Many things distract Christians from being wholly focused in their spiritual pursuit. They tend to count it a small matter that they have lost their commitment to the Lord. However, the prophet Amos repeatedly reminds us of the importance of seeking the Lord continually and diligently. Let us learn from the prophet the meaning and significance of seeking the LORD.
“Seek the LORD, and ye shall live”(Amos 5:6a).
The prophet Amos had just ended a lamentation over the impending death of the people of the “house of Israel” (5:1-5). A “lament” is a poem of grief sung at a funeral. Prophets used this poetic form to mourn the death of a city, people or nation (cf. Jeremiah 9:10-11, 17-22; Lamentations 1-5; Ezekiel 19; 26:17-18). Though Israel had been enjoying material prosperity under Jeroboam II, her judgment was so certain that Amos lamented her fall as though it had already happened. To his listeners, his lament would have been like listening to their own obituary being read out to them.
Despite the certainty of national judgment, individuals were encouraged to seek the LORD and live. Unless they would repent of their idolatry and wickedness, God Himself would see to their destruction. The admonition of the prophet is: “Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel” (v. 6). Though Bethel (which means “house of God”) was a place of worship and blessing, they had desecrated it with their idols. All their activities of worship were an abomination to God. What matters was not the location, but their heart’s devotion to God. So, if they would continue to stay in Bethel but would not turn to God, they would inevitably experience what He has revealed Himself to be in Deuteronomy 4:24 – “the LORD thy God is a consuming fire”!
The command to seek the LORD has been repeated four times in this chapter (vv. 4, 6, 8, 14). It means that they must turn to Him at once. They should not hesitate nor procrastinate in returning to the LORD. Neither should they approach Him in ritualistic, disingenuous worship. Their hearts must seek Him with sincere love and fervent devotion.
The LORD promised that they shall live if they seek Him. The LORD promised to rescue them from the threat of impending calamities which were looming over the nation. But there was something more than their preservation from the impending peril. Turning to the LORD would also guarantee their souls’ eternal life. The LORD is merciful and calls sinners to turn to Him to enjoy the blessings of His good pleasure. “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11).
The prophet Amos further exhorted and explained why God’s people must earnestly seek Him – “Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken” (Amos 5:14).
Earlier in this chapter, the prophet had repeatedly exhorted the Israelites to seek the LORD (vv. 4, 6, 8). This verse further explains the implications of the exhortation to seek the LORD. Those who seek the LORD will also seek to do His good will.
The “good” that God’s people ought to seek is not what they think is good, but what the LORD has revealed as good. All that His Word requires of us is good, which we must seek diligently to perform. The LORD said through Moses in Deuteronomy 12:28, “Observe and hear all these words which I command thee, that it may go well with thee, and with thy children after thee for ever, when thou doest that which is good and right in the sight of the LORD thy God.” The prophet Micah was also tasked by the LORD to instruct His people: “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:8).
Yet the people were not only doing evil, but also seeking it diligently. They rejoiced in all that which God detested. They sought out evil and the occasions for it. As long as they sought evil, they would not seek good. So they must first put away evil. As Isaiah has written, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:16-17).
God’s people must be singular in their pursuit of good. They must seek good with total commitment. Unmitigated adherence to good and complete severance from evil is what God commands. In Romans 12:9, the apostle Paul instructs, “Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” The LORD requires that His people seek good wholly, not only occasionally. “Ye that love the LORD, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10a). “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it” (Psalm 34:14).
Pursuing the LORD and His good will have the guarantee of the highest blessings in the lives of God’s people. It has the promise of everlasting life and divine friendship. The “God of hosts” will be with them to guide, guard and garnish their lives with His blessings. He who follows the good ways of the LORD, has the LORD for himself.