Amos 5:21-24


"I hate, I despise your festivals,

   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 offerings of well-being of your fatted animals

   I will not look upon. 

Take away from me the noise of your songs;

   I will not listen to the melody of your harps. 

But let justice roll down like waters,

   and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream" (Amos 5:21-24). 


I know that Amos was speaking a judgement against the rich because they were living in luxury while oppressing the poor. He wants the people of Israel to repent and turn back to the ways of God and justice. I am wondering what the metaphysical meaning of "justice" and "righteousness" is for today.


Amos was a humble shepherd called by the Lord to prophesy to the people of Israel in the eighth century B.C.E. It was a time of great prosperity and relative peace—although a peace maintained through great military expenditures. It is said that a prophet's role is, at least in part, to "afflict the comfortable," but it is a very unpopular role, and Amos was eventually forbidden to issue his warnings and sent back to his farm.

I think the meaning of this passage is clear. The Lord is saying through his prophet that outward demonstrations of faith are useless unless they are centered in justice and righteousness. I don't think the "metaphysical meaning" of justice or righteousness has changed from Amos's time to the present. However superficially prosperous we may be, as individuals or as nations, it will be shallow and temporary if we are out of divine alignment, treating others with injustice or judgmental discrimination.


Rev. Ed