Daily Riches: Drowning Out Cries of the Oppressed with the Noise of Hymns (Abraham Heschel)

“In [ancient] Israel … sacrifice is an essential act of worship. It is the experience of giving oneself vicariously to God and of being received by Him. And yet, the pre-exilic prophets uttered violent attacks on sacrifices (Amos 5:21-27; Hos. 6:6; Isa. 1:11-17; Mic. 6:6-8; Jer. 6:20; 7:21-23; Isa. 61:1-2; Pss. 40:7; 50:12-13). Samuel insisted: ‘Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams’ (1 Sam. 15:22). However, while Samuel stressed the primacy of obedience over sacrifice, Amos and the prophets who followed him not only stressed the primacy of morality over sacrifice, but even proclaimed that the worth of worship, far from being absolute, is contingent upon moral living, and that when immorality prevails, worship is detestable. Questioning man’s right to worship through offerings and songs, they maintained that the primary way of serving God is through love, justice and righteousness. …Of course, the prophets did not condemn the practice of sacrifice in itself; otherwise, we should have to conclude that Isaiah intended to discourage the practice of prayer (Isa. 1:14-15). They did, however, claim that deeds of injustice vitiate both sacrifice and prayer. Men may not drown the cries of the oppressed with the noise of hymns, nor buy off the Lord with increased offerings. The prophets disparaged the cult when it became a substitute for righteousness.” Abraham Heschel – The Prophets

“I hate all your show and pretense—
    the hypocrisy of your religious festivals and solemn assemblies.
I will not accept your burnt offerings and grain offerings.
    I won’t even notice all your choice peace offerings.
Away with your noisy hymns of praise!
    I will not listen to the music of your harps.
Instead, I want to see a mighty flood of justice,
    an endless river of righteous living.” Amos 5:21-27

Moving From the Head to the Heart

  • Do you think of the “worth of your worship” as being “contingent upon [your] moral living?” …as an individual? …as a congregation?
  • Do you live as though “the primary way of serving God is through love, justice and righteousness?” If not, what is your primary “way?”
  • Is your congregation perhaps satisfied with and distracted by “the noise of hymns”, and oblivious to the “cries of the oppressed?” …are you?

Daily may we hearken to you, O Yahweh.

For More: The Prophets by Abraham Heschel

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These “Daily Riches” are for your encouragement as you seek after God and he seeks after you. I hope you’ll follow my blog, and share it. My goal is to share something of unique value with you in 400 words or less. I appreciate your interest!  Please leave a comment or question. –  Bill (Psalm 90:14)

“I practice daily what I believe; everything else is religious talk.”

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