Death Of A Nation (1-3)
Amos begins his next message with startling words. Amos takes up a lament over the house of Israel. Do not forget that at the time Amos is preaching the nation of Israel is experiencing prosperity, wealth, and power. Israel has not had this kind of wealth and power since the reign of Solomon, two hundred years previous to this time. However, Amos is taking up a funeral song. The Hebrew word translated “lamentation” in the ESV which you read in verse 1 was a song or poem mourning the death of a relative, friend, or national hero (Expositor’s Bible Commentary). The NLT and NET properly translate this as a “funeral song.” The HCSB captures this meaning with the translation of verse 1, “Listen to this message that I am singing for you, a lament, house of Israel.” Israel is at the height of its power and Amos is singing a funeral song for the nation. The song is being sung as if the nation is already extinguished. It is over for the nation. The nation has fallen and will never rise again. Israel is described as a virgin, which implies that she is like a young girl in the prime of life. The once vibrant woman now lies totally helpless on the ground with no one to help. Verse 3 depicts the armies of Israel being decimated. Though the nation thinks everything is great, in actuality they are enjoying their final few days.
It is important for us to be able to see our true status before God. We cannot be deceived by prosperity and power. Just because things are going well in life does not mean that we are in right standing before God. The nation of Israel is back at its pinnacle of wealth and prosperity yet Amos is singing a funeral song for the nation. It is during our times of prosperity that we must carefully evaluate ourselves. It is when we are experiencing the blessings in life that we must make sure that we are not blinded from seeing our spiritual flaws.
Seek Me And Live (4-15)
The requirements are God are very simple. Seek the Lord and you will live. But we need to seek the Lord properly. There is a right way to seek the Lord. In this section Amos is going to explain how the people were supposed to seek the Lord to find life, yet failed.
Not in false worship (5:5-7).
The Lord declares to seek him and live. Notice that God says not to seek Bethel, Gilgal, or Beersheba. The people are seeking religion. They are seeking the performance of sacrifices and temple worship. But they are not seeking God. Do we see the difference? There is a difference between seeking the church and seeking the Lord. There is a difference between simply singing songs and engaging the hearts so that the songs draw us closer to the Lord. There is a difference between hearing the words of a sermon and seeking to know God through his word. There is a tremendous difference. Seek the Lord. Seek to encounter the Lord in worship. Seek to know the Lord and live! The goal is not worship. One of the worst teachings we have presented is that there are five acts of worship that must be done. Completing the five acts is not the goal. These five acts are the tools used to draw us to God. The goal is the seek the Lord. Prayer, singing, fellowship, giving, preaching, teaching, and the Lord’s Supper are all tools for us to reach that goal of seeking the Lord and drawing closer to him. Worship is not the goal. Israel’s religious activity amounted to nothing because they were not seeking the Lord. Amos warns that there is no security in worshiping in those locations. The people are not truly seeking or worshiping God at these temples. Therefore God will not accept their offerings.
God’s call to seek him and live does not mean that if you will seek him you will not get killed. Rather, seek the Lord to find true life. Seek the Lord to experience the blessings of God. We must always remember that God’s definition of “live” is not just the opposite of death, but is the opposite of a destructive life that lacks true joy and bringing one into God’s eternal life. As Paul said in 1 Timothy 5:6, some are dead while they yet live. Jesus said that if we lose our life for His sake, we will find life. However, rather than seeking the Lord, the people are turning justice into poison and bitterness. Wormwood was a bitter tasting plant that had a poisonous extract. They are turning justice upside down rather than seeking the Lord in righteousness and dealing with others in the righteousness of God.
In humility (5:8-13).
Seek the Lord by seeing the power of God. Seek the Lord in humility because he is the one who is in charge. The power of God is seen in the constellations. Not only did God create the stars, he put them in a order so that you can see designs in them. He has the power to turn the deep darkness into morning. He calls for the waters of the sea and dumps them on the surface of the earth. The Lord is his name. He causes there to be light. He causes the rain to occur. He put the stars in their place. Seek the Lord in humility because he is in charge.
Second, seek the Lord in humility because he knows your actions. In verses 10-11 God is able to recount what the people are doing. God knows our actions. He knows what we are doing on this earth. God says that he sees that they hate being corrected and hate the person who tells them the truth of God’s word. He sees that they are trampling the poor. He sees that the poor are being taxed. He sees that you are living in luxury and wastefulness. But notice God’s subtle statements. But have built these houses but you will not live in them. You have planted vineyards but you are not going to drink their wine. Your time has come and your days are numbered. We seek the Lord in humility because he knows what we are doing.
Third, seek the Lord because God has tallied your sins against you. Notice the chilling declaration of God in verse 11. “I know how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins.” Your sins are mounting against you. I see your actions and your sins are being counted against you. I know what you have done. We seek the Lord in humility because we know our hands are crimson stained with sins. Our sins are great and are tallied against us.
Only when we see this truth can we have an appreciation for Jesus. Only when we understand the tally of sins marked against us can we appreciate mercy and grace. Humble living comes when we grasp our spiritual condition and grasp what God has done to deal with our violations. There is no room for pride when are sins are ever before our faces. There is no room for self-seeking when we are mindful of the enormous list of sins that stand against us. There can only be humility when we see the blood of Jesus cleanse us from our sins.
In goodness (5:14-15).
The final way we need to seek the Lord from this text is by seeking what is good, not evil. Seek what is good to find life. God cannot have a relationship with us when we love evil. Notice the middle of verse 14. Seek good “so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you.” Seeking good is the only way we can maintain a relationship with God. God is only with us when there is a return to godly behavior. We cannot claim to be the people of God and then engage in ungodly behavior. Seeking the Lord is to hate evil and love good. We cannot love evil and seek God. These two things do not work together. You may think you are seeking God while loving evil, but you are not going to find God. You will not have a relationship with him.
Seeking the Lord through living a holy life cannot be lip service like these people are doing. The people were preaching to seek the Lord and he will be with them. However, they were not doing this. They were claiming this truth but not living it. It is easy to say, “Seek the Lord” but it is another thing to truly seeking the Lord by hating evil.
Seek the Lord in righteousness and humility. Do not seek the Lord in false worship. Religious activity is not seeking the Lord. Truly desire to know God and pursue him in all you do. This pursuit will lead to desiring what is good and hating what is evil.