"I hate all your show and pretense - the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies...Away from me with your hymns of praise! They are only noise to my ears. I will not listen to your music, no matter how lovely it is. Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice, a river of righteous living that will never run dry."
Amos 5:21, 23-24
God was talking here to the Israelites who were, according to God, extremely unjust and wicked. They were lying, cheating, oppressing the poor. He called them hypocrites because they talked about worship and sacrifice, but they ignored the injustices happening among them. In these verses it is obvious that these injustices and the lack of righteous living were absolutely essential to worship. They could not worship God on Sunday (or Saturday actually, right?) and act like everyone else the rest of the week.
When our life outside the church walls doesn't match our life inside the church walls - When we say we love Jesus, but can't love our co-worker or neighbor - When we promise to follow His ways, but ignore the hurting or needy all around us - our worship becomes hollow. It becomes useless to God. Worship is, after all, more than music - it's about obedience. I have heard worship defined as "our response to who God is and what God has done."
I do think it's interesting that in these verses he specifically talks about music. Have you ever been singing a song on Sunday morning about the amazing grace of Jesus Christ when you realized that you are still angry at your spouse for something that happened earlier that day or even that week?? I have. Have you ever sat in the middle of the worship service and been annoyed or even angry about the odd outbursts of someone who may be new to church and God and who is quite different than the people you normally see come through your church doors? Guilty.
God doesn't care at all for offerings of worship that aren't backed up by our lifestyle. He isn't interested in hollow worship. He isn't pleased by singing hypocrites - no matter how beautiful we think we sound.
If we seek to worship God, we must also seek His justice. If we seek to worship God, we must also share His grace. If we seek to truly worship God, we must stand up for what is right (no matter what people think of us).
I'm reminded of a song I've loved for a long time called Stand by Susan Ashton. Here is my favorite part...
In a moment of truth at the top of the will
I open my arms and let go of my will
And stand with my face to the wind
With the storm beating down
On this sacred ground
If I stand, for the graceI have known
For what I believe
Then I won't stand alone - no I won't stand alone.