21 ‘I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
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.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
Amos 5:21-24 (NIVUK)
‘“These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Matthew 15:8
WARNINGS ABOUT WORSHIP
In our two message mini series on worship there is a lot of important stuff we don’t have time to look at on Sundays. One of those topics are the serious warnings about worship we have in the OT and NT. Warnings about the kind of worship the Lord finds utterly unacceptable.
Just listen to the Lord talking about the worship services of Amos’ generation
I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
The Lord basically says your worship stinks. What you are doing in worship is so repellent to me that it’s like a bad smell, its offensive to me. Yet these worshippers were doing everything the Lord had said had to happen in worship, they were holding the prescribed religious festivals, they were offering the right sacrifices and they were singing praises to God. If you had attended a worship service in the Temple of Amos’ day you would have thought that these people were great examples of what it meant to worship the Lord. But the Lord says your worship gatherings are as welcome to me as nauseating odour. In Scots we have a marvellously descriptive word to describe something that makes you want to be sick that makes you retch, its “boak.” The smell of the rotting food I have to take to the composting centre “gives me the boak” and the worship at the temple in Amos generation gave the Lord “the boak.”
The question is why does the Lord react so strongly against worshippers who appear to be doing everything He has required?
On Sunday we thought about how worship is about us responding appropriately in every area of our life to what God reveals about himself. Authentic worship starts in our heart but is expressed in our lives. This connection between heart and life is where it was going wrong for Amos’s generation. They gathered in the Temple and heard about a God who was holy, who cared deeply about justice, who hated exploitation, who loved the oppressed and poor. That was the God they were saying they were worshipping but away from the Temple it was a very different story. If you read the rest of Amos you’ll discover how those who ruled the country and ran the Temple were oppressing and exploiting ordinary people and denying them justice. There was a serious and large disconnect between what they were saying in worship gatherings and how they were living outside the Temple. They were singing these great Psalms with their lips about a God of holiness and justice and then acting in unholy and unjust ways. As a result the Lord says that he finds their worship offensive and has turned his back on it.
Jesus points to the same thing among some of the people of his generation. He accuses them of only talking a good game about God. They sang all the right things and said all the theologically correct liturgy but there was a disconnect between their lips and hearts. When there is a disconnect between what we are saying and celebrating about God in our worship and the condition of our heart and what we are doing outside of worship, the Lord says we are on dangerous ground and our worship is wasted breath.
Let’s turn this around. The Lord will find our worship acceptable when we are committed to embodying and expressing the truth God has revealed to us in our heads and hearts in our day to day life. True worship is when we respond appropriately in BOTH our hearts and our lives. The worship the Lord rejects is when we only pay lip service to what He has revealed about himself and it has no serious impact on how we think about life or live our lives. What our lips are saying about God in worship needs to be matched by what we doing in our lives.