Seek the Lord and Live!
”For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: ‘Seek me and live; but do not seek Bethel, nor enter Gilgal, nor pass over to Beersheba; For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nothing. Seek the Lord and live.’” Amos 5: 4&5
The Hebrew word used here for “seek” is “darash” meaning “to resort to, seek, seek with care, enquire, require”. Also in the meaning is the idea of frequenting a place so much that you trample or tread down or beat a path. There is the idea of enquiring or studying, looking to learn or gain information, but also there is the idea of having a need or requirement to go there, like requiring food.
The Israelites at the time of Amos were seeking after other things, and disregarding the Lord. They were going to Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba instead of seeking the Lord. They were going to these places to look for protection, healing, blessing, etc. The Bible says that altars were set up in these places where they were offering sacrifices and that a golden calf had been set up in Bethel.
The Israelites may have even thought that they were seeking the Lord, the God of Israel, but they were not following His instructions for worship and therefore were considered in error. The Lord had established Jerusalem as the place of worship and the temple there with its priests as the place to offer sacrifices to Him. You might say that the Israelites were taking short cuts, or doing things their way and not God’s way.
Recognize that these physical situations for the Israelites of that time, like the places that they went to worship, don’t necessarily apply directly to us today but they are symbolic of our spiritual situations. The underlying conditions of their hearts are comparable to the same issues and conditions that we deal with today in our hearts.
Do Not Seek Bethel
The word Bethel means “house of god”. I believe this is symbolic of how we can begin to look to religious activity as a means of attaining some favor or blessing from the Lord. We may think that we will find favor with God by going to a church service or meeting, or by doing some other activity or work for God, but this cannot be a substitute for seeking the Lord. The Lord wants us to seek Him directly. He wants us to spend time directly communicating with Him alone, in our place of prayer. He wants us to look to Him for guidance and direction. He wants us to trust in Him and desire to please Him. Our churches and fellowships, or the work we do for God, should be secondary to our intimate relationship with the Lord and all these things should support this intimate relationship, but not take away from it. All too often, the organization becomes primary and the relationship with the Lord secondary. We get so involved in activities and functions that we don’t spend time alone with God. We deceive ourselves into thinking that since this is “work for God”, we can forgo the time spent seeking Him directly. This is a serious error and can lead to serious spiritual problems. Certainly we want to exercise our gifts, whatever they might be, and do the things that God has called us to do, but we should not allow them to take up all of our time, not allowing for the time needed to seek the Lord. Commitments to the organization can easily take precedence over our commitments to the Lord. We must guard against this. If you find yourself involved in any organization that encourages this imbalance, then you should leave that organization.
Nor Enter Gilgal
Gilgal in Hebrew means “a wheel, or rolling”. It was a place where illicit worship had been established. Possibly, Gilgal could be symbolic of our inability to spend quality time with the Lord; the wheel or rolling could represent the idea of motion rather than standing still before the Lord. Even when we are alone with the Lord, it’s so easy for our minds to wonder. I find it extremely important myself to be still before the Lord and to “quiet my soul”, to rest in His love for me, to trust in Him for all my needs and worries. I try to be still and listen for His still small voice speaking to my heart. I try also to meditate on His promise of eternal life and heaven, recognizing that some day He will return for me, and I will spend the remainder of my life with Him in Heaven where there is no more sorrow, no more tears, no more hunger, and I will be completely at home.
“Base your happiness on your hope in Christ” Romans 12:12 (Phillips)
There are no short cuts for this quality time with the Lord. It just takes time. We have to discipline ourselves to spend the attentive, quality time with the Lord. The latter part of the verse in Romans 12: 12 says, “…continuing (or persevering) steadfastly in prayer”, suggesting that there is some work involved. Our supplications are important also. Prayers for family, friends and loved ones are critical since this has been ordained by God as His means of acting on things. He says to seek and we will find, to knock and it will be opened to us. We have not because we ask not.
Nor Pass Over to Beersheba
The word Beersheba means “well of the sevenfold oath”. There is also a verse in Amos 8 that seems to indicate that the people were swearing or making an oath related to Beersheba. This could be referring to our thinking that it’s enough to have good intentions. We can deceive ourselves in this way. We think that by intending to do something, that’s enough, or by feeling the emotions about something, that’s enough. But God wants us to follow through on our intentions. We can’t just desire to be with the Lord, we have to make the time to be with Him. It is not enough to just desire to trust the Lord, we have to trust Him through our trials. It’s not enough to just desire to be able to wait on Him, but we must be patient and wait, persevering steadfastly. Saying we will do something, or having the intention of doing something, is not enough.
Our life comes from seeking God. When we inquire of Him, when we seek to know him personally, when we seek to hear His voice, when we seek to understand His ways and learn of Him, when we seek to be more like Him, when we feed off of Him, finding our joy and happiness and strength in Him, this is life to our spirit, issuing life to our minds and bodies also. Amos was offering a remedy to the people for their problems: stop seeking these other things! Seek the Lord and live!
What are you seeking (inquiring or feeding on) that is replacing the Lord? Are you seeking after men? Are you looking to the world? Where are you finding your happiness? All these things will fail you! Only the Lord has the life we need and it comes from spending time communicating intimately with Him. Nothing, and I emphasize: NOTHING!, is as important as your time spent seeking the Lord.