4 Hear this, you who trample on the needy
and bring the poor of the land to an end,
5 saying, “When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
6 that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals
and sell the chaff of the wheat?”
7 The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob:
“Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.
Much of the book of Amos is God’s promise of judgment for the northern kingdom of Israel. The people of the north were, on the whole, not seeking after God’s heart. They were willing to abuse and hurt others for their own selfish gain. God was rightly and justly furious with them for their neglect of his laws and his commands to love him and to love others.
In the middle of a section in which God is pronouncing judgments against the people for their actions, I notice something interesting. God points out that some of the people had a habit of waiting for the Sabbath day to be over so that they could get back to sinning. It is as if the people knew that they had to do the outward religious ritual, but they were not willing to let that have anything to do with how they lived their lives for the rest of the week.
In our culture, we do not tend to focus on Sabbath regulations. Christians observe the Lord’s Day on Sundays, but are not nearly so restricted as was the Hebrew community. Yet, if we are not careful, we will see similarities.
Often those connected to the Christian community will think that church attendance, being present for Sunday morning worship, is what makes a Christian OK with God. This is a false assumption. As God did not find it impressive when the people of Israel wanted the Sabbath to get out of the way so they could go on sinning, God is also not impressed with empty worship attendance that does not also lead to a changed life during the week.
Do you go to worship only to get it out of the way? Do you live one way for an hour-and-a-half on Sunday morning, but totally differently for the rest of the week? Do you think that your church attendance impresses God? Think again. God is not and has never been fooled by empty devotion. God wants our hearts to be his. God wants our lives to show love for him through sincere obedience.
Worship attendance is good. Sabbath keeping for the Israelite was good. But if there is no heart behind that action, the action is empty and meaningless. The solution is not to avoid worship. No, on the contrary, the solution is to repent. Ask God to change your heart. Ask God to help you to worship rightly. Then go out, live for Jesus, and obey from Day-to-day.