Do you like going to church? What do you do at church?
For God’s people in the Old Testament, going to church meant going to the Temple in Jerusalem. At the Temple the people would worship God with songs, and feasts, and sacrifices on a big bronze altar. Some sacrifices were animals meant to ask for God’s forgiveness. Other sacrifices were things like grain and wine meant to celebrate God and his kindness.
Going to the temple was not optional for the Israelites. They were commanded to go by God. They were commanded to celebrate the feasts that would remind them of what God had done for them in the past. Feasts like the Passover reminding them of the Exodus from their slavery in Egypt. And they were commanded to make sacrifices on the altar. To bring animals and grain and wine to offer to God. None of these feasts and sacrifices at the temple were optional. Just like we are told by God to go to church, the Israelites were told by God to go to the temple and do all these things.
Which is why when the prophet Amos came along and told the people that God didn’t like their feasting, their singing, and their sacrificing it must have been very confusing to the people. Listen to what God said to the people through the prophet Amos:
21 “I hate, I despise your feasts,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
22 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.
23 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
to the melody of your harps I will not listen.
24 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
God is saying “I hate your feasts.”
“I hate your songs.”
“I hate your sacrifices.”
This would be like God saying to you and your family, “I hate it when you go to church.”
Why would God say this to his people? Why would he hate them worshiping him at the Temple? Wasn’t that what they were supposed to do?
Yes. But they also forgot the more important thing that they were supposed to do – justice and righteousness. Read verse 24 again. What does God want even more than worship? He wants us to do justice and righteousness.
What does that mean?
It means that he wants us to be kind to others. To help them. To watch out for them and protect them. To make sure everything is fair. To make sure everyone is treated with respect. Especially the people who are weaker, or poorer, or different from others. God wants us to love everyone first, before we sing to him or worship him. Because if we don’t love others, then we don’t really love God.
But the truth is that none of us is going to always be kind and nice to others. We aren’t always going to do justice and righteousness like God wants. And that is why God sent Jesus to us to do justice and righteousness for us. Jesus was always fair. Jesus was always kind. Jesus always loved the poor and the weak. He helped the blind to see, and he helped the poor to eat, and, most importantly, he made a way for all us sinners to go to heaven with him.
And when we trust in Jesus’ justice and righteousness for us, then we too are counted by God to be just and righteous too – just like Jesus! And now we can go out and do justice and righteousness just like Jesus. We can be fair, and kind, and helpful, and loving just like Jesus is. And then we can sing to God and worship God at church too. Not to make God love us, but because we know that God loves us no matter what because of Jesus’ righteousness on the cross.
Because of Jesus we arecounted as just and righteous by God.
With Jesus we can do justiceand love and help others.
DO SOMETHING TOGETHER
Make a plan as a family to do justice and righteousness this week. Who do you know that needs help, kindness, or fairness? Or, is there an organization that is doing justice that you can make a donation to? (World Vision/Compassion International/Samaritan’s Purse/International Justice Mission).
And/Or…watch the ending of A Christmas Carol to see Scrooge learn to do justice and righteousness from love and thanksgiving.
You always did good and helped others, especially when you died on the cross. Help me to do good and help others too.
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