—Amos 5:25-27 (NASB)
God judged the first generation of Israelites that refused to take Canaan as ordered by making them wander for 40 years in the wilderness until that generation died; that is, paid the price for their sin. What God is stating here is that because of the hardness of their heart and predisposition to worship false gods, it didn’t matter if they followed the rituals provided in the Law of Moses because God did not accept their sacrifices. The same case is being stated in judgment of the generation at Amos’ time, that God refused to acknowledge and receive their sacrifiices and worship because He knew that they were spiritually unfaithul in following alternate false gods.
We need to step back here a minute and really let this sink in. The deeper teaching being presented is that God cannot be manipulated or obligated to work in any certain way just because we invoke a formula, even one He originally provided. His indisputable sovereignty allows Him to reject anything given to Him in name only. If the heart is not in it, even though the “rules” and “procedures” have been followed diligently in every detail, He is not bound by it. This is critical when dealing with people who think that they can obligate God to respond to them based on their invoking a rite or method or prayer. There are people that believe they can invoke the “Prayer of Jabez” or exercise a “name it and claim it” mentality to obligate God to provide financial blessings. The condition of the heart is God’s foremost precondition to getting His attention.
There’s a second parallel here in the false gods that are specifically mentioned: They all represent celestial bodies and/or stars in the heavens. Sun and moon and star worship were very common throughout the ancient world. But this is contrasted in the final statement in these verses, “says the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts.” That is, HE is the God over all the celestial bodies! Even if it were possible that some of them assumed the status of a god (they did not), the One True God and their Creator would be sovereign over them. Their attempt to appease God by observing the rituals but actually giving their hearts to things that He made and ruled over was a double-slap at God’s kingship and authority. (If it weren’t so sad in its consequences, it would almost be funny.)
When we hold back even a little, when we give even the slightest of priorities to something else, when we allow ourselves to become conflicted in our loyalties between God and other things — even if it’s 99% FOR God and only 1% for something else — we are actually engaging in the foolish notion that God is limited and not Ruler over all. That behavior adheres to the wrong belief that there is something God is not in control and command of, and leads us to elevate its spiritual status above God’s, to replace Him with another. Most likely it’s not an idol or the type of false gods Israel struggled with, but I’m sure you’re filling in the blanks as you apply it personally.
Lord, that I would submit everything to Your authority and rule no matter the size or cost, that I might always be acceptable in Your sight.†††