5 November 2007

Amos 5:12-24

"Take away from the noise of your songs; I will not listen to the melody of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream". (v.23-24)


The prophet Amos was a blunt countryman who did not mince his words when condemning conduct which was contrary to God's will and purpose. One of his major targets was people who professed to be very religious, but whose treatment of other people was unfair and unjust.

In this passage he exposed as a delusion the idea that the only thing in which God is interested is our religious practice.

The people against whom the harsh words were spoken appear to have been rich and powerful, senior figures in society. In that society, they were responsible for administering justice. The phrase, 'in the gate', which comes twice in this passage, refers to the place where justice was dispensed. For Amos, justice was a mockery if it was not fair and impartial. Yet those who administered it were evidently taking bribes, favouring other rich and powerful people and ignoring the needy.

For Amos, all this was bad enough, but the situation was even worse than that. These unjust judges thought of themselves as very religious people. They looked forward to "the day of the Lord" when they believed God would come in person and reward them.

They went in for big religious festivals, for making music for God and offering him lots of sacrifices. They believed that all these things would make God pleased with them. Amos has to tell them that the opposite is true. God will be angry with them because they have not made the connection between the worship they offer and the way they treat others.

To Ponder

What does this passage tell us about the way in which we should worship God?

Is there anything we can do to bring more justice and righteousness into the situations in which we find ourselves?

Bible notes author

Revd Michael Townsend

Michael Townsend is a Methodist minister. He has served in a variety of posts and is currently Superintendent of the Grimsby and Cleethorpes Circuit.