“Seek Me and live…” Amos 5:4
Hear this. If you want life, seek God. I’m not just saying this. These are God’s words. These words are so important to hear and follow through on that You repeated them two verses later. “Seek the LORD and live, lest He break out like fire…” And knowing that we don’t get things sometimes, You restated it a little differently for our understanding in verse 14. “Seek good, and not evil, that you may live; and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you…” See, I can’t seek good if I don’t know You, God. Jesus, You Yourself pointed out that “No one is good except God alone.” (Luke 18:19) And if people were to see You as good, then they must equate You with God. If I am to be good, I must be identified with God not just by name. I must be identified by You by Your character within me that is seen shining out. If I want life, I must seek You for real. I must seek You and not just Your “idea.” I must seek Your character and Your presence until I find You and You find me, because life is only found in You.
There is a reason that Jesus, the Son of God, the King of kings and Lord of lords said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Because God invites us into Life and Life enters by faith as we trust in His way of Life, Jesus Christ, who took our place and bore our sins upon the cross because only He was the righteousness of God, without sin, for He was God even though He was man at the same time. Now, who doesn’t want life? Who wants death when they can choose life?
Repeated things are important things, things we really need to grasp. Did you know that Proverbs repeats this thought, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death”? And isn’t that what was going on in the time of Amos? And isn’t that what is going on in the world today? The people, Israel, who should have known right judgment weren’t choosing it. What does judgment mean here anyways? It’s the word mishpat. It’s the enforcement of government but the ultimate enforcement of government is under God and by His wisdom. Israel knew that. But they refused it. And it’s not like the nations didn’t know. At some point they refused it and adapted their own government and rejected God. That way seemed right to them. But the truth is that it leads to death.
Micah tells us what the Lord requires of us. He shows us what goodness looks like in Him and what it acts like in a person. It translates into obeying and living out and trusting His “mishpat”, His “government.” It’s loving mercy like He shows and showing it to others. It’s walking humbly with Him. That means submitting to Him and His ways and not making our own way.
Zechariah also elaborates on this. God’s word to Zechariah was, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother; and do not oppress the widow or the orphan the stranger or the poor; and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” That’s that word mishpat again. How do you “rule with true judgments”? Is it up to some political body? It wasn’t then and it shouldn’t be now. The power to rule rightly was personally given in the hands of a leader, or tribal chief, or a patriarch or king. These individuals are personally in charge and liable for rendering God’s directions. The essence of true religion and right leadership is in understanding who God is and “experiencing intimacy” with Him. Jeremiah 9:24 puts it this way, “but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things…” J. A. Thompson believed, “True religion consists in acknowledging the complete sovereignty of God in life and allowing Him to fill life with those qualities of steadfast faithfulness, justice, and righteousness which He possesses, in which He delights, and which He desires to find in His people.”
But instead of taking delight in You God, and Your rulings and ways and character, we turn them into something bitter and leave them altogether. It doesn’t seem to register about how good what You say really is. It doesn’t seem to make a difference to us that You are the One who placed the Pleiades and Orion in the night sky, that You alone make death something not to be feared because it ushers a new day in You. We don’t stop to think about the consequences of defying You either. How You can turn the day dark as night or call the waters of the sea and pour them out on the earth at Your will. We forget that the LORD is Your name and not ours.
Even when people raise up against people, they can’t do it without Your permission. You send people to warn and tell and teach, and yet, just like then, there are those who hate to hear and act against those who would tell. They keep the poor, poor and never give them a way out. They take away their livelihood. They meet their own needs and leave others without. Men revolt and offend against You repeatedly and deliberately and lead others to do so. They afflict those who want to follow You. Money means more than holiness. They ignore people’s real needs. They ignore the truth. Those who ought to speak up for the truth, stay silent. And when man has played enough at being his own judge of life, True Judgment will come.
I can pretend that I am all that, that I can decide right and wrong for myself, or that there is no real truth, that I can determine it according to my feelings. I can run around and play that game for a while. Because that’s all it is, a game. A really dangerous and hurtful game that goes against nature and against God. But the truth is, the Truth will come out. The real Maker of the stars and the planets, and molecules, and us will show Himself. He will enforce what He alone established as the only One with the right to enforce His will. And if I am not living already in the middle of His will, living in and according to and by Your mishpat, then I will be overcome by them.
I don’t have to be on the receiving end of You judgment, God. There is hope for us. There is time for turning; there is time for loving God’s ways and learning and living them. There is time for a relationship with the God who created us for a purpose. There is love and life and mercy waiting for us and calling to us. We can choose to hate the evil and love the good, and establish judgment at the gate, whether it’s at the gate of our house, or the gate of our neighborhood, or the gate of our town, or state, or country, or the nations. We can choose wailing and woe and have it our way. We can let judgment run down over us like waters that drown, and have God’s righteousness overcome us as a mighty flooded stream. Or we can let judgment run down over us like living waters giving life to all around. And like righteousness flowing mightily out to all that the mighty stream touches. The choice has always been left up to us. It still is.
The truth is that I can neither rule nor live until I submit to You. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:11, “It is a faithful saying: ‘For if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him…’” What is this about dying just to live? It’s this word sunapothnesko. The sun means with, apo is like and exclamation point, and thnesko means “to separate soul from body- to die.” Jesus’ death MUST be connected with ours. What??? That old man that wants to rule things our way, we have to crucify him so that he will be extinguished. We can’t be risen with Christ unless we die first. “Paul knows that the miracle of resurrections, which is entirely in God’s hands, is preceded by an act of submission. That act of submission is in our hands. We decide to die. Until we do, God’s hands are tied. God does not resurrect the living, only the dead.” (Skip Moen) Once we choose to die to self, that decision ushers us into the realm of living with God. So anything before that time isn’t really living at all. It’s not enough to just seem alive. The walking dead seem alive, don’t they? But they aren’t. And neither am I until I choose to die to self and be raised in Christ.
Life will never be found in our own way. Only Jesus has life in Himself and we can only find that true life, that real life if we are in Him and living in His life and light. Truth is truth, no matter what you say. And life is Christ and Christ alone is good. What will I choose for all the days of my life? Will I choose real life or do I just want to choose a temporary form of something that is a weak imitation of life? Well, I want to choose Real Life in Christ, even though it costs the death of myself and submission to You. I mean, wow, I’ve been resurrected! And I am looked after by the One in the whole universe who loves me and has the power to keep me more than anyone else. I don’t know about you, but I am more than OK with that.