What We Can Learn from Amos 5 for Today

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For about a little more than a week now I’ve been reading through Amos for my morning devo with Jesus. Today I was reading through chapter 5. And while the book of Amos was written for the pre-exilic northern people of God under a different covenant with judgment forthcoming from the Assyrians, I got hit with how some of the points in vv10-24 are similar of the Church’s past and applicable for the Church today.

Normally I just jot down my takeaways from the chapter and maybe tweet them or post them to Facebook to encourage, exhort, or challenge the Church within my sphere. But lately I’ve learned it’s sometimes best to just turn the longer ones into a blog rather than a dozen-long tweet thread or the lengthy Facebook status. This would be one of those times.

The Similarities

10 There are those who hate the one who upholds justice in court and detest the one who tells the truth. 11 You levy a straw tax on the poor and impose a tax on their grain. Therefore, though you have built stone mansions, you will not live in them; though you have planted lush vineyards, you will not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your offenses and how great your sins. There are those who oppress the innocent and take bribes and deprive the poor of justice in the courts. 13 Therefore the prudent keep quiet in such times, for the times are evil. 14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. 16 Therefore this is what the Lord, the Lord God Almighty, says: “There will be wailing in all the streets and cries of anguish in every public square. The farmers will be summoned to weep and the mourners to wail. 17 There will be wailing in all the vineyards, for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord. 18 Woe to you who long for the day of the Lord! Why do you long for the day of the Lord? That day will be darkness, not light. 19 It will be as though a man fled from a lion only to meet a bear, as though he entered his house and rested his hand on the wall only to have a snake bite him. 20 Will not the day of the Lord be darkness, not light—pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? 21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me. 22 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. 23 Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. 24 But let justice [i.e. judgment] roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:10-24, NIV, [emphasis added])

For clarity sake, the judgment pronounced in this passage is not the “similar” or “applicable” I am referring to. Rather, it’s the immoral actions of God’s people and His response that hit me as similar of the Church’s past and applicable for the Church today.

After reading that passage, the first thing I wrote down as a reflection was:

Unrighteousness amidst worship that is declared to be for God is abhorrent to God.

To claim and portray to be worshiping God/to be walking in obedience to God through religious traditions, deeds, and disciplines but be actually operating in what God calls unrighteous while doing those things you claim and portray to be worship/obedience, is abhorrent to God. God doesn’t receive worship seasoned with wickedness. He says He “hates” this, “despises” this, it is a “stench” to Him, will not “accept” nor “regard” this, will not “hear” this (vv21-23).

The similarities of this between God’s people of that age and God’s people of this age is completely compatible, as is God’s abhorrence of the immoral actions of His people across both ages. We see God calling out His chosen people, Israel, for this very thing here in this small sample in Amos 5 (along with a complete record throughout the whole Old Testament). And the history (and present-time) of the Church is full of accounts where God’s people of this age have been no different—unrighteousness amidst their worship they declared to be for God. Some despicable examples of this would be:

  • sacramentalism

  • the crusades

  • colonialism

  • slavery (not indentured servitude)

  • imperialism

  • sexual abuse

  • political pandering

  • racism

  • discrimination

  • homosexualism

  • the prosperity gospel

Unfortunately, this disgraceful list could continue on. Thus, the people of God in this age find ourselves guilty of a worship seasoned with wickedness as was the people of God during Amos’ age.

The Application

It was seeing these regrettable similarities that led me to ponder how can we stop the bleeding in today’s Church. Being confronted with sin whether from the past, or personally, or corporately should not lead to indifference, but repentance and godliness. So I journaled some takeaways from Amos 5 as my plea and exhortation to the born-again believers who read this that make up the Church of today.

The first set of takeaways come from the similarities between God’s people of that age and God’s people of this age.

  • Let us not continue to make these same/similar kinds of mistakes that we see from the people of God in the past (or present).

  • Let us not claim to be worshiping God, to be walking in obedience to God, but then justify or pacify actually operating in what God calls unrighteous. No more seasoning our worship with blatant wickedness.

  • Let us beg God regularly

    • to help us be more conscientious of past (and present) mistakes and how we worship/obey Him,

    • to help us be more humble & receptive to correction of our non/unbiblical personal views, and

    • to help us be quick to repent.

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit…”” (Isa. 57:15, ESV)

The second set of takeaways come from verses 14-15.

“14 Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. 15 Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph.

  • Let us seek good and love good.

  • Let us hate evil and not seek evil.

  • Let us establish doing what is right in the public square.

To be clear, my plea and exhortation for us to do these thing is not so that we may live, for those of us who are born-again our lives are already hidden in Christ (Col. 3:3-4). Neither is my plea and exhortation for us to do these things for God to be with us as we say He is with us, because He is forever with His redeemed ones through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14). My plea and exhortation is for us to just do these things right where we are.

I believe these six takeaways are simple to do and powerful in their effect. As each of us who make up the Church of today do these things in every sphere we’re in—family, work, leadership, local church, marketplace, school, government, arts, sports, etc—others will see that God is with us and the life of Christ emanating from us as we say He is, which may lead some of them to eternal life because our witness is not contradicting our declared worship of the God we profess.

I pray what ministered to me from my devo in Amos 5 has ministered to you as well.

For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you, but I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil. The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.
(Rom. 16:19-20, ESV)