by Al Maxey

Issue #410 ------- August 30, 2009
The heresy of heresies was common sense. The
Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes
and ears. It was their final, most essential, command.

George Orwell {1903-1950}
Nineteen Eighty-Four

God Hates Lamb Chops
In-depth Study of Amos 6:4-6

That's right. You heard me correctly. Our Lord God has no use whatsoever for lamb chops. In fact, if you actually devour this meat ... well, let's just say that I would hate to be the poor soul that stands before the Father on the day of judgment with lamb on his breath! Think I'm kidding?! It's right there in the Bible in words that could not be any plainer!! "Woe to you who are at ease in Zion ... Woe to you who ... eat lambs from the flock" [Amos 6:1, 3-4]. There you have it, folks! Plain as day! Our heavenly Father hates lamb chops. In fact, He disapproves of this meat so much that He pronounces a WOE upon anyone who eats it. So, all of you lamb eaters out there beware. Don't let anyone pull the wool over your eyes. You are placing your soul in eternal jeopardy!! And for what? That's right: just a bloody little chop on a plate with some mint sauce. Wake up, brethren! Repent!! The day of the Lord's wrath is at hand!!

By the way, do not let any of those godless liberals and digressives ever tell you that you can avoid the fires of hell by switching from lamb to veal. I know, I know. They can sound very convincing. But, you see -- God also hates veal cutlets!! Hey, don't look at me! I didn't write these laws ... I just preach them! "Woe to you ... who eat lambs from the flock and calves from the midst of the stall" [Amos 6:3-4]. Rules is rules, folks. Jesus asked, "What will a man give in exchange for his soul?" [Matt. 16:26]. Apparently, for some people, the answer is lamb chops and veal cutlets!! Oh, by the way, if after eating this forbidden food, you should choose to take a little nap, and so you go "stretch out on your couches" [Amos 6:4] ... WOE TO YOU. You see, God hates naps on couches, too! Brethren, I blush in shame as I confess this to you, but ... I have been guilty of this in the past. No more!! My plush couch is now out on the curb of the street for the heathen to haul off. I have returned it to the world where it belongs!! No more lamb, veal and couches in my home!! As for me and my house, WE will serve the Lord. Call me a legalist if you want to, but I even made my kids toss out those little Lamb Chop puppets Shari Lewis sold a few years back!! No sense flirting with sin!! It's a slippery slope. Today you're playing with a puppet, tomorrow you could be praying with a progressive!! It ain't worth the risk folks!

Okay, you're probably thinking: "It's finally happened. Al Maxey has completely lost his marbles!" No, but I'm sorry to report that some of my brethren have! Why? Because they are actually trying to formulate prohibitive law for the church from the above passage in Amos. It is such an absurd, ludicrous argument that I'm just as much amazed that they can proffer it with a straight face as I am that they proffer it at all. To what am I referring specifically? Instrumental music! All of those who oppose the use of instruments as either an aid or accompaniment to singing in a worshipful setting have searched the sacred writings line by line looking for anything that might lend even a hint of divine approval for their own disapproval of this practice. I have long maintained, and I still maintain, that there is not a single, solitary sentence anywhere in the Bible that declares God's disapproval of instrumental accompaniment to our singing in worship unto Him (just the opposite, as a matter of fact). Indeed, I have gone so far as to challenge these legalistic patternists for years now to produce even ONE passage that even HINTS at divine disapproval of instruments in a setting of worship. Nobody has ever taken up that challenge ... with two exceptions, and in both cases they referred me to the same passage. You guessed it -- that passage is Amos 6:5. Just this past week I received the following email from a preacher living in Arkansas -- "Al, here is one passage from the OT (Amos 6:4-6) that shows instruments of music were condemned by God. I believe that you could say that God at least hints at His disapproval of instrumental accompaniment. Right?!"

True, this passage does indeed show the Lord God's disapproval of the use of instruments of music ... but in the exact same sense as it expresses His disapproval of eating lamb chops and veal cutlets, and reclining on couches, and grooming oneself with oil. This passage has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a setting in which worship was being offered up unto God by those devoted to Him within their hearts and lives. Indeed, just the exact opposite. The three most important rules to keep in mind as one seeks to interpret any written document (and this is especially true of the sacred writings) are: context, context, context. When one perceives to whom this passage in the prophecy of Amos is being addressed, and the nature of their offense, one will then come to a much better understanding of the reason for the statements of disapproval by our God, as well as the parameters of that disapproval. In point of fact, God was not declaring His disapproval of eating lamb or veal, or that He was displeased with the practice of reclining on a couch or personal grooming with choice oils, or even that He disliked playing instruments or the composing of songs, as a universal rule of law for all men everywhere until the end of time. Rather, He was condemning the spiritual destitution of a people whose hearts were no longer focused on God, but which were focused on their own selfish appetites, which they sought to satisfy in every excessive way their minds could conceive. Stated simply: the problem was their hearts, not their harps; their lack of godly zeal, not their abundance of veal.

This attempt to link Amos 6:5 with one's personal or party disapproval of the use of instruments of music to aid or accompany worshipful singing (whether individual or corporate) is not new. A few down through the centuries have made the same attempt. Perhaps one of the most notable was Dr. Adam Clarke (1762-1832), the noted British Methodist theologian, who spent 40 years writing his now classic Bible commentary. It was not uncommon for this scholar to write and preach against some of the "religious abuses" that he perceived within his own faith-heritage, which at times caused him to be somewhat "out of favor" with his peers. For example, Adam Clarke was vehemently opposed to the use of instruments during times of corporate worship, and he rarely missed an opportunity to speak out against them. One such opportunity was taken in his commentary on Amos 6:5. Notice what Clarke wrote:

Quite a lengthy tirade against the use of instruments! Clarke certainly leaves the reader no doubt as to his view on the matter. And that is fine. We are all entitled to our convictions, and we are even entitled to express them through any venue available to us. However, as a biblical commentator, as one who sought to interpret a particular text, Clarke certainly abandoned his responsibility on this passage. Although he suggests the prophet Amos is here rebuking David, there is no evidence of such in Scripture ... and Clarke provides none!! He has inserted his prejudice in the place of sound exegesis. Amos is not condemning the use of instruments of music in a worship setting. Nor is the prophet condemning David. Such teaching is completely absent from the passage, yet Adam Clarke assumes it, providing no justification or substantiation for such an assumption, and then on that basis launches into a lengthy rant against that which he opposes within the Methodist Church. Frankly, brethren, many of our own anti-instrument zealots are no better in their misapplication of various passages within the Scriptures. I appreciate immensely the comment by Homer Hailey, who wrote, "The inventing of 'instruments of music' 'like (those of) David' did not refer to the instruments used in worship; nor can this passage be used as an argument against the use of such instruments in worship today as was done by Adam Clarke. They invented musical instruments to be used in the sordid revelry of their feasts and banquets of that day" [Homer Hailey, A Commentary on the Minor Prophets, p. 114]. Or, as Dr. Charles Ellicott pointed out, "The comparison with David is ironical. David made these instruments to please the Lord, these princes to please themselves" [Ellicott's Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 5, p. 460].

Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann noted that these revelers made unholy use of instruments, thus incurring the condemnation of God. They had invented for themselves such instruments, "but only for the gratification of their own vanity and sensuality, instead of to the glory of God as did David" [Popular Commentary of the Bible: The OT, vol. 2, p. 664]. As is true of many nations throughout history, "they indulge in wanton luxury even while their country is hastening to its ruin" [ibid]. "Reclining, in luxurious self-indulgence on the sofas of their dining-rooms ... they refused to believe that a day of reckoning was near" [ibid]. The rebellious people of Israel are condemned for being "at ease in Zion" [Amos 6:1] and "not grieved over the ruin of Joseph" [vs. 6]. They were so busy satisfying their every desire (and to excess) that they had become oblivious to their true condition before their God. It is much like the parable Jesus told in Luke 16. "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day" [vs. 19]. At his gate was a starving beggar, and the rich man could not have cared less! The people of Israel were living in luxury, and as a result they had lost sight of their God. "Therefore, you will be among the first to go into exile," declared the Lord; "your feasting and lounging will end" [Amos 6:7]. The sound of their music would be replaced with the sound of their mourning! Laughter would turn to lamentation, and their days of excess would be replaced with years in exile.

The Lord God sent the prophet Amos to warn them of impending destruction, but his warnings "struck no responsive chord in their hearts," as they were "satiated by revelry and carousing" [Homer Hailey, p. 114]. "Self-indulgence is indifferent to the call of duty or danger" [Dr. Charles Ellicott, p. 460]. They felt secure in the power and wealth of their own nation; therefore, the people of Israel felt no imminent threat to their nation or their lifestyle. "Woe to you who feel secure on Mount Samaria" [Amos 6:1]. This attitude is nothing new, and it's still being witnessed today. "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all" [Luke 17:26-27]. People have a tendency to become so self-absorbed, especially during times of prosperity, that they lose sight of what is truly of worth ... and such lack of spiritual perception always proves deadly! In Prov. 30:8-9 the writer pleads with God not to give him riches, "but feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny You and say, 'Who is the Lord?'" The Israelites had become filled, and thus had become foolish, and this would become fatal. It seems to me there is a message here for our own nation today!!

"A herdsman and gatherer of wild figs like the prophet Amos, brought into contact with the nobility and the courtiers of a wealthy and luxurious city like Samaria, was likely enough to be shocked and scandalized. The judgments he formed were naturally severe, but they were not unjust. His language remains a merited and everlasting rebuke to those in high station who live for their own gratification and indulgence" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 14, p. 126]. Was God, through Amos, informing His people that He did not want them worshipping Him with instruments? Far from it. Indeed, had they been doing so with hearts filled with devotion to Him, a devotion reflected in their daily living, these words found in the prophecy of Amos would never have been uttered or recorded. It wasn't making and playing instruments our God found abhorrent. Just as it wasn't eating lamb or veal that He found distasteful. God wasn't upset over the fact that they reclined on couches or groomed themselves with fine oils or drank wine. It was their HEARTS that troubled our God. They had become so self-absorbed that they cared little for anyone else around them (including their God). The words of Ezekiel regarding Sodom could apply here: "She was arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; she did not help the poor and needy. She was haughty and did detestable things before Me. Therefore, I did away with her" [Ezekiel 16:49-50].

God doesn't hate lamb chops. He doesn't hate veal cutlets. He doesn't even hate those who eat them. God doesn't hate couches or ivory inlaid beds, nor does God detest those who recline upon them. God isn't against good grooming ... even when we use good products. God doesn't disapprove of instruments of music, or the writing or playing of songs, or even of singing and dancing. God doesn't even disapprove of those who eat, drink and are making merry. What He does disapprove of, however, are those who have made the various appetites of the flesh their focus in life, and who have thus chosen to live only for themselves, and to shut out any concern for others and for the will of their God. When the music of worship is exchanged for the music of revelry, when a meal of fellowship is reduced to a time of gluttony (as was happening in Corinth), when sack cloth and ashes (representing recognition of one's sin against God and man) is exchanged for fine robes and rich oils for grooming, and any grieving over the spiritual decline of one's self or one's people is forgotten, then our God does indeed have a big problem: not with these items, but with you. These various items (oils, lamb, veal, songs, instruments, wine, couches, beds) are neither right nor wrong in and of themselves; they're morally neutral, thus merely symptomatic of a deeper corruption of soul; a disease of the heart. Each of the above items could have been used to the glory of God and the benefit of others. They were not, however. They were being used solely to indulge the flesh. And for this the people were condemned!! Brethren, let's cast off our sectarian spectacles and our legalistic lenses, and let's begin reading the Scriptures for what they actually say, rather than fabricating theology based on no greater foundation than what we wish they said so that we might validate our dogma.

Down, But Not Out
A Study of Divorce and Remarriage
in Light of God's Healing Grace

A 200 page book by Al Maxey
Publisher: (301) 695-1707

Readers' Reflections

From a Doctor in Kentucky:

Brother Al, I really like your new Reflections article -- "Cool Cats With Questions." I especially liked your answer to the "Is Sprinkling 'Baptism'?" question. Our Father really is the supreme Lover, not the ultimate Legalist. It took me several years to finally realize that. However, once you get there, it is quite obvious when you read His words. No one could ever love us more!!

From a Minister in Tennessee:

Brother Al, Great issue of Reflections!! I especially appreciated your answer to the Baptist who asked the question, "Is Sprinkling 'Baptism'?" Your last paragraph in that response, as you reflected upon those who express faith in Christ Jesus at the end of life, and who simply cannot be immersed, as well as the loving nature of our God toward them, is priceless!! Thanks again for sharing the Truth with such clarity!

From a Minister in Alabama:

Brother Al, As far as I know, I have read all 409 of your Reflections articles, and, like most readers, I have found them to be a genuine blessing from the Lord. I also really appreciate it when you include the comments from your readers who disagree with you. However, of all the hundreds of articles you have written over the years, I found "Cool Cats With Questions" to be the most enlightening for me personally. What you had to say under the heading "Chiding While Defending" was the most succinct statement about universal Church membership that I have ever considered. It is profound, but simple enough for a country preacher like me to understand. Thank you.

From a Reader in South Carolina:

Brother Al, I am so glad that you are on Facebook. This just makes keeping up with your weekly Reflections even easier. I thoroughly enjoyed "Cool Cats With Questions." Something in that very first section about what was being studied in the "New Members" class struck me as odd. How many of our congregations that oppose mechanical sound during worship, or who oppose the use of a bell tower to announce our worship to the surrounding area, will nevertheless use a bell to signal the end of Bible class?! Is there some kind of inconsistency there?!

From a Doctor/Elder in Oregon:

Dear Brother Al, I came across the term "regulative principle" in a book called "Old Light on New Worship" by John Price. Price is a Baptist who seems to be in agreement with the CENI system of interpretation, and in the book argues strictly for the use of a cappella worship only. The idea behind this principle is that God regulates everything that is important to Him, such as worship. Since God has not provided any regulations on the use of instrumental music in worship anywhere from Matthew to Jude, the use of instrumental music in worship is thereby forbidden (kind of a slant on the "silence" argument)!! Do you have any thoughts on this book, or on the "regulative principle"? Thank you, Al, for your stimulating and much needed work. I look forward to each issue of Reflections.

From a Reader in Ohio:

Brother Al, I am a USAF veteran and know exactly where Alamogordo, New Mexico is located. I've been there a few times! I'm currently a pilot for Southwest Airlines, and would love to fly into El Paso, Texas sometime and come up and visit your congregation and talk with you face to face! IF, of course, you wouldn't mind! Your congregation is certainly lucky to have such a loving, caring teacher. May God bless you!

From a Minister in Kansas:

Brother Al, I always appreciate your level-headedness and intellectual honesty. I would like to hear your feedback on something concerning instrumental music for worship. I am personally opposed to its use, but not for the "traditional" reasons. Frankly, I have thought for years that many of the arguments against it were either inconsistent or ignored the genre, context, etc. of Scripture. My opposition, while not dogmatic, has more to do with practical matters. I have been in all kinds of services, both contemporary and traditional, a cappella and instrumental, and what I have noticed is that when there is a band (or a praise team, with microphones, facing the audience), the quality of congregational singing diminishes. It's been my observation that many of the people within the audience do not sing, but rather listen. There is more of a feel of a performance or a concert than there is of worship. It seems to me that the emphasis in NT worship is mutual edification, and isn't congregational a cappella singing the music of mutual edification? I remember a few years ago at the Tulsa Workshop hearing comments from the Christian Church people who were there about our singing. Many of them declared, "This is the way worship should be done!" Some of them were amazed at the number of people that were actually singing (which was just about everyone). It was so uplifting!! So, my opinion (and I refuse to be dogmatic about it) is that a cappella congregational singing seems to accomplish best what we are trying to accomplish when we come together as one for worship. I would love to hear your response to this.

From an Elder in Tennessee:

Bro. Al, I have been a reader of your Reflections for quite some time, and have learned a great deal from your writings. Although I have never met you, I consider you a friend. Your treatises give me hope that some day the Church of Christ may, by and large, emerge from its sectarian hiding place and take a more proactive role within the church universal.

From a Minister in [Unknown]:

Bro. Al, I just wanted to write and let you know how helpful your works have been. I've been a preacher now for over a decade, but I was always uncomfortable about "our doctrine" with regard to several topics. I believe our faith should be consistent with the nature of our Creator. Hence, there were several teachings that I struggled with, since they never seemed to reflect the God revealed in the Bible. Your writings have been of great value in helping me resolve some of my doubts!! The things that never made any sense to me about "our" teaching in Churches of Christ were:

  1. We Are The ONLY Christians -- I know many people who have beliefs far different from the common Church of Christ teachings. Yet, I must admit, the way in which they live their lives is far more representative of Jesus than the average member of the Church of Christ.

  2. Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage -- My brother-in-law's wife made a very foolish decision and married someone when she was seventeen. They were, in my personal opinion, still children who had no idea what marriage was all about. The marriage didn't even last one year, and the divorce was not based on unfaithfulness. She has now been married to my brother-in-law for ten years, and together they have a beautiful daughter and are expecting a son. According to the common Church of Christ doctrine, they should now get divorced, breaking up the family, to "please" God. Furthermore, she will never be allowed to marry again! I could never make sense of this "unpardonable sin," which, at least to me, made God seem unreasonable and far removed from human troubles.

  3. Eternal Torture -- Many people, who don't believe in God, will often site the doctrine of the eternal torture of the lost as their main objection. I always tried to justify this odd teaching in my mind by saying things like: "God is just and must punish sin, so who are we to question what is the appropriate punishment?" But, deep within my own heart I always had a problem connecting a God of love, grace and mercy with eternal torturing. I personally think that the objection of those mentioned above is valid.

  4. Expediency -- A member of a congregation where I once preached asked me what the difference was between having a piano in worship and making use of things like tuning forks, song books, a PA system, PowerPoint presentations, and the like. I told him, of course, that he was mixing expedients in worship with "unauthorized" worship. But, I remember listening to myself trying to defend this, and thinking, "I really sound stupid."

Brother Al, Thank you so much for all your body of writings!! Admittedly, it took me some time to step out of my traditional Church of Christ comfort zone and actually challenge these things that I had believed for so long. But, I now finally feel that I can say with a pure heart and clean conscience: "Free at last, Free at last, Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!!"

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