As we have considered the book of Amos, and particularly chapters4–5, we have seen that his message concerned Israel’s worship. In chapter 4, he called Israel to prepare to meet its God. This preparation would take the form of the people examining their worship. To be properly prepared to meet God, the people needed to embrace sincere worship, devout worship, repentant worship, and thoughtful worship.

In the first half of chapter 5, the prophet called his fellow Israelites to repentance. If they wanted to escape the judgement that was coming, they needed to hear God’s word, seek him, and repent of their sins as they actively pursued him.

The second half of chapter 5 (vv. 18–27) expands on what they needed to hear. In essence, they needed to hear God’s diagnosis of their worship. While they maintained the outward forms of worship, God was not deceived at what they were offering. Though it was masked by a veneer of faithfulness, their worship was, in truth, deeply deceptive, as evidenced in at least three ways.

First, their deceptive worship was displayed in deceptive theology (vv. 18–20).

While the people longed for the day of the Lord, believing that it would invite for them vindication and deliverance, God warned that it would actually invite judgement. Far from light, it would bring darkness; far from brightness, gloom. Their aberrant theology produced aberrant worship.

God-honouring worship is driven by good theology. If worship is a response to God’s revelation, it is imperative that we understand and embrace good theology to offer worship that is acceptable to him.

Our knowledge fuels our worship. In worship, we instruct one another in truth and in God’s character. Sound worship honours God, while deceptive worship dishonours him. For all these reasons, sound theology is imperative to faithful worship. As Tozer said a long time ago, “What comes into your mind when you think about God is the most important thing about you.” It is also the most important thing about our worship.

Second, their deceptive worship was displayed in deceptive hope (vv. 21–24).

Israel hoped that God would receive their technically correct worship because they were careful to follow the letter of the law. They included every element of prescribed worship in their gatherings, except the heart of gratitude from which worship must flow. God therefore refused to accept them.

If we want our worship to be pleasing to God we must realise that it takes more than rote adherence to prescribed forms. If our worship does not flow from a heart of gratitude and devotion to Christ, God will not receive it. We deceive ourselves. We deceive others. We do not deceive God.

Third, their deceptive worship was displayed in deceptive deities (vv. 25–27).

Sikkuth and Kiyyun were pagan gods who promised great deliverances. Where Yahweh seemed intent on pronouncing judgement, these gods promised deliverance. They were for more understanding and accommodating than Yahweh. Unfortunately, they were dead idols who could in no way deliver what they supposedly promised.

Too often, even as we go through the motions of worshipping God, we place our actual trust in the things that God has given to us. We pay lip service to him while trusting in our wealth, our career, our education, or our relationships. These things become our king and our star god and, in so doing, they invalidate our worship.

Israel needed to hear God’s diagnosis of their deceptive worship. So do we. As you reflect on Amos 5:18–27, ask God to reveal to you the deceptions of your heart, then repent and offer him worship that is a pleasing aroma in Christ.