Sunday, June 24, 2007


Suppose you have a problem: God doesn't like your worship. Naturally, we don't normally know this, but let's suppose we do for a second. Let's suppose we know that God downright despises our worship.

What's the solution? Well, it's obvious, isn't it? It must not be heartfelt enough. It's not sincere enough. We need to forget about our brains and worry about our heart. (Forgetting that in Hebrew thought, that's a contradiction.) This must be the answer, right?

Well, not always. In Amos 5:21-24, we have the following in ESV:

21 "I hate, I despise your feasts, and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies. 22 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. 23 Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. 24 But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream.

Apparently, the solution to the problem in this particular case was to "let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream." This solution, while it doesn't ignore the heart, is so much more than that! Justice has an external aspect to it: we treat other people justly, or not. What is righteousness? Webster's 1828 dictionary defines it this way:

1. Purity of heart and rectitude of life; conformity of heart and life to the divine law. Righteousness, as used in Scripture and theology, in which it is chiefly used, is nearly equivalent to holiness, comprehending holy principles and affections of heart, and conformity of life to the divine law. It includes all we call justice, honesty, and virtue, with holy affections; in short, it is true religion. 2. Applied to God, the perfection or holiness of his nature; exact rectitude; faithfulness. 3. The active and passive obedience of Christ, by which the law of God is fulfilled. Dan. 9. 4. Justice; equity between man and man. Luke 1. 5. The cause of our justification. "The Lord our righteousness." Jer. 23.

There's a lot there. Quiz question: which definition is being thought of in the Amos passage? I submit that the answer is "all of the above." Firstly, the Amos passage speaks of this justice and righteousness "rolling down." Well, I would interpret that to mean that justice and righteousness come first from God to us. We can do nothing right without His grace. Secondly, this justice and righteousness must surely work its way out in our lives. We have the imputed active obedience of Christ; therefore, let us reflect that! And of course, to do so we still need God's strength. We can do none of this on our own. And yet, we must do it.

Only then will our worship be acceptable to God.

So why does this matter? Because worship is what we're going to be doing for an eternity. If that sounds boring, you're in for a surprise in heaven (assuming, by God's grace, you get there)! The stereotype of heaven is playing harps on clouds. Many people, not being musicians, don't get that picture. Here's an alternative: heaven is going to be like sex, only a lot better: infinitely better. Why is it like sex? Because sex is the consummation of human marriages, and heaven is the consummation of the heavenly one: Christ with His church. But I say that sex is only the image, the picture, the shadow of the much greater thing: heaven. That's what heaven's going to be like. How does that sound?

In Christ.

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