Let Justice Roll Down like Waters

In August of 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. In that speech, he alluded to the words of the prophet Amos when he said: “we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

Indeed, it is right for us to be dissatisfied as long as there is injustice in our world. God Himself was truly unsatisfied with His people when he rebuked them in the book of Amos, in the passage to which King referred:

“I hate, I reject your festivals, Nor do I delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer up to Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them; And I will not even look at the peace offerings of your fatlings.
Take away from Me the noise of your songs; I will not even listen to the sound of your harps. But let justice roll down like waters And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:21-24)

The people of Israel enjoyed festivals, sort of like we enjoy potluck meals and get-togethers. They had solemn assemblies, just as we bow our heads to pray for those who are hurting among us. They offered sacrifices both of animals and of song, even as we take up an offering from our weekly incomes and pour our hearts out through singing.

Yet God was profoundly dissatisfied with the state of things in Israel. The words He used to describe His feeling towards their religious observances are “I hate,” “I have no delight,” “I will not accept,” “I will not even look at,” “take them away,” and “I will not even listen.”

Why? Why would God reject all of Israel’s religion? Because they were not letting justice and righteousness flow through their lives.

Let this be a warning to us. Coming to church on Sunday, giving a few dollars, and singing a few songs is not sufficient to satisfy God.   He wants a people who live their lives in honesty, purity, and respect.

God wants a people who treat others the way they would want to be treated; who truly care about the ostracized, mistreated, and needy in their world. A people who are not content with injustice and who will not accept that “that’s just the way things are.”

As the Lord said in Hosea 6 and as Jesus repeated in Matthew 9, “I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.”

Do you honor your husband, wife, parents, or children by the way you live, even when they are not around? Will you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and respond to their needs with love rather than judgment and bitterness? Do you care that others are being mistreated? Will you stand up for those who are being taken advantage of? Will you live a life that puts others first?

Will you refuse to be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream?

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