“I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 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.
God hates our religious festivals?!
Amos was a prophet from Tekoa, a town south of Jerusalem. He wrote about God’s revelation to him around 760-750 BC.
Prophet Amos was speaking at a time when God's people were divided into North and South Kingdom. Both kingdoms were enjoying great prosperity and had reached new political and military heights.
Yet it was also a time of idolatry, extravagant indulgence in living, immorality, corruption, social injustice. The rich people were oppressing the poor, and the powerful were exploiting the weak. People thought they were blessed by God, but God was not pleased by prosperity because of the evil inside the human heart.
God's people were politically secure but spiritually poor. Prosperity only increased Israel's religious and moral corruption. But the people thought sticking to their religious rituals and customs would keep God happy enough to ignore their moral decay. But God makes it clear He always sees through the human heart.
God hates religious hypocrisy above all
Although God had specifically chosen His people, He would not tolerate anything less than holy. God is always a holy God. He would bring judgement upon His chosen people, even by the hands of an enemy nation.
Prophet Isaiah also wrote about the same revelation from God:
The Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men." (Isaiah 29:13)
God has a glorious future of His people, but He also would not allow corruption and injustice to defile His people and purpose. God wants His people to know that He does not want religious rituals or any 'thing' that looks religious. He wants purity in our hearts, our love for each other, and our desire for justice for the oppressed. As the story of Prophet David has shown us, God looks straight at His people's heart. He wants justice and righteousness,
Fasting itself never pleases God
Religious people think fasting hard will make God want to bless them. But God never says so in His Word.
"In the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the Lord?" (Isaiah 58:3-5)
God wants true humility. What does it mean? God makes it very clear: justice and peace with people, and bringing yourself lower than others.
As Prophet Amos said,
"Let justice flow like a river, and righteousness like a never-failing stream!" (Amos 5:24)
Justice and genuine love for each other is the ultimate expression of our true love for God. This is not about following a long list of 'Dos and Don'ts' religious rules, or saying certain phrases at certain times, or avoiding certain food and drinks. God makes it clear it is about our personal actions and relationships with other people around us as an individual and as God's community.
Listen to God and Pray
1. What kind of 'religious festivals' do I often engage in (anything that makes me look spiritual)? Do I think God is pleased with my religious activities?
2. If God looks through my heart, what will He see?
3. If God is speaking through Prophet Amos to you today, what action will you respond with?
4. Who will you share this story with?