4 “Come to Bethel, and transgress; to Gilgal, and multiply transgression; bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days; 5 offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, publish them; for so you love to do, O people of Israel!” declares the Lord God.
Amos 4:5-6 (ESV)
Understanding the Word
“Come to Bethel!” “Come to Gilgal!”—Amos stands outside the sanctuary in Bethel (see 7:10–14) and invites people to worship there or in Gilgal. This is the first time Amos mentions Gilgal. When Israel first entered the promised land, they encamped at Gilgal (Joshua 3–5), and the prophet Samuel anointed their first king Saul there (1 Samuel 11:14–15). Though it wasn’t one of Jeroboam’s worship centers, Israel apparently offered sacrifices there in the eighth century (Hosea 12:11). Amos pays Gilgal considerably more attention than Jeroboam’s other worship center—Dan. He names Gilgal in 4:4 and twice in 5:5, but he only mentions Dan once (8:14). Neither comes close to Bethel, which gets most of Amos’s ire.
“Come to Bethel and sin!” “Come to Gilgal and sin even more!” The text literally reads, “Come and rebel!” and “Come and increase your rebellion!” Can you imagine someone inviting you to church this way? “Come sin with us this Sunday.” Or a worship leader inviting a congregation to stand and sin together? Amos uses a popular call to worship to mock Bethel’s worshippers (Psalm 95). The Lord’s prophets frequently insulted their opponents. Yes, they trash-talked in the Bible.
The Hebrew word for “worship” pictures someone bowing down before a superior to pledge his/her allegiance. At its core, worship should express both love and loyalty to the Lord. But rather than demonstrating their fidelity, Israel feigns devotion for selfish gain. Through Amos, the Lord unmasks what really motivates their worship.
Israel offers their sacrifices for the morning and their tithes for three days. “Every” is not in the original language, but the time references imply religious repetition. The morning “sacrifices” were likely the peace offerings detailed in Leviticus 3:1–17, 7:11–36, and 22:17–33. These included provisions for a leavened offering of thanksgiving (7:12–15; 22:29–30) and freewill offerings (7:16–17; 22:18–23). The “tithes” represented one-tenth of the land’s produce (Leviticus 27:30; Deuteronomy 14:22–27). The Lord prescribed all of these offerings. In this way, Israel’s worship appears both prompt and proper.
But Israel’s problem lies within. They do the right things for the wrong reasons. They announce their voluntary offerings. They post their gifts to draw attention to themselves. This is what they really love. They prize public recognition more than the Lord. They want to showcase their wealth, not surrender their lives to the Lord. Subsequently God refuses their sacrifices. “These are your sacrifices and your tithes, not mine! They are expressions of your rebellion, not your devotion.”
Jesus agrees with Amos’s assessment in Matthew 6:1–6. He instructs his disciples not to be like the hypocrites who publicize their charity and their prayers. They pretend to praise the Lord, but they really seek the praise of others. They want human commendations more than they want a relationship with God. Jesus says if that’s who and what they want, that’s who and what they’ll get. Their motives reveal their true lord and their desired reward. And so do ours.
- How might this text shape or challenge your church’s public worship gatherings?
- What is something right that you do for the wrong reasons? Can you ask God now to fill your heart with the right intention?
Did you enjoy this entry? It’s an excerpt from Jason Jackson’s Bible study, Amos: OneBook Daily-Weekly. In this work, he helps readers understand Amos’s challenging words within the context of his world and apply those words to our startlingly similar world. This eight-week study will encourage participants, through the finished work of Jesus and the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit, to pursue justice that rolls like a river and righteousness that flows like a constant stream.
In these pages you’ll:
- Begin to understand Amos’s challenging words within the context of his world
- Be challenged to apply Amos’s words to our startlingly similar world
- Be encouraged to seek God’s justice in every area of your life
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