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The Disgust of the Lord

Amos 5:23–24 (ESV) … “Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

“I hate, I despise your feast days,” God said (5:21). Israel’s entire sacrificial system was out of order. It claimed to be the worship of Jehovah, but was nothing of the kind. The people fondly imagined that their sacrifices earned them God’s favor. Little did they know that their religious practices were an abomination to God. He wanted no part of them. He repudiated the altars of the Israelites and called their music “noise” (5:23).

Much that is done today in the name of religion is equally offensive to God. “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me,” Jesus said (John 14:6). Religion without Christ is dead religion. It is cursed, as was the religion of Cain, which is the prototype of all false religion.

Cain was neither an atheist nor a worshiper of a false god. He was a false worshiper of the true God. Cain did not like God’s rule, so he tried to approach Him in his own way. Cain’s religion had elements of beauty and order; it was costly and involved much thought and hard work. But God rejected Cain’s religion, as He rejected the false religion of Israel, and as He rejects much that is religious today.

God was about to judge Israel, partly because of the nation’s false religion. Amos 5:25 gives the crux of the matter: “Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?” (italics added) After their miraculous exodus from Egypt, the Israelites offered a kind of half-service to God in the wilderness. They criticized and complained. They doubted Him and dared Him. Then they crowned all their other wrongdoings by making a golden calf and claiming that this image was the god that had emancipated them from bondage.

The idolatry of the wilderness was revived, as we have seen, by Jeroboam I, the first king of the separated ten tribes. His religion was also a kind of half-service to God. It was not wholly pagan, for it acknowledged Jehovah. And it was not wholly pure, for it was idolatrous, it was served by a false priesthood, and it was bolstered by a false religious calendar of events. Yet the kingdom of Israel trusted in this false religion. But the object of the Israelites’ trust turned out to be the source of their trouble.

God did not say that they did not offer sacrifices; He said that they did not offer them to Him. The words “unto me” in Amos 5:25 are emphatic. Satan was the real source of their calf worship, the real author of their religion, the real explanation for the hold that it had on their hearts. There seemed to be no end to their religious follies, for Israel also succumbed to the worship of stars and fearful false gods such as Moloch.

It is astonishing what people will believe in the name of religion. In our day for instance some believe that a man who was a scoundrel and a public nuisance, who countenanced and practiced polygamy, was God’s prophet. They believe that he received eighty golden tablets from an angel and that he translated these tablets from Egyptian hieroglyphics into King James English with the aid of magic stones!

Other people believe that there is no pain and death, that these concepts are errors of the mortal mind. Still others consult the stars or believe that babbling baby talk is speaking in tongues. The examples of false religion are virtually endless. People are the same today as they were in the days of Amos. They will believe anything but the truth and they imagine that they are doing God a service when they blatantly propagate Bible-denying, Christ-rejecting, God-dishonoring lies.

God’s answer to Israel’s persistent wickedness and vain trust in false religion was judgment: “Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus” (5:27). Damascus was on the way to Assyria. The Lord’s mind was made up.[1]

[1] Phillips, J. (2009). Exploring the Minor Prophets: An Expository Commentary (Am 5:21–27). Kregel Publications; WORDsearch Corp.

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