In Amos day, Israel longed for God’s justice to fall on the nations all around them. They wanted their enemies destroyed! Israelites referred to this event as “The Day Of The Lord.” He would ride into Israel on a white steed, draw his brilliant sword, and smite all the enemies of God’s people. This became the common thought of Israel up to and including the day of Jesus. They thought Jesus would come and smite the Romans and set Israel free. That’s exactly what Israel wanted from the Messiah when Jesus offered Himself at the triumphant entry. They wanted “The Day Of The Lord.” This phrase makes up a technical term and has several facets to it, but the main one is the coming judgment of God on the ungodly. I’m afraid that we’re a lot like Israel in that we long to see our enemies face God’s judgment. We seem to think, as Israel did, that God is on our side.

Amos warned Israel about calling for The Day Of The Lord. In 5:18-19, he says, “Woe to you who desire the day of the LORD! Why would you have the day of the LORD? It is darkness, and not light, as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him or went into the house and leaned his hand against the wall, and a serpent bit him.” Israel thought they would be exempt from God’s judgment because they observed the religious rituals of the Old Testament. But they were mistaken. Amos tells them in 5:21-23 that God hates their religious ritual and won’t accept their sacrifices. This passage says, “I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.  Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them; and the peace offerings of your fattened animals, I will not look upon them.  Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps, I will not listen.” I can’t imagine a harsher criticism of the religious practices of the Jews. I don’t think they are that different from our own. We have feasts. We offer sacrifices (tithes and offerings). We sing songs and play musical instruments. Israel did these things thinking it would curry favor with God. He will be good to us, or we will get something from it. We sometimes see it that way also. It’s just a lot of noise to God.

The greatest commandment is to love God and then let God’s love work through our lives and out as love for others. These are the two most important commandments, according to Jesus. They are far more important than religious rituals. God is not into religion! He’s into relationships. Jesus reminds us that we are to love others as he has loved us. It’s love that will cover a multitude of sins. When I pray and still hate someone, I should stop it because God cares more about my relationships than he does my prayers. When I get it right, then he’s ready to hear my prayers. If anyone has trespassed against me, I’m to forgive as I want God to forgive me. I should not return evil for evil but good for evil. I should live at peace with all men as far as it’s up to me. I should be filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. I must be kind and tenderhearted in all my relationships: at home, on the job, at school, in the community, and in the world. God is not into religion but relationships. Radmacher said, “The sad truth remains that often the religious of the world do more to keep people from Jesus Christ than most worldly atheists. But the gospel is not religion. It is Good News that can free even the most horrible sinner.”