The real deal
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me... But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!" Amos 5. 21 & 24
Following his announcement of God's judgment on their neighbours, Amos homes in on Israel and Judah. He is ruthless. God's "chosen people" have fallen to such depths that the "Day of the Lord" no longer promises Good News but threatens punishment, a day of darkness not light. What has gone so badly wrong - especially as the nations appear to be thriving?
Economic prosperity coupled with military strength may equal success in the eyes of the world. Yet God's perspective, as communicated through Amos, beholds a very different reality. God sees through outward appearances into the heart. What he discerned in Israel and Judah was hypocrisy, which turned their religious respectability sour. In demanding justice and righteousness, God cautions us all that traditions and rituals mean nothing if they are not reflected in every aspect of our being.
The apostle James insisted that faith without works is dead. The same can be said of religious practice which is all pomp and ceremony, or indeed any expression which masks a corrupt interior. False piety or hell-fire preaching can enter the same category, if they are not endorsed by a humble and prophetic way of life.
The antidote? Recognising that righteousness comes only through faith in Jesus, who commands that we make loving God and neighbour the over-riding priorities in our lives and, recognising our inability to do that, Jesus further instructs us to lean on the Holy Spirit and treat others with the grace and mercy we seek for ourselves.