The noise of our songs


While out shoveling snow recently, I had Pandora playing in my pocket. The station was one of several I have based upon a worship artist. I was concentrating more on the cold than the music, until the music moved to the fore and I heard a new song. It was a live recording of what I call a worshiper-centered song (as opposed to one that is centered on the object of our worship, God). As I heard it, these words from scripture started rolling around in my head: ” 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 overflowing stream” (Amos 5:23-24). I didn’t actually know the scripture word for word, but I had the general gist of it and looked it up later.

Amos, a prophet, is speaking a word from God to the people of Israel in that passage. The people were very concerned with correct worship and relatively unconcerned with the needs of the people around them. Because of that, God calls their songs noise and, in an earlier verse, says that he despises their festivals, doesn’t get excited about their worship gatherings, and doesn’t accept their offerings (Amos 5:21-22). That’s pretty strong language. I wonder how God feels about our worship today.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think this was some kind of prophetic voice I heard while shoveling snow. I’m not one who condemns contemporary worship music. I am a worship leader, for goodness sake, who has been moved by that type of music and uses it to bring others to an experience with God. But I sometimes worry we’re sending the message that singing the right songs is all that we need, as if we can live out our entire life of faith one hour on Sunday each week.

I’m concerned that we have raised up a generation of worshipers and not a generation of servants. There are many who tend to be very comfortable singing songs about God, and less comfortable working for justice and righteousness, serving our community, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and walking alongside the broken. We need a healthy balance of worship and service, right thought and right action, singing and doing.

In the meantime, I switched Pandora to my Bruce Springsteen channel and kept shoveling.

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