When Will the New Moon Be Over?
by Jacob Hudgins
“When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale…?”(Amos 8:5).
As Amos promises judgment from God on the northern tribes of Israel, he has pronounced several charges against them. They are corrupt and abusive (Amos 2:6-7), live in excess while others suffer (Amos 4:1, 6:1-6), and inhibit God’s work among them (Amos 2:12). Yet here Amos seizes on their worship: “Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath, that we may offer wheat for sale, that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great and deal deceitfully with false balances, that we may buy the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals and sell the chaff of the wheat?”(Amos 8:4-6). They whine and complain about the worship festivals God has commanded. When will the new moon be over? When can we get back to the real business of life?
Israel is wishing away holy times and sacred feasts because they are merely an inconvenience, inhibiting the true pursuits of life. When they do so, it is merely a matter of time before they begin to treat others cruelly. This passage reminds us that worship affects life.
Proper worship aligns us with God’s priorities. God gives the people new moons and Sabbaths—as well as the other yearly festivals—so that they can remember what is important. They are to be moments of gladness (Num 10:10). God wants them to call Sabbaths a “delight”(Isa 58:13). At the beginning of each month and the end of each week, the Israelites would remember how God has blessed them, sustained them, and given them a land and a law. When we disdain worship and long for it to end quickly, we are neglecting an opportunity to connect with God’s heart.
Proper worship is a check on mistreatment of others. Amos connects the two. “Hear this, you who trample on the needy and bring the poor of the land to an end, saying, ‘When will the new moon be over, that we may sell grain?’”(Amos 8:4-5). There is a lack of introspection in the worship Amos describes. We just want it to be over so that we can get back to what we really care about—making money at others’ expense. Yet proper worship helps us to see God’s priority for others. Worship helps us see that we are being deceitful (Amos 8:5) and cruel (Amos 8:6). Worship naturally bleeds over into evaluating how we are showing love to others.
Proper worship leaves us humble and grateful. Amos promises God’s judgment on the people for the way they are treating him and one another. “I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation”(Amos 8:10). They should be ashamed and God promises they will be. “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD”(Amos 8:11). God will bring something worse than famine by refusing to speak to them anymore. Amos is attempting to move the people the way worship should move them—toward humility and serious contemplation of their state before God. This is the whole point of the new moon feast and the reason it is to be accompanied by burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings, and sin offerings (Num 28:11ff). Worship reminds us that we don’t deserve God’s favor. Thinking about what we deserve leaves us humble; thinking about what we have received anyway leaves us grateful.
For Christians, this text helps us see God’s holy intent in worship. Worship affects life. We must beware wishing away worship, focusing solely on the outward acts. We cannot afford to pass up opportunities to connect with God, consider our lives, and pursue humility and gratitude.
Worship affects life. How is your worship affecting your life?