In chapel we are reading through the book of Amos. I was humbled by 5:21-24, which says:
I hate, I despise your feasts,
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 peace offerings of your fattened animals,
I will not look upon them.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
There is a time when the LORD will reject the assemblies, the sacrifices and the songs. When the people of Israel stopped pursuing justice, the LORD stopped accepting their worship. To him it was just “noise”.
What kinds of injustices were in Israel? There was slavery (2:6) and rejection of the poor (2:7). Fathers and sons would have sex with the same woman (2:7). There was idolatry and financial sins (2:8). They made the Nazirites drink wine, though the Nazirite vow specifically stated that wine was forbidden, and they ordered them not to prophesy (2:12). How could God accept worship from those who were so sinful?
How can God accept our worship? We do not have the same structure as Israel, in that they were a nation with governmental responsibilities. But we have been commanded to tend to the needs of the poor, not abuse them (cf. James 1:26-27). We too have been commanded to abstain from all sexual sins, including a father and son “sharing” the same woman (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-13, 6:12-20). We too have been commanded to reject idolatry (cf. 1 Cor. 10:7, 14) and financial sins (cf. Luke 12:13-21). We too have been commanded not to cause others to stumble (cf. Luke 17:1-2), and we are commanded not to quench the Spirit who speaks through his Word(cf. 1 Thess. 5:19-21).
So is God therefore pleased with us? Does our worship come from hearts that pursue justice? Or are we just as guilty as Israel? Is our worship genuine and thus pleasing to him, or is it just noise?