“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.” (Amos 5:23–24 ESV)
For the last month I, along with a team of three other guys, have been preparing to launch a new campus for our church in an Elementary School about five miles away from the main campus. I am going to be the worship pastor and can’t wait for it to begin this Sunday. Most of my time preparing for this new role has been spent researching and purchasing the equipment we need to do what we want to do there, developing the different ministry teams for the church, and working with the web guy and the design guy and the print guy at our church to make sure we have everything we need for the new campus to run smoothly. It’s been a lot of work, but I have learned a ton and sincerely enjoyed the preparations. However, with it now four days away from beginning, I am getting anxious. This morning our 2 month old son woke Lauren and I up at 5 am (the second time he had woken us up last night) and I was grumpy. I started thinking about all the things I still need to get done for the new campus, all the people I would have to call, all the homework that I’ve put on the back-burner to get through this week, and in the end I was taking out my stress from those things on Lauren and Kyler.
After Kyler finally fell asleep, I sat down at the kitchen table and opened up my bible to read, the whole time anxiously hoping that the baby monitor in front of me won’t light up with his cries and interrupt my breakfast and quiet time. I’m working through the minor prophets right now, so I was just expecting to read some of Amos and walk away with only a better appreciation for God’s revelation through his interplay with Israel, valuable no doubt, but sometimes hard to make relevant to my life. God had different plans for me this morning. I got to chapter 5 and started to see a familiar theme. I had read just a few days before in Hosea, but it’s familiarity stifled some of it’s impact. Amos, the shepherd prophet, started to list all of the sacrifices and festivals and songs that Israel would sing. As he listed them he wrote how God has rejected all of those things. God was tired of their sacrifices and ceremonies, he didn’t want to hear there singing or there instruments. When Amos was prophesying, Israel was not walking with God. Although they maintained temple practices, they also kept altars in the mountains to sacrifice to foreign gods. They neglected the poor among them and abandoned many parts of the law. So what God told them through Amos, is that if they are not going to act with justice and righteousness, he doesn’t want their worship. God tells Israel to let justice flow down like water and righteousness flow like a river. Those things would worship him.
When I read that, my heart beat rose a little bit and my countenance dropped in a way that only the Holy Spirit and his conviction can do. This morning I was so worried about the show of worship, I was so concerned with the songs and the liturgy, that I neglected truly worshiping God by treating my beautiful wife and helpless two month old with frustration and unwarranted anger. There is a constant theme I have seen throughout the prophets and which is reiterated through Christ himself. If we are not living with justice and righteousness, if we are not seeking mercy and forgiveness towards each other, if we are not devoting ourselves to knowing God and the glory of his presence, then our worship is detestable to him.
Lord Jesus, I confess that so much of my worship falls upon your deaf ears due to my own sin and misplaced passions. Forgive my iniquities in your gracious eyes and accept my praise on behalf of my integrity, which I have because you alone have saved me!