What are these texts saying? More important, how can the principle here be applied directly to our own spiritual life today, as Seventh-day Adventists? That is, in what ways might we be guilty of doing exactly what is warned about here? (Remember, too, that it is very easy to be self-deceived in this area).
More than most other books of the Bible, Amos focuses on injustice, cruelty, and inhumanity. It also offers the divine perspective on such practices. Amos preached that God despised the empty rituals of the people’s dead formalism, and He called upon them to reform. The Lord was not pleased by outward and empty forms of worship offered to Him by those who at the same time were oppressing others for the sake of personal gain. Their lives revealed that they missed the whole point of what it means to be followers of Yahweh; they also totally misunderstood the deeper meaning of His law.
Indeed, God rejected their religious rituals because they did not flow from lives of faith. The climactic words in Amos 5:14-15 are the command to seek the Lord and live. Seeking the Lord is contrasted with making pilgrimages to the famous religious centers in Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba (Amos 5:5), three cities with their sanctuaries that were destined for destruction.
What God really wanted was justice and righteousness in the land. The command to “seek the Lord” parallels the one to “seek good.” The Lord called on the remnant to distance themselves from evil practices and religious formalism and, instead, to let justice flow like a river and righteousness flow like a never-failing stream. While justice concerns the establishment of what is right before God, righteousness is the quality of life in relationship to God and others in the community. The picture presented here is that of a religious people whose religion had degraded into nothing but forms and rites without the change of heart that must accompany true faith. (See Deut. 10:16.)
How careful we must be.