Our difficulty in maintaining faithfulness before God and toward God is hard to leave behind. It’s part of our sin nature in the human condition. Our flesh keeps dragging us back all the while the Spirit is trying to take us forward into new life…
21 “I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
22 Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them.
Though you bring choice fellowship offerings,
I will have no regard for them.
23 Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.
24 But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!
25 “Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the wilderness, people of Israel?
26 You have lifted up the shrine of your king,
the pedestal of your idols,
the star of your god—
which you made for yourselves.
27 Therefore I will send you into exile beyond Damascus,”
says the Lord, whose name is God Almighty.
8 The Sovereign Lord has sworn by himself—the Lord God Almighty declares:
“I abhor the pride of Jacob
and detest his fortresses;
I will deliver up the city
and everything in it.”
Amos 5:21-27, 6:8
The Lord is very angry in Amos’ prophecy with the pride of Israel. He uses the name Jacob, taking the issues all the way back to the patriarch Jacob, before he was renamed Israel. The pride of the people – the disobedience and disregard for God – goes back a long way.
It’s true isn’t it? Our difficulty in maintaining our faithfulness before God and toward God goes back a long way with us also. It’s part of our sin nature in the human condition. Our flesh keeps dragging us back all the while the Spirit is trying to take us forward into new life.
Paul documents this: “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law,” (Galatians 5:16-18).
Walking by the Spirit in the body of flesh is very hard. We long, as Paul does, for the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8), so that we can be free from that which encumbers us.
In the meantime, let us not set up shrines to our sin. Let us not conduct false festivals and celebrations when our hearts are far from God. I think part of God’s issue with his people here in Amos is that we think we know better than God and it shows. We think we can balance ourselves on the fence that straddles heaven and earth and have the best of both worlds.
God’s perspective is likely that this fence doesn’t exist – that we are really planting both feet in the world and lose our footing in heaven because it is on a higher level. For Israel, God’s prophecy will land them in exile to learn some lessons.
Woe to us if our flesh drags us down to the place where we follow their example of pride and disregard for God. Our exile today will not be a pretty sight…