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July 12 – Empty religion

Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. – Amos 4:4

Scripture reading: Amos 4:1-5

One man puts a large donation into the offering plate to assuage the guilt of his deceitful business dealings. Another sits through worship services he despises in order to keep the family happy. And someone else raves about how much she likes worship at the new church in town because it feels so amazing. We could come up with a thousand examples of the same root problem that Amos confronts: attending worship for selfish reasons rather than going to meet God.

“Cows of Bashan” is not a reference to four-legged beasts with horns, but to the wealthy women of Samaria. Amos is not very flattering, but he is simply telling these women what their husbands didn’t have the courage to say: that they are pampered and cruel. As long as they were being served, they were content – even if it meant crushing the poor. Their day will come.

Amos proceeds to issue a sarcastic call to worship: “Come to Bethel and transgress, at Gilgal multiply transgression”. Go on, says the LORD through Amos, bring your sacrifices and tithes, your praise and worship, for I know you love it. Israel still observed many of the biblical worship ceremonies. But they did that while they crushed the needy during the rest of the week. They loved religious acts and rituals of worship, but they didn’t love the God whom they professed to worship.

Worship is not a series of favors that we do for God to get Him on our side. Worship is a response of thanksgiving to the One who has purchased us with His blood.

Suggestions for prayer

Pray for deliverance from all man-centered, self-focused worship to wholehearted thankfulness and awe towards God.

Rev. Gary Zekveld is the pastor of New Westminster United Reformed Church in British Columbia, This daily devotional is available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.

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