God reveals Himself in the book of Amos as one who is completely and absolutely fed up with the hypocrisy of His people. He delivers a devastating rebuke against all unrighteousness. In Amos chapter five beginning in verse 21, Almighty God reveals His list against His people. First, He hates, He despises, their religious feasts. Keep in mind that God has commanded these feasts. The problem is not the feasts but the attitude of their hearts. Second, He takes no pleasure in; He cannot stand the smell of their solemn assemblies. Again, these are celebrations commanded by God. The problem is their attitude. Third, God rejects their sacrifices and thus their worship. Even though they bring all three types, blood sacrifices, grain sacrifices, freewill offerings, God will not accept them. Once again, remember these sacrifices are commanded. However, God sees and judges the heart. It is a dangerous and unwise thing when man (government) attempts to judge motive and intent rather than action, but not so with God. He judges the motive, intent, and attitude of the heart perfectly. Fourth, God tells them to stop playing music and singing. It is only noise and He will not listen. He has already given them more than 150 inspired songs. They have been told to sing certain psalms at prescribed times, and yet God tells them to stop, because it only aggravates Him. He sees the heart.
After listing the ways He is rejecting them, God tells them how they can get right with Him. Amos 5:24 says, “But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!”NIV Not only have God’s people ignored His commands to take care of the poor and the weak, they have been mistreating the weak. The remedy for their sickness is to act justly toward the poor and the weak. They must no longer take advantage of the weak. They must use their advantaged position to care for the weak. Leviticus 19 gives a wonderful system of caring for the poor, much better than the one in the present-day USA. God’s people had neglected those requirements and were even using their advantaged position to drive the poor from their homes, taking their land. God wants His people, then and now, in Judah, the USA, and everywhere they are found to do justice and practice righteousness. He wants His people to season that justice with mercy, grace and compassion.
Justice is only the beginning point for practicing righteousness. In order to practice righteousness, we must be ready to show mercy and grace. That does not mean that we fail to hold people accountable for their actions. Likewise, it does not mean that there are no consequences to be paid. God offers forgiveness to all, but that forgiveness can be received only after repentance. It seems there is a lesson there for us. If God only did justice to me, I would be doomed to a miserable existence on earth and eternal punishment later. I am thankful for mercy and grace; without those I would be destined to an eternity in hell receiving the just punishment of God.
We find God’s question for us in verse 25, “Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel?”NASU God has emphatically told them of His rejection of their worship. He has told them why. Now He reminds them that for forty years they were poor, weak, and homeless, unable to offer the sacrifice of worship, and yet He loved them, cared for them, gave them the Promised Land. His example to them and us is justice accompanied by love, compassion, mercy, and grace. That is the righteousness He gives and requires of us.