As mentioned previously, Amos’ prophetic mission was to the Israelites, the nation of the 10 tribes that separated from Judah and Benjamin. As part of the “rebellion” the leader of the Israelites, Jeroboam, made 2 golden calves for local worship to protect his “kingship” from reverting to Judah and Jerusalem should the people of Israel choose to faithfully worship at the temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 12:26–33). He was quite successful.
As the Temple had remained in Jerusalem, and the false worship at Bethel (gold calf), it seems strange to mentions the “tent of David”. The original Tent of Meeting was replaced by the Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem wasn’t destroyed. The temple of false worship in Bethel would fall in a few years due to an earthquake. The people of Israel no longer claimed David as one of their own (1 Kings 12:16–17).
The best way to explain this is to understand the underlying message of Amos: false worship was separating the people of Israel permanently (by their actions, not God’s) from God. True/pure/heartfelt worship would reunite the people of Israel with God. In other words, the false temple won’t help you (and the implication that even the Temple in Jerusalem wouldn’t). Only being someone “after” God’s own heart would restore things as they ought to be. The message to the Israelites was, be David, a man after God’s own heart (1 Samuel 13:14).
However, no matter how we slice it or define it, we will often worship that which isn’t God, thinking that it will bring us closer to God. Quite often it is behavior. And, while certain behaviors (repentance, love of God, worship of God) will, we all too often confuse which behaviors.
Take Jesus’ words as shared by Luke. John the Baptist and Jesus the Prophet (yes, the Messiah, but for this point, we’ll leave it as prophet) didn’t fit into idealized behaviors that were expected. John wore uncomfortable clothing (a type worn by ascetics as a form of penance or self-denial), and ate “cakes” of dried honey and locusts (yum?). They said he had a demon. John the Baptist, for the record, was unique in his ministry, not his “taste” in clothing and food.
The same people that questioned John the Baptist’s sanity, purity, and holiness, used a completely different measurement tool for Jesus. Jesus dared to drink a lot (whether it was high alcohol or not was never the argument of his contemporaries), eat a lot (he was probably a popular guest), and spend time with the less socially advantaged.
Bluntly, these almost word-for-word statements have been used by far too many Evangelicals (even the demon-one) against Christians of other traditions (and sometimes even within). Far too many worship (yes, worship) forms of worship and obedience far more than they worship God.
There is, of course, a slippery slope. That, too, is an issue worth pointing out. If everything is allowed, then the holiness and righteousness of God are impinged upon. The freedom to do “whatever” is also often worshiped and causes its own troubles (Romans 5:20–6:14).
Who, what, how we worship are all critical considerations for our lives of faith. We just need to be careful that which we call unrighteous (or otherwise inappropriate) worship is not because of the way we see it, rather than how God sees it.
- What does worshiping as a person after God’s own heart look like? How might it be different than your current practices? How might it be the same?
- Why do we often overcomplicate the worship of God? What kind of actions have you experienced that have hampered your worship of God? Have those same actions been a vital part of another’s worship experience?
- How does the worship in our hearts work with or against the worship of our actions (i.e., body)?
Glory to God, who is able to do far beyond all that we could ask or imagine by his power at work within us; glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus for all generations, forever and always. Amen. [Ephesians 3:20–21]