Something interesting happens in this next section as the writing switches to first person even though God is speaking through the prophet Amos. This shows an intensity in the language as God is trying to get the people’s attention because they do not believe that the things they are doing is wrong.
The people think they are acceptable in Gods eyes and that their religious practices are approved by Him, but as we will see, God will tell them plainly that not only is the worship not acceptable, God hates it and rejects it.
To reject something is to refuse acceptance. For a gift exchange to take place one person has to give the gift and the other has to receive it. God is rejecting the gifts they are offering because they are not doing things in the right manner and because of the lives they are living. When it comes to thinking about God the word “Rejection” is not a word that comes to peoples mind. Many people do not see God being one who would reject someone who is giving an effort because their view of God is a loving Grandpa who accepts everyone and any effort one may give. As we will see through this passage of scripture, the people do not see their efforts as being rejected by God.
Amos 5:21-27 “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.25 “Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
God Rejects Sacrifices That Are Done For the Wrong Reasons
God says, “I hate, I despise, I cannot stand, I will not accept, I will not listen” When we think of God many people do not see God saying these things especially toward people who are worshiping in the Temple. We think God will say them to some pagan or devil worshipers but not people who consider themselves followers of God. The setting for this was probably at Bethel where the Royal sanctuary was located and it could have been that Amos had interrupted a cultic festival taking place. The people were doing many religious activities but God was not impressed because of the sin that was in their life and the other idols they were worshiping. The worship of God was being mixed in with the worship of other gods and God was not going to be one of their many gods He wants to be the only God in our lives.
The Book of Leviticus lays out for the people what sacrifices God will and will not accept. Burnt Offerings: sacrifices where the entire animal was burned on the altar and the smoke rose up to God. (Leviticus 1:9 says it was a pleasing smell unto the Lord) Grain Offerings: various gifts brought to God to show gratitude for their daily needs. Some of this was sacrificed to God but most of it went to the priest to provide them with food. Fellowship or Peace Offerings: Part of the animal was consumed on the altar, some went to the priest and the rest was eaten by the family. It was a symbol of fellowship and communion with God and each other. Sin Offering: Sacrifice for sins. Trespass Offering: Was a sacrifice for unintentional sins one committed. All of these offerings to God would be met perfectly by Jesus Christ and His death on the cross for our sins.
The people were making all of these offerings yet God is saying He hates them, they make Him sick and He will not even look at them. Again the reason for God’s rejection is because they said one thing in the temple but their lives were not honoring to God the rest of the week. Nowhere in the Bible does God call us to a half- Hearted commitment to Him and we must realize the world and God both demand our full attention so we must choose who we are going to follow.
The people thought they got credit for showing up and doing the things, even though imperfectly, that God wanted them to do. Many times we go to church and sing songs, listen to a message and put money in a plate without it changing our lives. Why are you serving God in the first place? When you serve God are you doing it because of His love for you or because you are trying to gain His favor? Many church going people will serve thinking that they are gaining points with God as if they have to earn His favor. It is not about what we have to offer God that makes our sacrifices special it’s that we bring it to Him by faith (Hebrews 11:4) and by doing it the way He wants it done.
God goes on to say, “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings in the desert?” Although some sacrifices may have been made in the desert they would have been very limited so God is reminding them that His relationship and care for them was not based on what they did for Him but because of His grace and love that He chooses to give. God is reminding them that the sacrificial system is not good enough to maintain God’s favor because it has always been about grace and not works (Ephesians 2:8-9) We tend to have a works mentality that says “I did this for God and so He will do this for me” Many people serve God in the hopes that He will bless them or do some favors for them instead of enjoying the relationship they can have with Him that is based on His unconditional love.
Isaiah 59:1-2 Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; 2 but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
This has always been the message from the beginning that sin has separated us from God. If you were to ask the majority of people they would not think that we are separated from God because they do not see the seriousness of the sins we commit. We think that by doing a few good things we can make up for any bad things we have done but the message has always been about Jesus Christ. Our sacrifices do not change the separation that we have with God that only what Jesus did on the cross. All the Old Testament sacrifices pointed to Jesus and He fulfilled them all perfectly with how He lived, died and rose again. Matthew chapter seven talks about people that have done many good things in the name of Christ but are still rejected by Him because they did not have a relationship with Him.
God Rejects Worship Services When Lives Are Not Changed
God says, “Away with the noise of your songs” Have you ever been in traffic or at a place that was playing music that you could not stand? If you have ever had that experience you almost get annoyed by it and you wish they would turn their music down. On the other hand if you are in the same traffic and they are playing music you like then you do not mind at all. Our worship can be an annoying song to God if our lives do not match what we are singing. We can have the best worship experience every Sunday but if our lives do not change then God will not accept our worship on Sundays
Matthew 15:7-9 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said:8 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”
Worship is not to be about feelings or experience but about how we are worshiping God with our lives. The people Amos was addressing were lying, stealing and have corrupted the courts so that Justice could not prevail. God wants us to be fair to the less fortunate and give dignity and compassion to everyone because our treatment of people matters to God. If you want to worship God then how you live your life and how you treat people every day is considered worship.
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship
A living sacrifice can climb off the altar so you must die daily (Luke 9:23) in order to worship God with your life. You have to die to your own will as you submit to His, you have to forgive others as He has forgiven you and if you do those things then your life will be music to God’s ears.
“If you worship Him, you must walk in His ways. If worship does not further the development of spiritual character, it may just be empty emotions.” (The NIV Application Commentary, Gary V. Smith, Pg. 325)
God will not reject Jesus.
The only life that God will not reject is Jesus Christ who lived a perfect life, (met requirements of the law) died (paid the penalty of sin) and rose again (defeating death). When we follow Jesus God promises to put His Spirit within us and that changes us from the inside out. When our lives belong to God then a change takes place that we cannot achieve on our own.
Ezekiel 36:26-27 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules
We are able to do the things of God because God does something inside of us that makes us long to do the will of God. One of the ways to know if you are truly a Christian is not the amount of sin you have in your life but the desire you have within you to stop those sins. We have to stop trying to please God with our actions and surrender our lives to Him and He will be the one who does something so miraculous in our lives (New Creation 2 Corinthians 5:17)
1 Corinthians 1:30-31 And because of him[a] you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
We stand before God not on our works but on what Jesus did and we are found to be Righteous (in a right standing with God) Sanctified (set apart as Holy) and Redeemed (made acceptable). You do not have to wonder as a Christian if God is happy with you because His happiness is found in what Jesus has done for us that is why it says we are “IN Christ”. We all have sin and Jesus was the perfect sacrifice for the sins we knowingly and unknowingly have done. To accept the free gift of salvation from Jesus is to “Follow Him” it means dying to self and trusting God to lead your life and trusting that what Jesus did on the cross is what makes us acceptable to God.