Two Things God Want You to Pursue – Justice and Righteousness
What is it that God wants you to do? Can you know? What happens if you don’t do them? Amos was an Old Testament Prophet. He revealed to us two things all people are to pursue – justice and righteousness. Before we get to them, we need to look at what is useless in God’s eyes if we don’t pursue these two things.
The Day of the Lord
Woe to you who long
for the day of the LORD! (Amos 5:18)
What is the Day of the Lord and what does it have to do with how we should live? Amos was the first prophet to write about it and it was already part of Jewish doctrine by the time he lived.
The Day of the Lord was the day that the Lord would come and make everything right. All their enemies would be vanquished, prosperity would be restored along with the glory of the people.
As the years, decades and centuries passed, it came to be understood as the culmination of the ages. The Day of the Lord was understood by New Testament times to mark Jesus’ return to earth, judgment and a new heaven and new earth.
The Day of the Lord still means something significant today as it did in Amos’ day.
But Amos confronted the people with the accusation that they wanted something they didn’t understand. They had created their own meaning for it and had completely overlooked any negative possibility that day might bring (like judgment). They thought: finally, ease and comfort.
So Amos Gave Them a Reality Check
Why do you long for the day of the LORD?
That day will be darkness, not light.
It will be as though a man fled from a lion
only to meet a bear,
as though he entered his house
and rested his hand on the wall
only to have a snake bite him.
Will not the day of the LORD be darkness, not light—
pitch-dark, without a ray of brightness? (Amos 5:18-20)
The Day of the Lord for them will be darkness. There will be no prophetic voice, no revelation, no Jesus.
It is a day that marks the end of God’s redemptive work on earth. It is a day of complete darkness – not a ray of hope! This day will remove all hope from those whose hearts are not right.
It Doesn’t Get Any Better!
“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;
your assemblies are a stench to me.
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.
Away with the noise of your songs!
I will not listen to the music of your harps.” (Amos 5:21-23)
God expressed his hatred for their rituals, feasts, sacrifices, music and assemblies! That seems almost unbelievable because all these things were prescribed by God in the law of Moses. Even in our day, when we do these things don’t we do them for him?
God hated these things because they did them for themselves. All of it was done to please their tastes and clear their consciences. They didn’t think of God as they did it, their focus was on themselves.
How Could They Be So Wrong?
Here’s the scary part: the people thought everything was good between them and God! They were blind to their own condition. How could this happen?
It happened to them as it can happen to us today. Four things seemed to get in the way of living right:
- Dependence on tradition. Keeping the traditions became an end in themselves. There is nothing wrong with tradition but we must always keep in mind the reason for the tradition.
- Wrong focus. It is too easy to shift focus from what pleases God to what pleases ourselves.
- Dependence on ‘chosenness.’ They were, after all, the chosen people of God. Surely they could do as they pleased as long as they did the right things. Which brings us to the last thing.
- Dependence on activity. They thought if they did the right things in the right places everything was going to be fine. It reminds us of a scary passage of scripture from the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23) Finally that brings us to answer the question that will help us escape from this great danger brought on by the Day of the Lord.
What Does God Want?
“But let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24)
These two things reflect the nature and character of God. His desire is always that we would be like him.
Practice justice. God expresses a particular concern for the poor, widows and orphans. These people had nearly no opportunities in ancient society. Today, we must look after the disenfranchised – like all kinds of minorities, the marginalized – the homeless, as well as the poor. We are to ensure they are protected from injustice. As followers of Jesus, we have a moral responsibility to welcome them warmly into the fellowship of the church.
Live in righteousness. This means we are in right relationship with God. We nurture thoughts, attitudes, words and actions that please God and are consistent with his character.
How do we live this way?
By faith. Everything we do in our spiritual lives starts by faith. We are saved and sanctified by faith. We must believe that we can live out God’s purpose for our lives. That is faith in action.
In obedience. Faith in action is expressed by obedience to the leadership of Jesus in our lives. As God’s will is revealed we are obedient by faith.
By grace and devotion. Grace is God’s part. He gives us strength, power, encouragement, wisdom and everything we need for our daily lives. Devotion is our part. To be devoted to him means we are constantly seeking his will and his way so we can live lives that please him.
As followers of Jesus we must be intentional in our daily lives. Today, ask God what you need to do to practice justice and righteousness. Make this part of your prayer. Then, when God reveals it, do it!