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. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. Amos 5:21-24
     Dear heavenly Father, you sure don’t mince any words in this text; it’s startling, actually. But you never get in our face except to drive us into more of the riches of your grace. Such is the beauty of the relationship you’ve established with us in Jesus. Such is the purpose of your “life-giving rebukes” (Prov. 15:31). There’s no condemnation left for us in Christ, but there is plenty of convicting work to be done by your Holy Spirit!
     Meditating on this Scripture leads me to these conclusions, convictions, and petitions. First and foremost, it’s quite possible for us to thoroughly enjoy a service of worship—the liturgy, the Lord’s Supper, the music—and yet the same service might actually grieve you. Conversely, there are probably services we exit bored, critical, and “uninspired,” and yet, in these services, you may find great delight and pleasure.
     Forgive me when I make my experience the measure of the acceptability of your worship. How arrogant of me. It’s not a scorecard I should take into a service, but a broken and contrite heart—in need of your grace and hungry for your glory.
     Father, it’s also obvious that “justice rolling like a river” and “righteousness flowing like a never-failing stream” is music in your ears. These are the kind of “praise songs” you really enjoy—the hymnody for which you long. Your worship is never just about a “set list”, but a changed people.
     Forgive me when the new song of the gospel does not lead me to a new life of caring for others. Forgive me when the satisfaction of being in your presence does not lead me to the sacrifice of serving in the community. Forgive me when I can be just as disconnected and merciless as the priest or the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan; men who enjoyed your real presence and then proceeded to ignore real need (Luke 10:25-37).
     Lord Jesus, you are the quintessential Good Samaritan, who constantly comes to us with new mercies and endless grace. When you first revealed the gospel to me, I wasn’t beaten and broken alongside the road; I was running from you as fast as I could.
     I know God and worship God only because you first cared for me, served me, loved me by giving your life for me. I praise you for making this rebel, fool and idolater a beloved child and worshiper of God. Continue to make of me a humble, grateful, joyful worship servant. So very Amen I pray, to your glory and by your grace.