No Delight in Going Through the Motions

I’m chewing on a few verses in Amos this morning.

Don’t recall having ever put fingers-to-keyboard concerning something in Amos’s prophecy before so I went and did a search in my e-journal. One entry back in December 2010. So it’s been awhile.

Maybe these verses in Amos have caught my attention because, as I’m also reading in Revelation, the church of Laodecia, the church of the lukewarm, is still fresh in my mind. Or, maybe it’s just because the Spirit is having me pause over this divine reality this morning: there’s no delight in going through the motions.

I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 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. 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.”

(Amos 5:21-24 ESV)

Aye yai yai!

Or should I say, I, I, I!

That’s what caught my attention–what I learn about God. The God who says, “I hate, I despise. I take no delight. I will not accept. I will not look upon. I will not listen.” And what is the object of God’s seemingly visceral negative reaction? His people going through the motions.

I think I sometimes forget that during the latter days of Israel and Judah, though many, many had turned their backs on their God, they hadn’t stopped “going to church.” They still celebrated the feasts. They still assembled together on the Sabbath. They still “obeyed” with burnt offerings, grain offerings, and–crazy to even say it–were still bringing peace offerings. All the while they continued to strike up the band and sing songs of worship. Somehow thinking that going through the motions was going to move God.

Well, in a sense it did. God was moved to indignation. Even using the “h” word (hate). By day they were in bed with the world, lusting after its idols, pursuing its pleasures, marching to the beat of its drummer. And then, somehow thinking they could “come home” each night (or once a week . . . or a few times a month) as long as they continued, to some degree, walking through God’s given rituals. Ah . . . no!

And I shudder at the thought that sin can so deceive, that idols can so desensitize, that somehow God’s people think that, if they but go through the motions, God is somehow placated concerning their unfaithfulness. That we mistake His patience for His approval. We presume on His grace and see it as the go ahead to keep doing what we’re doing. When in fact, He takes no delight . . . He will not accept . . . He will not look upon . . . He will not listen . . . to us simply going through the motions.

Thinkin’ that’s why Jesus said to Laodicea, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:16).

Instead, God wants religion that’s real. Justice rolling down like waters. Righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.  Righteousness, not of our own making or produced by our own efforts, but righteousness that comes from real abiding in His finished work and an authentic response of obedience to His call to follow Him. Feasts held, assemblies assembled, offerings offered, and songs sung with hearts devoted and attuned to the God in our midst.

And that, by His grace. And for His glory.

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