Seek good, not evil, that you may live. Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you, just as you say he is. - Amos 5:14 (NIV)
The words nearly jumped off the pages of the Bible to me - "just as you say he is." The Prophet Amos drawing a stark line between what is said by those in religious circles and what the reality is from God. In the modern church we have a lot of talk and not a lot of walk sometimes. When we stop selling and marketing salvation the Lord God Almighty will be with us -- just as we say He is. When we stop turning worship into a human centered event the Lord God Almighty will be with us -- just as we say He is. When we stop playing church and start being the church the Lord God Almighty will be with us -- just like we say He is. In this age of seeker-friendly, purpose driven distortions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Prophet Amos reminds us that saying God is with us is vastly different than He actually being with us. Jesus Himself warned us similarly:
"Not everyone who calls out to me, "Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, "Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, "I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.' -- Matthew 7: 21-23 (NLT)
How frightening the thought that come the day when we all will face judgment for our works on earth that some who think they have spent their life in service to the Lord will discover that He never even knew them! That people who even saw great successes in the Lord's name, such as casting demons out, will discover that just because they said His name did not mean that they had a relationship with Him!
So who was this man Amos? The Bible tells us he was a sheep herder and sycamore fig farmer before God called him to deliver warnings to His people. Even though he was from Judah, the messages God gave him were primarily directed at the 10 northern tribes of Israel. Since Solomon's death, when the Jewish people split into Israel and Judah, the 10 northern tribes had not had one king that followed the Lord. Even though they were prospering greatly as the world defined it, their hearts moved further and further away from God. The judgment of God was coming soon. In a matter of a few years after the prophecies of Amos, God would use the Assyrian Empire to defeat and scatter the 10 tribes, leaving only Judah. As the key verse indicates the offense was not just the perversion of justice in the eyes of God but also the fact that it was being done in His name! Within the dire prophecies of Amos we see things to be wary of in the modern church and in our own walks. First, the religious spirit is a showy and proud spirit:
"Go ahead and offer sacrifices to the idols at Bethel. Keep on disobeying at Gilgal. Offer sacrifices each morning, and bring your tithes every three days.
Present your bread made with yeast as an offering of thanksgiving. Then give your extra voluntary offerings so you can brag about it everywhere! This is the kind of thing you Israelites love to do," says the Sovereign LORD. -- Amos 4: 4-5 (NLT)
Look at the offenses listed here in these two verses. First of all, the people were offering sacrifices but yet were steeped in sin. We know that in many places the Bible implores us that the Lord prefers obedience to sacrifice. That is because obedience speaks to the condition of our heart in relation to God while sacrifice can speak to the condition of our religion in relation to God. How dangerous this can be in our walk with the Lord! We can get into the habit of thinking that the service we may perform as a ministry unto the Lord is sufficient to comprise our relationship with Him! We can tithe correctly, yet start to think that God will look the other way in terms of those areas of our lives we have not fully turned over to Him. That the sacrifices we make for God outweigh the disobedience we display towards Him. How often have we heard people say that they have "given things up for God" as opposed to have been delivered from them by God? The second offense Amos speaks to here is the motivation we hold for our voluntary offerings. These are generally things above the expected tithe. Perhaps it is money or even service to the poor. But what Amos is challenging us on today is the question of why? Why do we do the extra things for God? In Israel at the time of Amos the practice was to brag about the extra offerings. In fact as Amos states the end product of boasting was in fact the driving influence behind the offering! What did Jesus warns us about regarding this:
"Watch out! Don't do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don't do as the hypocrites do--blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don't let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. -- Matthew 6: 1-4 (NLT)