Amos 4:4-5

Come and sin

This is a very difficult passage - but not difficult in the sense that the truth isn’t fairly obvious to the reader. It’s difficult because, when we apply it to the present day Church, it doesn’t sit very comfortably with us. It calls us to examine our motives, to abandon a purely external religious worship - even though everything we may do can be justified by recourse to Scripture (whether truly or deceitfully interpreted, it doesn’t matter), God announces that our religious observance is simply sin before Him.

It’s difficult for us to imagine that our celebration of communion could be ‘sin’ in God’s eyes - after all, didn’t Jesus command that it was to be done shortly before His crucifixion? And if we obey Him, isn’t that to be imputed to us as righteousness?

The problem, though, is that very often it’s our celebration, just as YHWH notes in Israel (Amos 4:4 - my italics) that it was

‘…your sacrifices…your tithes’

that were simply piling up sin upon sin, multiplying their offence before God. We would do better to realise that YHWH doesn’t give two hoots about ceremony, whether it’s conformity to the OT Law or adherence to the rites of the Church - we care passionately about such things, though, condemning the legalism of those under the Old Covenant but doing the very same things ourselves when we meet together.

To give the reader background to the worship centres of Bethel and Gilgal, I’ve added two brief articles here before dealing with the text. They also attempt to give the reader an explanation as to why they were chosen and why, politically, their position was a stroke of genius.


Bethel (the most often referred to area/city in the OT apart from Jerusalem) was situated on the main north-south route from Shechem in the north to Jerusalem in the south and was the major arterial routeway for travellers journeying between the two places. In the time of Amos’ it lay on the Israel/Judah border, although it was originally part of the territory allotted to Benjamin in the division of Canaan and should have been part of the Judahite kingdom upon the land’s division (Joshua 18:21-22).

It was the ‘house of Joseph’ - presumably the Ephraimites who bordered on the land of Benjamin - who ultimately attacked the city and overthrew it so that it may well have been acquired from Benjamin because they’d been unable to take it (Judges 1:22-25).

Not only was Bethel on the ‘M1’ of the central highlands of ancient Israel but Samaria lay close by, west of Shechem, so that pilgrims travelling south to offer sacrifice or to attend the annual festivals were confronted with an alternative sacrificial centre immediately before they crossed over the border into Judah.

It was, therefore, a stroke of political genius to site an alternative sacrificial centre here (I Kings 12:26-30) - not just because it kept Israel from rejoining Judah but because it was sited in a strategic place that, even if Israelites knew nothing about it, they would be persuaded to end their long journey south and fulfil their ‘obligation’ to YHWH at the shrine.

It would have saved pilgrims at least a 25 mile round trip which, in ancient time, would have been the equivalent of a full day on the road. It thus became expedient to ‘go over’ to the king’s way of thinking and to offer sacrifice at the new kingdom’s sacrificial altar.

It also would have had deliberate significance for the nation, for the patriarch Jacob (who God renamed ‘Israel’ - Gen 32:28) had a vision here in the night of a ladder extending up to Heaven upon which the angels of God were ascending and descending (Gen 28:10-22) and renamed the place ‘Bethel’ even though the city that was there was known as ‘Luz’ (Gen 28:19).

When he finally returned from his years with Laban at Haran, he came to Bethel to offer sacrifice upon an altar that he built for the purpose (Gen 35:5-7) presumably in fulfilment of his vow, though that remains open to interpretation (Gen 28:21).

But that Jacob had vowed that the place would be ‘God’s house’ must surely have stayed with the Israelites who may have seen a fulfilment in their own lifetime when Jeroboam originally sanctified the place for the worship of YHWH in opposition to the Temple in Jerusalem, some 12 miles south.

The transition of the city from its original name ‘Luz’ to that of ‘Bethel’ takes place in the OT text over several books, where the former name ‘Luz’ is still recorded alongside (Gen 35:6, 48:3, Judges 1:23). But Joshua 16:1-2 is the one fly in the ointment that would cause us to see ‘Bethel’ as being the whole area formerly demarcated as ‘Luz’ for, in speaking of the tribal allotment of Joseph, it traces the line (my italics)

‘…from Bethel to Luz…’

thereby hinting that the two places were distinct from one another (the LXX renders it ‘Bethel - that is, Luz’). It may not be too far a step to see the city to have retained its name of ‘Luz’ for a great while because it was only the sanctuary located close by that was known as ‘Bethel’ and, as it became more important, the name was transferred to the city.

Whatever the exact reason for the change, the city and the sanctuary seem to have been two distinct places within a very small geographical area.

Archaeological investigations seem to have shown that the area wasn’t continually occupied during the OT and that there were significant periods of time when the site was unoccupied apart, presumably, from nomadic settlers and shepherds. It’s also been unable, so far, to locate the sanctuary at Bethel that was set up by Jeroboam and which continued into the days of Amos.

Although it’s possible that any remains are still waiting to be discovered under the modern day city of Beitin, it’s also possible that the shrines were either temporary in nature or so completely wiped out in the judgment following YHWH’s pronouncements against the place that nothing is ever likely to be found.

Besides, it has to be wondered why permanent buildings might have been necessary if the idea of the place was to offer sacrifice at a large open air series of altars (Amos 3:14) and that any fertility rites performed with the cult prostitutes (and, again, presuming they existed here) could very easily have been consummated in temporary tents that the worshippers brought with them.

If the city of Luz-Bethel lay close near by and the sanctuary was distinct from it, we needn’t think that there should be much evidence of the latter. Besides, although we know that Amaziah the priest called the place ‘a temple’ (Amos 7:13) this needn’t infer a solid stone structure for the Tabernacle was also called this (I Sam 1:9) and that was only a temporary arrangement until Solomon constructed permanent accommodation for YHWH in Jerusalem.

The etymology of the name is shown to be fairly straightforward for it means literally ‘House of God’ where the name ‘El’ seems to have been a generic name for Deity in much the same way as ‘God’ can be employed as the correct label for a multitude of different ‘beings’ that are worshipped.

Zondervan comments that the term is the most ancient known and that it forms

‘…the basic component for the general term for God in Babylonia and Arabia as well as with the Israelitish people…It is a very old term and many feel that it is reasonable to infer that the term has been retained from a primeval revelation…Many feel justified in concluding that its employment and wide currency witnesses to a primeval monotheism from which polytheism represented a lapse…’

What this means, therefore, is that while Jacob might name the place ‘Beth-el’ and be referring to YHWH, the Canaanites would have been able to retain the name and worshipped their own gods. Indeed, as Zondervan observes, ‘El’ was one of the main Canaanite deities and it seems fair to conclude that the site had been used as a centre of religion long before Jeroboam ever decided to use it to serve his own purposes.

This is in keeping with a lot of religious sites in antiquity, for one people’s holy ground became the next generation’s area of worship. Conquering armies, also, were all too aware that they needed to honour the local deities or, alternatively, replaced the local god with their own but at the site that had already been devoted for such a purpose.

We know that a ‘high place’ existed there in the time of the prophet Samuel (I Sam 10:3) presumably dedicated for the worship of YHWH, but the vagueness of the name of the deity leaves that open to conjecture and more especially so since an alternative place of central sacrifice other than the Tabernacle was forbidden (Deut 12:5, Joshua 22:16,19 - but see my notes below).

It was also on the judging ‘circuit’ of Samuel (I Sam 7:16 - the three places were Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpah) and the idea that the prophet might have left a sanctuary of a false god there seems almost unthinkable, especially as the Israelites were commanded expressly to demolish all the high places (Num 33:52, Deut 12:2).

That an altar could be set up for the worship of YHWH seems allowed in Ex 20:24-26 even though the restriction applied that they would only be permitted to be set up

‘ every place where I cause My name to be remembered’

It could be reasoned that Bethel was one such place. But the real stumbling block in the nation seems to have been that they chose not brand new sites but integrated the old areas into their own worship, thus syncretising both the worship of YHWH and the worship of alternate gods.

Such seems to have been the problem at Bethel and Jeroboam’s selection of the place may have been based upon the area already having been a centre of paganism, a recognised ‘holy site’ that had already been a cause of stumbling for the Israelites.

After the conquest of the land by Assyria, a priest of Samaria was sent back into the land and chose to dwell at Bethel (II Kings 17:28), in order to teach the Assyrians

‘…how they should fear YHWH’

It doesn’t state that a new altar was set up here but the record of what Josiah did later could be taken to imply that this is what transpired (however, see here under the header ‘Fire in the house of Joseph’ for a discussion as to how this final act of Josiah may have been the one and only fulfilment of the judgment and that the altar at Bethel wasn’t destroyed in the Assyrian invasion). All the idolatrous vessels in Jerusalem were burnt in the fields of the Kidron and their ashes carried away to Bethel (II Kings 23:4) and Josiah also destroyed the altar that was here (II Kings 23:15-18) according to the prophetic word of I Kings 13:2.

Although Jeroboam had reinstated the altar when it had been torn down during his reign (I Kings 13:1-5,33-34), the destruction which came through the Assyrians may not have destroyed the altar (II Kings 17:1-23) even though it certainly seems to have caused the offering of sacrifice to cease for a time before the return of the priest to Bethel. But the final act of destruction took place at the hand of Josiah who rendered it unclean in his reign by cadaverous desecration (I Kings 13:2 fulfilled in II Kings 23:15-20).

Jer 48:13 (my italics) is an interesting verse to think about for, in the judgment proclaimed against Moab, YHWH says that

‘…Moab shall be ashamed of Chemosh as the house of Israel was ashamed of Bethel, their confidence

In other words, the prophet is observing that it wasn’t just that Israel had been sacrificing to false gods on the altars at Bethel - perhaps, if only the worship of YHWH had taken place here, we might have wondered what was so wrong with the place - but the sanctuary had become what they were trusting in and relying upon for deliverance and protection rather than centring their hope in YHWH who’d delivered them from Egypt and brought them into the land.

We don’t learn too much from the descriptions of the sanctuary in Amos - even less about it in Hosea, the prophet who was to follow immediately afterwards, for he only mentions it in connection with what happened to Jacob here (Hosea 12:4) and the AV’s rendering of the place in Hosea 10:15 is normally amended by the LXX’s translation so that it appears just the once.

Amos tells us that there were many altars there but, presumably, one specific altar with horns, upon which offering to YHWH was made (Amos 3:14) and that it was the place to which tithes were brought along with the centre at Gilgal (Amos 4:5).

It was probably the most important of all the sanctuaries in the northern kingdom because Amaziah, Bethel’s priest (or, perhaps better, high priest), refers to it as ‘the king’s sanctuary’ (Amos 7:13) though this might mean no more than it was an officially recognised one along with others.


There’s a real problem with the city or area known as ‘Gilgal’ in the Bible. Because the meaning of the name (Strongs Hebrew number 1537) is ‘circle’ or ‘wheel’, it must have been a commonly employed term to refer to a great many places that had a circle of stones, pillars or wooden poles that were used in cultic worship.

Indeed, according to Zondervan, apart from the use in Joshua 5:9 and 12:23, the Hebrew is always prefixed with the definite article so that it refers to the circle, a demarcation of the presence of a religious sanctuary rather than necessarily a city or village. No wonder, then, that the authors can imagine the possibility of between two and six distinct areas in the OT that could have borne the same name - and there could have been many more.

When we come to the passages in Amos and his successor, Hosea (Hosea 4:15, 9:15, 12:11, Amos 4:4, 5:5 - as with the references to Bethel, the information we can glean from these is very limited but it’s certain from the phraseology that it was a centre of worship and sacrifice), we have to take a calculated guess at the location for it isn’t immediately obvious where this Gilgal was sited.

On a previous web page, I commented that, because Jeroboam had set up two specific sanctuaries in Dan and Bethel when the northern kingdom was first established (I Kings 12:29) - and because Bethel is often paired with Gilgal - there’s the possibility that Dan was simply the city beside which the Gilgal, the stone circle, was located where one of the calves was installed.

The likelihood is more unlikely than probable, made more so by Hosea 12:11 which associates the land of Gilead with the specific location of Gilgal and infers that the two were very close together, if not that the latter was located within the former.

However, there’s a more logical reason why the Gilgal being spoken of here is the one situated near Jericho rather than it being further north near Dan or the Gilgal near the oak of Moreh close to Shechem where the Israelites came to stand on Mount Ebal and Gerazim to set the blessing and curse of the Law upon the hills (Gen 12:6, Deut 11:30).

I’ll deal with the reason in a moment but, first, let’s notice the significance of the place and why it would have had particular relevance in the history of the people of the land.

It was the first place at which the Israelites encamped after crossing the Jordan miraculously (Joshua 4:19) and at which they ‘set up’ the twelve stones that they’d taken from the river bed of the Jordan where the priests’ feet had been who had carried the Ark (Joshua 4:3,20). This word from which we get ‘set up’ (Strongs Hebrew number 6965, M1999) is interpreted by TWOTOT to mean a ‘rising up’ and there appears to be little doubt that what’s meant here is that these stones were large enough and the right shape for them to be able to be ‘stood up’, although the fact that it was one man per stone should make us realise that we aren’t thinking of rocks the size of Stonehenge (Joshua 4:2-3).

It’s tempting, then, to see these stones as having been set up in a circle as a remembrance of the miracle of passing over the Jordan in flood. The location of this Gilgal is specifically mentioned as being ‘on the east border of Jericho’ and it must have been fairly close to the river itself (Joshua 4:19).

But the place was also relevant to be called ‘Gilgal’ because of the circumcision that took place there, Joshua declaring YHWH’s words to the people (Joshua 5:9) that

‘This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you’

while the writer goes on to comment that, because of this

‘...the name of that place is called Gilgal to this day’

It was also the place where the first Passover was kept before YHWH prior to their defeat of Jericho (Joshua 5:10).

Joshua seems to have kept his camp there for a great amount of time for, after the overthrow of both Jericho and Ai, the Gibeonites came to them ‘in the camp at Gilgal’ (Joshua 9:6) and, after having delivered their city, returned here (Joshua 10:15) - and, after more attacks, again withdrew to the flood plains of the Jordan (Joshua 10:43).

It was also at Gilgal that the tribes came to Joshua to have the land portioned out to them (Joshua 14:6). This being the case, it follows that the Tabernacle must have stayed here for a great amount of time and it’s therefore significant that, when the angel of YHWH comes to Israel to speak against them, he’s recorded as coming up ‘from Gilgal’ where, it’s presumed, he would have been encamped with YHWH at the Tabernacle (Judges 2:1).

It’s not certain that the other Gilgals mentioned from this time onward refer directly to the Israelites’ first camp near Jericho (though, in the stories concerning Saul, I’m both persuaded that some are and some aren’t! For our present discussion, though, it’s not important to decide upon their location within the land). The context of many of the passages seem to point to various other possible areas that, perhaps, had standing stones in them and which naturally were given the name.

We do know that, somewhere along the way, the Tabernacle was moved from Gilgal to Shiloh (I Sam 1:3) which appears to have been almost equidistant between Shechem to the north and Bethel in the south. But Gilgal also continued to be a place of sacrifice and worship in the days of Samuel the prophet (I Sam 10:8) - if this Gilgal is to be thought of as the same place. It seems necessary to do so, however, because wherever it was seems to be the place that continued to be used up until the time of both Amos and Hosea - as we saw above under ‘Bethel’, ‘holy places’ retained their draw for decades and centuries and even if a different god was instated.

It’s this area near the Jordan, then, that seems the most logical location for the sanctuary to have been located that’s spoken of both by Amos and, after him, Hosea. What seems to be the clincher, though, is that this village or region lay on the main north-south roadway that connected northern Israel, via the Jordan valley, to the city of Jerusalem.

If you were an Israelite pilgrim intending to travel south to offer sacrifice in Solomon’s temple, you would almost definitely have had to have passed the sanctuary at Bethel as you journeyed south from Shechem or the one at Gilgal, from Galilee and beyond.

The reason for the setting up of an alternative shrine here, then, was politically motivated and a stroke of genius, it has to be said. Why did the Israelite need to travel any further when he had a perfectly adequate site at which to worship YHWH? Either at Bethel which had so much association with their patriarch Jacob or at Gilgal where the very first encampment of their nation had been when they’d crossed the Jordan.

Both sites (Bethel and Gilgal) reminded the Israelites of what God had once done in times past and, thinking upon this, they would have reasoned that the place was ‘holy’ and that there was every indication that God would also be there in the present, even though they hadn’t realised that it wasn’t the letter of the ceremonial Law that brought God satisfaction but their obedience to caring for their neighbours and brethren (Amos 2:6-8).

It’s strange but the present day Church is also hung up on the echoes of the past movings of God, not realising that it’s where God is moving now that’s the most important place to be. Holy ground isn’t something that’s maintained for continuous generations simply because something happened there ‘once upon a time’ but it’s the place where God is in the present.

Not only has the Church set up shrines, buildings and pilgrimage centres wherever we’ve perceived that God once did something, but we’ve fossilised methodology, thinking God is present in the structures we hold fast to but which He’s long since moved on from.

As Ezekiel realised, bones don’t bring life in or of themselves (Ezek 37:1-14) - rather, it’s the Spirit who raises up the structure as His own vehicle and according to His own will, empowering men and women to break free from their religious constriction into the freedom of a dynamic walk with Him (see also my notes on the way of the Spirit versus the way of dead tradition, Part One is here and Part Two here).

Does it matter that we attend a building where Finney spoke? Or Wesley? Or does it matter that we’re the sons of those who were mightily used by God in a former generation? None at all. It’s only relevant if the same Spirit who was moving so powerfully both in and through them is doing the same in us and in our midst.

Then the place upon which we stand is holy ground.

Come and sin
Amos 4:4-5

It isn’t until Amos 5:21-24 that we find a specific reason why the religious ceremony that was taking place at both Bethel and Gilgal was so abhorrent to God and we’re left to consider this passage ‘as it stands’ for there appears to be no context or definitive statement that would so much as hint at the reason for these words.

Of course, we could simply use God’s statements in the subsequent passage and insist that so must be the burden of the message here - but that may be doing a great injustice to the text and, besides, did the nation of Israel to whom this word came, have the opportunity to compare a message ‘a chapter and a half on’ (or, better, one that hadn’t yet been delivered) to understand what it was that the prophet was saying?

Almost certainly not.

But, before we attempt to deal with the offence that God was highlighting, we need to deal with the ceremonies that they were performing at both Bethel and Gilgal.

God notes that they bring their sacrifices ‘every morning’, something that’s so neutral as to beg the question why it’s brought up if it’s being offered as a point of law-breaking - for there was no Mosaic Law against offering sacrifice during the first part of the day. The verse certainly doesn’t refer to the continual burnt offering which was to be offered once in the morning and, again, in the evening (Ex 29:38-46, Num 28:23) for it’s speaking of a more personal sacrifice that’s given to God.

Commentators see the way this phrase is constructed as being indicative of an ‘initial’ sacrifice by an arriving worshipper who would wait until the first sunrise before coming to the altar to offer it. Although this is quite possible, it’s reading a great amount into the text that doesn’t appear to be there and which isn’t supported by any external testimony.

In keeping with this interpretation, however, it’s then continued into the next phrase which observes that the Israelites brought their tithes

‘…every three days’

where, again, the idea is that either there was a specific receipt of the tenth on the third day of the worshipper’s attendance (which, in effect, meant that tithes were received every day) or tithes were only collected every third day (for example, Monday, then Thursday, Sunday, Wednesday and so on until all the days would have been covered every three weeks).

There’s an alternative solution, however, for the word translated ‘days’ (Strongs Hebrew number 3117, M852) can be rendered as ‘years’ when it occurs in the plural and when the context demands it. Of 2287 usages of the word in the AV OT, it’s rendered ‘day’ in 2008 places and only 14 times by the word ‘year’.

However, there’s a good possibility here that this is what the context demands and both the NIV and AV translate the phrase ‘three years’.

This makes good sense for the Israelites were commanded to bring their tithe before YHWH every third year after having saved it up (Deut 14:28-29 - there’s some discussion and debate as to the exact meaning of this passage but this needn’t concern us here. What is important is that a three yearly offering of the tithe is specifically mentioned in the Mosaic Law).

In both these first two observations of sacrificial practice, therefore, there’s nothing wrong with what the Israelites were doing and, more significantly, the frequency of their offerings (if ‘every three days’ is accepted) is shown to demonstrate their incredible zeal for performing their religious dues.

In the next statement, however, there is something that specifically transgresses the Law for it’s recorded (my italics) that they

‘…offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving of that which is leavened

Although it might be pointed out that there was leaven in the cakes that were brought before YHWH in the peace offering (Lev 7:11-13), these items weren’t offered as a sacrifice upon the altar but, rather, given as an offering to God to the priest (Lev 7:14). Lev 2:11 is also unequivocal in it’s statement that

‘…you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as an offering by fire to YHWH’

so that, although we can easily point the finger at the Israelites here to determine what it is they were doing wrong according to the Law, it’s almost impossible to hold up the other actions and show from the same place that their procedure was errant.

Finally, mention is made of the freewill offerings - that is, sacrifices that were offered to God as a response of the worshipper to God, given under no compulsion or through a command of the Law. Freewill offerings are specifically mentioned in the Levitical ordinances in connection with the peace offering (Lev 7:16) and it’s plain that such sacrifices were not only allowed but encouraged if the worshipper felt that they wanted to give something to YHWH for His care and provision directed towards them.

The idea that such offerings were being ‘proclaimed’ and ‘published’ seems to be best interpreted not as a public display of what should have been done as privately or as secretly as possible (as Jesus pointed out in Mtw 6:1) but, according to Amstu, that their sacrifices were offered

‘…with a real intensity but it was in fact simply an intensifying of their sin…’

God isn’t just telling them to continue but exhorting them to go as overboard as they have been doing to multiply their sin before Him.

Even though we must be careful to note the one specific transgression of the offering of leaven in these verses, Amhub should be followed here when he points out that

‘Amos’ criticism of their practice seems not to centre in any violation of ritual regulations. Indeed, he needles them for doing right acts…’

God specifically invites them to the religious sanctuaries, encourages them to offer the legal requirements in sacrifice, to contribute the ten percent as they were obligated to do - and, in so doing, to increase their transgressions before Him. Although they were lawfully observant, they were sinfully negligent.

That comes as a great shock to the Church - it always has done. We think that to observe the requirements of a written code is what God has designed us for, not realising - or, better, not believing - that (Gal 2:21)

‘…if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose’

and (Rom 4:14) that

‘If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void’

When Paul had the occasion to write to the believers in Galatia he reserved some of his strongest language for them, turning on those who were unsettling them by insisting on circumcision and attacking them by urging (Gal 5:12)

‘I wish those who unsettle you would castrate themselves!’

and saying to the fellowship (Gal 4:19) that he was

‘…in travail until Christ be formed in you!’

These are not words of someone trying to soothe a troubled brow - these are the attacks of an apostle on an enemy that was laying waste to the work of Christ. And what was the Galatians’ sin? Adultery? Robbery? Idolatry? No, not at all - it was simply that they were now thinking that they would please Jesus Christ by putting themselves under Law. As Paul reasons (Gal 3:2-3)

‘Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?’

Righteousness does not come according to the Law or by religious observance. If it were so, we could simply make sure our external ceremonies were perfect - week in, week out - and God would pour His presence out upon us. The problem with the Israelites was that they were incredibly religious - tithes, sacrifices and freewill offerings - and they thought that such external practices would gain them Divine favour.

But we don’t act like that in the Church, do we?

To a very great extent, I’m ashamed to say that what we do in our buildings and when we come together is no different to what the Israelites did almost three thousand years ago.

We tithe - indeed, so fundamental has tithing become to being a christian in some places that you can’t be a leader until you have your dues all paid up and the denomination has recorded it all on their neatly processed index cards.

After all, following Jesus Christ is all about giving ten percent, isn’t it? But tithing has become a law that believers dare not transgress, the observance of which elevates the person into a position of superiority over their peers.

We attend the meetings religiously and make sure we celebrate communion each week to guarantee that we’ve fulfilled our religious duties. If we fail to meet together, we feel as if we’ve transgressed God’s covenant and the pastor’s exposition that to do so is to turn your back on God Himself.

And we love our religion, too - it’s what we live for.

We have pictures of angels and saints scattered around our houses, we talk about how great the ‘services’ were, how well the choir sang or how good the message was from the pulpit. In short, we take pleasure in our religious obligations - in exactly the same way as the Israelites did when they came before God at both Bethel and Gilgal. For YHWH speaks through Amos after inviting them to transgress through religious observance, commenting that

‘…so you love to do, O people of Israel’

or as the Jerusalem Bible translates

‘…this is what makes you happy’

Who said legalism was boring? And that’s the reason why both the Israelites and the Church won’t turn back from their formalism and religiosity. It’s fun, it’s entertaining - enjoyable, even, and has become like a drug that you need more of - addictive and compelling.

And God says

‘Go ahead. Do all your religious ceremonies - even according to the Scriptures - and increase your sin before Me. You love playing Church so you might as well continue doing so’

God isn’t impressed by religious observance - even more so when solemn assembly is mixed with sin (Is 1:13).