Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Amos, and more specifically, is found in the fifth chapter. “For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel, Seek me that you may live.” These words are perhaps the core focus of this entire chapter, and serve as a powerful invitation in this generation and in this hour. Through the prophet Amos, the Lord calls out to the house of Israel and invites them into a place where they seek Him. What’s so amazing about the invitation of the Lord, is that He doesn’t merely call and invite the house of Israel into a place of seeking Him, but He declares to them that it’s a matter of life and death. If the Lord calls and invites the house of Israel to seek Him that they may live, it suggests and implies that if they refuse to or abstain from seeking Him, they will experience some type of death within themselves. I am convinced that this is absolutely true in our own spiritual journeys with the Lord, for have you ever noticed what happens inside you when you neglect seeking the Lord. Have you ever noticed what seems to happen to your spirit when you fail to seek the Lord? Have you ever noticed what seems to take place within your joy and even within your peace when you fail to seek the Lord? What about your faith, your trust, your hope, and your confidence in the Lord? What happens to your faith and confidence in the Lord when you cease seeking the Lord? If you are truly honest with yourself, you have to admit that if you find yourself in a place of perpetual distance from the Lord, a piece of you actually begins to die. This is why sin is so destructive in our lives, for it actually causes a distance and separation to occur between us and the Lord. When this separation occurs, it actually produces within us a tremendous amount of death—death which can only be remedied when we turn our hearts toward the Lord again, and once more seek Him.
The question that must be asked is whether or not it is the distance from the Lord which produces death, or whether the distance from the Lord is death. In the Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, the second death is being cast into the lake of fire for all eternity, but it isn’t just the being cast into the lake of fire that is the cause of death, but the eternal separation from the living God of heaven and earth. I would dare say that it is when we fail to seek the Lord that we begin to experience a slow and steady death within us—within our hearts, within our spirits, and within our souls. I believe that when we begin to find ourselves ceasing to seek the Lord, there is a part of our prayer life that dies along with it. If faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, then I am convinced that the way we experience the Word is through our seeking the Lord. If we fail or refuse to seek the Lord, I am convinced that our devotional life will experience a tremendous amount of death come upon it. The question that I am finding myself asking this evening is what is experiencing a slow and steady within my own life? What is presently dying with your life at this very moment? More often than not there is really no need to think too hard about what in your life is dying, for you are well aware of it. Perhaps your joy is dying and perishing within you? Perhaps it’s your peace. Perhaps it’s your confidence and your hope. Perhaps it’s your prayer life and/or your devotional life. Perhaps it’s your intimacy and fellowship with the Lord. If there is one thing that is absolutely certain, it’s that if we seek to live, we must seek the Lord. It is absolutely impossible to truly live if we are not actively seeking the Lord. Through the prophet Amos the Lord invited and called His people to seek Him in order that they might life, and one can’t wonder if the Lord didn’t see a powerful presence of death within and among His people.
Have you ever noticed how distance and separation from the Lord truly impacts and affects you? Have you ever taken the time to truly evaluate and examine the space that exists between you and the Lord your God? If there is such distance between you and the living God, are you aware of what has caused the distance? The apostle Paul wrote and declared that the wages of sin is death, and James wrote that sin when it is fully conceived within us produces death. I am convinced that the more we give ourselves to sin, the less we give ourselves to seeking the Lord, and as a result, death begins to rule and reign within our mortal bodies. Oh, are there relationships within your life that are experiencing death at this very moment? Have you asked yourself and the Holy Spirit if the reason for the death is the committing of yourself to sin before the Lord. He who seeks the Lord much will undoubtedly sin less and less. It is a proven fact that the more you seek the Lord, the less apt and the less prone you are to sinning against Him. There is no partnership or agreement with sinning before and transgressing the commandments of the Lord and seeking the Lord. I believe that the less we seek the Lord, the more vulnerable and exposed we make ourselves to sin, to idolatry, to immorality, and to rebellion. As I am sitting here this evening, I am gripped with the reality of how necessary it is to be on our guard during those moments when we would give ourselves to sin, and if we filled those moments with prayer unto the Father, or with the reading and studying of His Word. The Lord invited the house of Israel to seek Him, and declared to them that it was from that place of seeking the Lord that they would live, and I am convinced that this invitation was given as the Lord observed death that was so pervasive within and among them.
I am thoroughly convinced that there are many within the house of the Lord today who have one or more parts of them which are dying because they are failing to seek the Lord. The command, the instruction is also an invitation—an invitation to seek and draw near to the Lord. The Lord was calling His people back to Himself, and the starting point for that restoration is found in the place of seeking Him. Oh, are there pieces and areas of your relationship with the Lord where restoration and reconciliation needs to take place? Are there pieces and places within your relationship with the Lord where you need to be restored, and restored through the seeking of His name and His face? Does your faith need to be restored? Does your confidence need to be restored? Does your joy need to be restored? Does your prayer life need to be restored? RESURRECTION IN THE PRAYER CLOSET. It may very well be said that there is not only a need for resurrection to take place within the prayer closets in this generation, but the prayer closets themselves need to be resurrected. Oh that the Spirit of the Sovereign Lord would resurrect the prayer closets of this generation—resurrect the prayer closets of those who are experiencing nothing but death within their lives. This command and invitation of the Lord is absolutely incredible when you take the time to truly consider it, for the Lord didn’t simply invite the house of Israel to seek Him in order that they might live, but He also instructed them to avoid specific places. If you continue reading in this chapter—specifically the fifth verse—you will find additional instruction given to the house of Israel. “But do not resort to [seek] Bethel, and do not come to Gilgal, nor cross over to Beersheba;; for Gilgal will certainly go into captivity and Bethel will come to trouble” (Amos 5:5).
I believe with all my heart that what is recorded in the fifth verse of this chapter is actually directly connected to the invitation that was given in the fourth verse, for the Lord was inviting the people of Israel to seek a person rather than a place. Please understand and note that by person, I mean the Lord God Himself. The Lord invited the children of Israel to seek Him that they may live, but then instructed, and perhaps even cautioned them to not seek Bethel, nor go to Gilgal, nor go to Beersheba. What’s so incredibly interesting about this is that when you study Bethel in particular, you will find that Bethal actually symbolizes the house of God. This instruction not to go to Bethel was actually quite incredible when you consider it, for it was in Bethel where Jacob encountered and experienced the Lord—the God of his father and the God of his grandfather. “And Jacob went out from Beerhseba, and went toward Haran. And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. And he creamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the Lord stood above it, and said, I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; and they seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken of. And Jacob awaked out of his sleep, and he said, Surely the Lord is in this place; and I knew it not. And he was afraid, and said, How dreadful is this place! This is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven. And Jacob rose up early in the morning, and took the stone that he had put for his pillows, and set it up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it. And he called the name of that place Bethel: but the name of that city was called Luz at the first. And Jacob vowed a vow, saying, If God will be with me, and will keep me in this way that I go, and will give me bread to eat, and raiment to put on, so that I come again to my father’s house in peace; then shall the Lord by my God: and this stone, which I have set for a pillar, shall be God’s house: and of all that thou shalt give me I will surely give the tenth unto thee” (Genesis 28:10-22).
This city, this place called Bethel was where Jacob experienced his first encounter with the true and living God, for it was in this place where the Lord appeared to him atop a latter which stretched from heaven to earth, with angels ascending and descending upon it. When the Lord instructed and invited His people to seek Him that they may live, He also instructed them not to seek Bethel—not to seek that place which bore the name and title “house of God.” The Lord was instructing the house of Israel to seek Him—to draw near to Him—and to not get caught up in the actual place. When the children of Israel were journeying through the wilderness, they carried the Tabernacle of the Lord with them wherever they went. Wherever the pillar of cloud by day or the pillar of fire by night stopped, that was where they set up the Tabernacle and worshipped the Lord. If you study the journey of Abraham through the land of Canaan, you will find that he was a man of the altar, and that there were very specific places he went where he did two things—pitch his tent and set up an altar unto the Lord. In other words, wherever Abraham went, and wherever the children of Israel went, they sought the Lord in those specific places. The reason I mention this is to demonstrate and illustrate the reality that we as the people of God have been called to seek the Lord and not any specific place. There are men and women in this generation who get caught up in a specific place, and will flock and migrate to those places, for they get caught up in what they hear about that place.
Consider what took place in Brownsville, or in Toronto, or in Lakeland, or even in Alabama, and perhaps any other “awakening” or “revival,” and you will find that thousands of men and women from all over the nation, and perhaps even from various countries would gather together in those places. There are men and women who get so caught up and consumed with a specific place that they actually fail and forget to seek the Lord. There are men and women who will seek spiritual experiences rather than seeking the Lord Himself. There are men and women who will seek emotional hype and fanfare, and yet will never truly seek the Lord. It’s worth noting that Bethel—this place that was known as the house of God—was a place that had been turned over to idolatry during the days of Jeroboam son of Nebat, king of Israel. Consider what is recorded in the twelfth chapter of the book of First Kings concerning Jeroboam’s actions when he became king over the house of Israel. “Then Jeroboam built Shechem in mount Ephraim, and dwelt therein; and went out from thence, and built Penuel. And Jeroboam said in his heart, Now shall the kingdom return to the house of David: If this people go up to do sacrifice in the house of the Lord at Jerusalem, then shall the heart of this people turn again unto their lord, even unto Rehoboam king of Judah, and they shall kill me, and go again to Rehoboam king of Judah. Whereupon the king took counsel, and made two calves of gold (isn’t it amazing how sin and idolatry multiply in our lives, for at first it was one single calf in the wilderness, not it had become two calves in the Promised Land), and said unto them, It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem: behold thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt. And he set the one in Bethel, and the other put he in Dan. And this thing became a sin: for the people went to worship before the one, even unto Dan. And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi…So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense” (1 Kings 12:25-33).
Bethel—the house of God—had been transformed from a place where Jacob experienced and encountered the true and living God of Abraham and Isaac, to a place of idolatry before the Lord. Under the reign of Jeroboam king of Israel, the house of God had been transformed into a house of idolatry—a place where sacrifices were made to false gods that were no gods at all. When the Lord spoke through the prophet Amos and instructed the people not to go to Bethel, He was cautioning them against going to that place that had become a house of idolatry. WHEN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD BECOMES A HOUSE OF IDOLATRY! It was the insecurity and fear of one single man that caused the place of the house of God to be transformed into a house of idolatry and false worship. Oh, the question that must be asked in this generation is how many places where the house of God was once present have been transformed into a house of idolatry and false worship. How many golden calves have been set up in the place of the presence of the Lord, and how many men and women are worshipping and sacrificing to these false gods rather than the true and living God. The Lord—through the prophet Amos—was instructing the house of Israel to seek Him that they may live, and to not go to Bethel, for Bethel had become a house of idolatry. Bethel had become a place where false worship abounded, and should the inhabitants of Israel go there, they would get caught up in such idolatrous practices. The Lord was calling the people away from, and out from those places of idolatry, and straight to Him and Him alone. They weren’t to go to a specific place, for you will recall that it was because Jeroboam got caught up in a specific place—the city of Jerusalem—that he set up the golden calves in Dan and Bethel.
I would dare say that there are insecure men in the pulpits of many churches who instead of leading men and women to seek the Lord, and instead of encouraging men and women to draw near to the Lord their God for themselves, they are setting up calves of gold in their midst. These ministers are setting up false images in their midst, and are causing men and women to worship God in the image(s) they have made. Fearful and insecure men and women have led others into worshipping the true God in and according to the image(s) they have made, and the truth of the matter is that they are actually engaging in idolatrous and false worship. SEEK ME THAT YOU MAY LIVE! Stay away from Bethel! Stay away from those places which have the reputation of being a house of God, yet are actually houses of idolatry. Oh how true this actually is, for there are places that have a reputation of being houses of God, yet they have been transformed into nothing moe than houses of idolatry and immorality before the Lord. It’s worth noting that the Lord didn’t just invite the children of Israel to seek Him one time only, but actually did so twice. Twice the Lord invited His people to seek Him that they might live. WHEN BETHEL COMES TO TROUBLE! WHEN BETHEL BECOMES INIQUITY! WHEN THE HOUSE OF THE LORD COMES TO TROUBLE! WHEN THE HOSUE OF THE LORD BECOMES INIQUITY! Oh, I would dare say that there are places and buildings in our nation today which have the reputation for being houses of God, yet they have actually become iniquity in the land. There are places among us which have the reputation for being a house of God, yet that which takes place in their midst is nothing more than idolatrous worship of images made according to man’s own imagination. The Lord in His infinite mercy was calling the house of Israel back to Himself, and was calling them away from, and out of the idolatry that was so pervasive in their midst. The Lord was calling the children of Israel back to Himself, for Bethel and Gilgal had surely come to naught and had become nothing. The Lord is calling men and women in this generation to seek Him that they may live, and to not seek specific places in order that they might somehow experience Him. The Lord is calling for men and women in this generation to not get caught up in personalities, or places, or even a lot of hype and hysteria that has been present in this nation over the past ten plus years.
The single greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all you strength. We are not called to seek personalities, or places, or experiences, or encounters, or revelation, or visions, or dreams, or anything else that many within this generation chase after. We have been called to seek one thing and one thing alone—actually, we have been called to seek one person and one person alone—and that is the Lord. There are far too many men and women who are seeking personalities and places, experiences and encounters, revelation and visitations, and aren’t seeking the Lord Himself. These are the men and women who seek after laughter, gold dust, and who completely miss the Lord altogether. Oh, I can’t help but wonder if the final words of Amos in this chapter aren’t directed toward those places where this reality is manifested and present: “I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will no smell in your solemn assemblies. Though ye offer me burnt offerings and your meat offerings, I will not accept them: neither will I regard the peace offerings of your fat beasts. Take thou away from me the noise of thy songs; for I will not hear the melody of thy viols. But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel? But ye have borne the tabernacle of your Moloch and Chiun your images, the star of your god, which ye made to yourselves. Therefore will I cause you to go into captivity beyond Damascus, saith the Lord, whose name is the God of hosts” (Amos 5:21-27). What if these words perfectly fit those places where like Bethel, idolatrous worship has taken place, and those places which the Lord is sorely displeased and disgusted with? Oh that we would read this chapter and truly evaluate our spiritual journeys with the Lord and ask ourselves one crucial question: What are we seeking? Or better yet: Who are we seeking? Are we seeking the Lord, or are we seeking personalities? Are we seeking the Lord, or are we seeking places? Are we seeking the Lord, or are we seeking experiences? Are we seeking the Lord, or are we seeking hype and hysteria? Are we seeking the Lord, or are we seeking goosebumps? Oh that there would be a people in this generation who desperately and earnestly seek the Lord.