Israel and Judah flourished in the middle of the eighth century BC. Both kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south, had expanded their territories and secured their borders. The superpowers of their day, Egypt and Assyria, were preoccupied elsewhere, and Israel and Judah were free to increase trade and revenue. They enjoyed the fruits of economic and political success. Then God sent a Judean farmer named Amos to prophesy to Israel.
Amos brought a stern warning against Israel. The people had grown complacent in the peace and prosperity of their land. Their hearts had slowly turned from dependence on God to believing they deserved His blessing. They continued to attend temple worship, but their hearts lacked devotion to God. The priest would come to the temple and call the people to worship with the words of Psalm 95:6-7, “Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker. For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” Amos had the nerve to mock this call to worship outside of the temple with these words, “’Enter Bethel and transgress; in Gilgal multiply transgression! Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three days. Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened, and proclaim freewill offerings, make them known. For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,’ declares the LORD your God (Amos 4:4-5).”
Amos openly rebuked the people for practicing religious rituals, because their hearts were far from God. He even referred to their temple attendance as sin. Enter the temple and multiply your transgression! He repeated the following phrase five times in Amos 4, “’Yet you have not returned to the Me,’ declares the LORD.” God was not impressed with their religious practices, and He was less impressed with their prosperity. What God wanted was their hearts.
God sent numerous prophets, but Israel never understood. Eventually, God sent Assyria to overtake Israel and remove them from the land through deportation. That northern kingdom has never been heard from again. Don’t let your story end in destruction too.
Church is good. I encourage people to attend church and take part in activities of worship. However, church attendance and activities will not save you. You are saved only when you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. God does not merely seek an hour of your time on Sunday mornings. He demands your heart.
Isaiah 45:22 – “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.”