Hollow
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“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings. Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.” Amos 5:21-23

Prophets have a hard job. God tells them what to say, and then they have to stand up in front of people and say it. And the message that God gives them is rarely, “Great job, folks! Keep it up!”

Even so, these particular verses from Amos seem harsh. Imagine if your preacher stood up in the pulpit and said, “This is what God has told me to say to you: ‘I hate, I despise your potlucks and your worship services. Even though you offer Me your tithe and your offering, I will not accept them. Take away from Me the noise your praise songs and hymns, for I will not hear the melody of your pianos, organs, guitars or drums.”

It sure sounds like God hates church! Why would He hate church?

What God hates is hollow worship – where people just go through the motions. I think we’ve probably all done that from time to time. Maybe we’ve had a really rough week, so we come to church and we stand when the congregation stands, kneel when everybody kneels, we may even talk to people we know. We sit through the whole service but we leave without ever being mentally or spiritually touched by anything that went on. If anybody asked us what the message was, we probably couldn’t tell them.

Imagine though, if that went on for so long, that we accept that as how things should be. We’re just going through the motions – we look like Christians, we act like Christians, we even think we are Christians, but we have no relationship with God at all. And that’s what God hates – hollow Christians.

Amos was talking to the Jews of his time. Jesus said pretty much the same things to the Jews of His time.

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” Matthew 23:23-28

The scribes and the Pharisees were hollow just like their worship. They made sure they did all the right things, wore the right clothes, and ate all the right foods, but it was all for show. In their hearts they were selfish people who took advantage of people who sincerely were seeking God.

John Boykin explains in his column, “The Gospel of Coincidence.”

“What was so bad about [the Pharisees’] hypocrisy? If we think of it as consisting merely in their teaching or pretending one thing while in fact practicing something contradictory, we will miss Jesus’ main point. What He nailed them for was that they were using God and the things of God as a means to some other end. That’s what was insidious about the Pharisees’ example. ‘They do all their deeds to be noticed by men’ (Matthew 23:5). … Theirs was a problem of priorities: their first priority was social status, to which end God was but a means. What greater affront to God could there be? Better to ignore Him altogether than to exploit Him as a means to something else you value more highly.”1

Why are we Christians? Why do we go to the church we do? Is coming to church mainly our social event of the week? Are we more concerned about what we wear than what we hear from the pulpit? Do we worry more about the form of worship than actually worshipping? And what difference does it make, anyway? Isn’t it more important that we’re there than not being involved at all?

“Jesus spoke as one having knowledge and authority. The denunciation he uttered against the Jews condemned their formalism and hypocrisy. His scathing rebukes and denunciation of formalism have the same force today as they had in the days of the scribes and Pharisees, and apply to those who have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof. The God of infinite holiness cannot accept external service as spiritual worship. Those who worship God must worship him in spirit and truth, or their service is vain. There must be reality in the religious ceremonies, or they are simply pretensions, hollow abominations. But though Jesus rebuked the priests and religious teachers for their formalism and hypocrisy, yet how forbearing and tender were his lessons to the poor, the oppressed, the afflicted, and discouraged. The priests and rulers, the scribes and Pharisees, destroyed the living pastures, and defiled the well-springs of the water of life. By their false precepts they confused the understanding, and clouded that which was clear. They misrepresented God by their hardness of heart, by their impurity, pride, and selfishness. They made God altogether such a one as themselves. Their imagination was darkened and polluted by their wicked works. Because of their religious degeneracy they could discern nothing that pertained to the spiritual kingdom of Christ. Through rejecting the messages of mercy brought to them by the Lord of light and glory, they became, in their stubborn resistance, past feeling. They had evidence in abundance of the divine character and mission of Christ, and increased evidence would only have increased their guilt. Thinking themselves to be wise, they became fools. As men do today, so they did then, and used the very intellect that God had given them to brand with falsehood his eternal truth.” (E.G. White, Sabbath School Worker, December 1, 1894)

So, what’s it going to be for us? Are we going to take our lead from the Pharisees or from Jesus? Will we allow the vessel to become more important to us than the contents? Are we going to worry more about how people are dressed at church than that they’re at church at all? Are we going to come to church to meet our friends or to meet with God? Are we going to let the formality of our church service get between God and a searching heart?

God is longing to meet us and inhabit our worship. Let’s not let our worship be hollow any more. Let’s not wait to hear, “Woe unto you!” Let’s fill our hearts and minds with the spirit of praise.

  1. John Boykin, The Gospel of Coincidence, Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 5
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Comments

Hollow — 18 Comments

  1. Very good commentary on the verses in Amos. We should all strive to worship in spirit and in truth. However, although it is more important that someone is at church than how that person is dressed, the person may be the only one worshipping, as the "dress" maybe so distracting, that no one else can worship. One does not go to church and expect to be looking down another persons clefts or cleavages.

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  2. Acts 2:38 If we are baptized we are one with the spirit of God. If we are baptized and have not received gift of spirit then we are buried alive. It is a dangerous job to be Adventist. I think that Jesus did not rebuke Pharisees because He was judging them but to open their eyes. If He told them they were hypocrites we read that like He insulted them. I think Jesus goal was to wake them up. To be honest to them. Not to flatter to them wile they were going in damnation. They have relationship with Jesus although not pleasant one. Some of them even repented in time of Acts. Not all from the poor peoples repented. They do show greater respect to Jesus than Pharisees but were not they in their need? From 10 lepers only 1 come back! When need is satisfied then are they not dreaming to be like Pharisee -- a blessed one and strong one and winner not loser ?

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  3. It is true that the inside of the cup is more important than the way one dresses, but the lack of leadership in the church has gone a little bit too far...We must realize that even if we are all sinners, there is a level of respect for God that is amiss in our churches these days. We dishonor God by distracting or hindering others' worship by displaying our nakedness...The way some of our women dress will not be accepted in court, why do it in church? God is patient, but He also asks us to rectify our ways and to exhort one another with love...

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    • God bless you my sister. When a lady dresses in such a way that is exposing her body or undies, either by loose covering or tight fitting and some male is lusting seriously and is distracted from what he came to do, such lady should rethink and read the commentary for wisdom and knowledge. We should learn and begin to worship God in spirit and in truth.

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  4. Lillianne, to me it is the simple matter of being a real disciple of Jesus. Often we equate that with witnessing or giving Bible studies, even doing something for those in need but if we do all those things without love it amounts to nothing (1 Cor 13:1-3). We may think that we have to do things like that because Jesus commands us to but that mental attitude is just legalism, salvation by works. It is when we treat others the way we would like to be treated and honestly want to do good without duress that we emulate the character of Jesus and stop being "hollow".

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  5. I can't agree more! As a result I'll b presenting this topic for discussion on Sabbath afternoon. Thanks

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  6. Very great analysis. We need first to be convicted by the Holy Spirit. We ought to be filled by the Holy Spirit and experience the power.

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  7. Jesus continued to tell them to repent until some did. It may take time but even if the mind of that person sitting in the church maybe be somewhere else, one of the many programs will touch that unrepented heart. It can be a hymnal, a memory verse or even a prayer. In one way or the other that coming together is good and brings a good end. Act 20:9 talks about Eutychus who was even asleep as Paul gave a very long sermon such that the youngman even got injured after falling from the upper flow. I guess that marked a turning point in his prayer life.

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    • Very interesting insight in Acts 20:9, even if one falls asleep while listening to preaching he can die and be resurrected- in one word: have experience with God and a top one experience: to be resurrected.

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  8. I write to beg God for forgiveness for my church fits Christ's description of an hypocrite. Please pray for us.

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  9. Anyone heard the proverbial boiling of the frog? The Devil is boiling Adventists to death in a church. Some of us don’t even know it. We think we are saved. The scribes and Pharisees didn't become hypocrites overnight. As suggested, it starts with disregarding intimate relationship with God in our personal time. Public worship is the icing, not the cake. God is so important that we should put him first. We must read his word DAILY and formally pray a few times during the day. Fellow believer once shared with me how she comes to Church just out of habit. Wish I told her she's on a dangerous road. Can you imagine the redeemed showing up to the Holy City on Sabbaths to worship “just out of habit?” I understand how repetitiveness in our routine might turn our worship to a mere habit but our God is a God of varieties and spices. If anyone knows how to spice up food, it’s Him. May God spice up our relationship with him by His Spirit lest we fall into a trap of complacency that leads to hypocrisy.

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  10. Church can be a Holy Spirit Hospital where we go to church every sabbath seeking our little bit of the Spirit, to ease our guilt for not giving god time during the week. If everyone at church is doing the same the Spirit never satisfies and church becomes a great breeding ground for the church police. (Did you see Mrs Brown had nail polish on today)

    A church which has members who grow in the Holy Spirit during the week, praying without ceasing, learning to love time with God every day, and bringing the Holy Spirit in abundance on Sabbath, becomes a church that God can send seekers along to, people praying for truth. What an amazing God, a huge God who wants to pour blessings out on all people!

    The only ones keeping it hollow and blocking blessings are you and I

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  11. Since 1844, God has looked for a generation who will be sealed. The Bible says it will happen, but doesn't tell us when. That is up to us. True worship can only be practiced in holiness. (Ps 29:2 & Ps 96:9) So the message in Revelation 14 is calling people to be holy,["fear God...give glory to Him...and worship Him..."] and only holy people can give that message with the power that must attend it. It's not the "worship" that God hates, it's the unholy lives that pretend to worship, which renders such worship as useless and even disgusting in God's sight. Our greatest need seems to be honesty with ourselves in the light of God's word, which will "reprove, correct and instruct in righteousness" if we search it with faith, and with the purpose to obey it by God's grace. He can keep us from falling, but we must submit to Him fully if that is to happen.

    The message of Amos speaks to us more than to those who lived in his day.

    Yes, there may be many among us who dress inappropriately, or sin in some other way, but what has that to do with MY obedience to God? Study 1 Samuel 14 to know what God's servants will do while the rest do nothing or actually desert the cause of God. That is our example if we would be found faithful. It's just not safe to wait for others, but to do the work God has given to us to do. That is all we will be held accountable for. Also, notice the revival that takes place in that story as those two faithful servants do God's work, trusting in Him. They led by example, without the consent of others.

    Do we wish to hear those blessed words: "Well done!"?

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  12. I believe most Christians are still carnal and no wonder that they are not different from natural men. They don not walk in the strength of Jesus because He is not central in their lives. It is sad that we still have people in our churches to day who are like the scribes and the Pharisees. We are supposed to be heavenly ambassadors on earth who are completely transformed from all elements of the world. We are supposed to be new creatures and lamps placed on top of the hills. We are supposed to be like those women who had their lamps full of oil. We are high priests and the chosen generation of God. But the way we behave completely shows that we are off line and that we will not have our bodies redeemed to the incorruptible body of the living God. Christians lets show what God has deposited in our spirits. If it is His Word lets be the word, nothing more or less. God has already done us a great thing by making our bodies His dwelling place. Now lets look at what we do with our bodies. Are we using them to bring out the best of God? Lets look at the way we dress, speak, walk. Is God found in all these things? If not then lets ask God to do something new in our lives that will live to glorify Him and not man.Remember we are going to see Jesus but not in these childish behaviours. We prefer to dress better before man and not God. Is this how things are supposed to be? Ask your self if Jesus will not disqualify you when He comes again. Lets finish the race like Paul who fought a good fight and won.

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