During the better times of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, the people would return to the temple and the worship of God, although even then, their worship was often mixed with inroads from idolatry and the religions of the surrounding nations. But according to the prophets, even their best attempts at religion were not enough to turn them from the evils perpetrated in the land in their daily lives.
And no matter how hard they worked at being religious through their rituals of worship, the music of their hymns could not with drown out the cries of the poor and oppressed.
Amos described the people of his day as those who “trample the needy and do away with the poor of the land” (Amos 8:4, NIV). He saw their desire to get done with their rituals so they could reopen the market and get back to their dishonest trade, that of “buying the poor with silver and the needy for a pair of sandals” (Amos 8:6, NIV).
Read Isaiah 1:10-17, Amos 5:21-24, and Micah 6:6-8. What was the Lord telling these religious people about their rituals?
Through His prophets, God uses strong language to ridicule religion and worship that is disconnected from and in contrast with the suffering and oppression of those around them. In Amos 5:21-24 (NIV), we read of God saying that He “hates”, “despises”, and is generally disgusted by their worship. Their gatherings are described as a “stench”, and their offerings and music are dismissed as less than worthless.
In Micah 6, we see a series of increasingly inflated, even mocking suggestions, as to how they can most appropriately worship God. The prophet mockingly offers the suggestion of burnt offerings, then increases the offering to “thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil” (Micah 6:7, NIV) before going to the horrific—but not unknown—extreme of suggesting sacrificing his firstborn child to gain God’s favor and forgiveness.
In the end, though, what the Lord truly wanted for them was to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8, NIV).
|Have you ever found yourself guilty of being more concerned about religious forms and rituals than about helping those in need right around you? What did you learn from that experience?|