Alas for you who desire the day of the Lord! Why do you want the day of the Lord? It is darkness, not light; as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear; or went into the house and rested a hand against the wall, and was bitten by a snake. Is not the day of the Lord darkness, not light, and gloom with no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your festivals, 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 offerings of well-being of your fatted animals I will not look upon. Take away from me the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Did you bring to me sacrifices and offerings the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? You shall take up Sakkuth your king, and Kaiwan your star-god, your images, which you made for yourselves; therefore I will take you into exile beyond Damascus, says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.
As a shepherd, Amos would have known what life was like on the lower rungs of the social ladder. Amos saw the worship on offer by the wealthy and found it lacking any sense of God. Amos seems to be saying, “Look, mate, how you live day to day should reflect the God you worship. And from the way you lot are living, your god’s nowt like the real God!” Amos 5:24 is arguably Amos’ main prayer for his people.
Let justice roll – Hebrew word transliterated as mishpat from shapat – a legal term – think judge, claim, case, court, verdict.
Let righteousness flow – tsedaqah from tsedeq – just actions – think honesty, right deeds, vindication, actions that reflect God’s image in us.
To Amos, the wealthy trusted in the festivals and used them as an opportunity to display their wealth (not God’s faithfulness). They bragged and boasted (Amos 4:4). They built personal empires on the backs of the poor (Amos 5:11). They took bribes (Amos 5:12). When these people worshipped, God’s goodness and faithfulness was not being remembered by them.
Can we see evidence of this type of worship today?
What would God’s justice rolling today look like?
Where’s the life-giving righteous stream?
God, Show us when our actions don’t match up with who You are. Help our lives to be lived as worship, reflecting your character. By Your Spirit, help us to make ‘right actions’ and to understand your ways of judging. We ask that Your Spirit may flow through us, bringing Your justice and Your righteousness to our lives and the lives of those you would have us serve. We remember to You now those who need justice and righteousness. God, let the river flow on. In Jesus’ name Amen
The Rev’d Angela Rigby is minister of St Johns HillURC in Sevenoaks and Christ Church URC in Tonbridge.