold your horses, I'm getting to it. I just want to establish context so you know I'm not jerking you around. But you may have noticed that God speaks in song. You know, throughout the prophets speak in rhyme and prose. It's amazing that God uses song for prophecy, worship, commands, and lament.

And the bit about music:
18 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.

19 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.

20 Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness?

21 "I hate, I despise your religious feasts;
I cannot stand your assemblies.

22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.

23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Whoa! That's harsh! He doesn't want our songs? He doesn't want our music? Now you see why context is so important. It echoes what another minor prophet said, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6) This was important enough that Jesus brought it up twice. (Matthew 9:13, 12:7)

What good is our worship if we are not merciful to the poor? What good are our songs if we are serving multiple gods? (Matthew 6:24; Luke 16:9,11,13) We can sing, dance, cry and wail all day long, but if we are not obedient to God, he will not listen.

Any thoughts on Amos 5?

No comments: