If there is one message, from God, that we should always keep in mind and meditate on, it is this one:Seek and live.
1 Hear this word, Israel, this lament I take up concerning you:
2 “Fallen is Virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land, with no one to lift her up.”
3 This is what the Sovereign Lord says to Israel: “Your city that marches out a thousand strong will have only a hundred left; your town that marches out a hundred strong will have only ten left.”
4 This is what the Lord says to Israel: “Seek me and live;
5 do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba. For Gilgal will surely go into exile, and Bethel will be reduced to nothing.”
6 Seek the Lord and live… (Amós 5:1-6a)
These are very difficult times.
Pandemics, climate crises, wars…
Indeed, life is a fragile and ephemeral thing, as the Psalmist reminds us:
The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.Psalm 103:15-16
We spend our lives struggling and striving to improve it.
We want to have a better position, a better job, better training, better savings….
And we do not realize that this is exactly the same thing we did when we did not have Christ in our lives.
The same as the world does.
And worst of all, sometimes we do it without even thanking God for what He has already given us, and for what He spares us.
And we forget God’s message: Seek the Lord and live.
At the beginning of the war in Ukraine, one of the news broadcasts featured a young student who had gone to Ukraine to study for a degree.
This young man was already safe in Poland, to begin his return to his country. But when the journalist asked him what his departure from Ukraine had been like, the young man replied that he had been treated very badly, that he was forced to stand for more than 15 hours in a crowded train where he could not even move, and that this caused problems with his legs.
Really? Were you treated badly because you were evacuated to safety while many others were left suffering and dying in razed and encircled cities?
It’s sad, but, sometimes, we do the same. We have stopped seeing God as Lord to see Him as a mere provider. It is no longer enough for us that God saves us, heals us and gives us his grace and gifts, now we want him to do it our way.
We keep forgetting God’s message: Seek the Lord and live.
Now, is it a bad thing to want to improve? Of course not. Even Paul, when writing to the Corinthians tells them in his first epistle:
Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so.1st Corinthians 7:21
Wanting to improve is good, but only if it is done from God’s perspective. That is why we must seek him.
Amos was a man who tended and drove oxen.
He was a man of the country and had received no theological training other than that which was given by the Levites to the people in general. As he says: “I was neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet”.
And yet, God called him to announce his message in a very difficult time for the kingdom of Israel.
A message of judgment and punishment, but also of reconciliation.
The problem, for the Israelites, was that they did not listen.
They were very focused on their goals, to become a strong and feared kingdom, even if it meant making war on their brothers in the kingdom of Judah.
And to do so, they did not hesitate to ignore the law that God had given them. And they mocked the consequences of the curse that came with turning away from it.
They thought they were the masters of their lives. That is why they despised Amos’ message and threatened him to keep quiet. Or, at least, for him to prophesy away.
It’s as if they were saying, “If you want to entertain this for us that’s fine, but don’t bother here.”
And the truth is that God heard this “plea” of the Israelites, as we see in chapter 8 of the book of Amos, because after Malachi there were 400 years of silence on God’s part, in which there was no prophet in Israel, until John the Baptist.
They sought to make a great name for themselves among the nations, not realizing that they, along with their brethren in the southern kingdom, had been chosen by God to be His people.
No other nation on earth had such a privilege, but to them it seemed little. They also wanted the shine and luster of the world’s appearance.
Seek me and live
They forgot about God’s message:Seek me and live. For in God alone is blessing, life and honor.
They had already incurred in this tremendous sin centuries before, when they asked Samuel to have a king “such as all the other nations have” (1 Samuel 8).
And here again we see how dangerous it is to insist on our ways and desires, because as in the case of the prophetic silence we have just seen, God also granted them this request:
And the Lord told him:
“Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.
As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.
Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.”1 Samuel 8:7-9
Israel did not want to be ruled by the sons of Samuel, because they had departed from the ways of God and were corrupt. But they didn’t let God offer them the alternative, they wanted to be the ones to choose the way to fix the problem.
And the ways of man are seldom the ways of God. With the added problem that when you fall in your ways, there is no one to help you up, because God is not around.
And not because He cannot be, but because you have decided to turn away from God and reject his help.
That is why Amos tells them that 1000 will go out and 100 will return, or 100 will go out and 10 will return. And it is that they were going in their own strength, and they forgot that, no matter how good you are, there will always be those who are better than you.
But God did not want Israel to be destroyed, just as God does not want the death of the wicked, nor does He want us to be wiped off the face of the earth.
That is why he offers us his alternative, the only real alternative that guarantees us blessing and joy: To turn to him.
Israel wanted to get what it needed by its own means. But that wasn’t going to work, because in the spiritual world that never works.
Therefore, it will never be a good idea to try to make your life outside of God’s ways, because you will end up decimated; nor to set your sights on the things of the world, because you will end up defeated.
And when problems arise, people run from here to there without anyone chasing them, just for fear that something bad might happen.
People who will seek protection in the Bethel of endless jobs, or will try to enter the Gilgal of unethical agreements, or will try to move to the Beersheba that promises prosperity and security, but none of that will give them what they expect, because only in God will we find life.
The Bible already warns us that there will be wars and rumors of wars, which is why we must be more aware than ever of who we have believed in and in whom we have placed our confidence, and that is why it is more important than ever that we seek God, because only in him will we find life..
And, above all, in these difficult times we are facing, let us be an example of love and generosity to those in need, and let us be an example of light, not allowing anyone to take from us what God has given us.
Let no one rob us of the peace of Christ.
May God bless you
Cover photo by Finding Dan | Dan Grinwis on Unsplash