Seek the LORD and Live: [1-27]
v.1 – Amos, a prophet, he could see the coming judgement, mourns before it happens. Takes up a lament for the nation because of the judgement she must suffer. To Amos, with prophetical insight, יהוה’s word of judgement was so sure that he could view it as already having taken place. He could visualise the distress and woe, the devastation and destruction that would befall Israel. Israel would be no more! She would be carried off into exile. And so Amos took up a dirge, mourned this great tragedy before it occurred. Amos was no vindictive prophet from Judah delighting in Israel’s downfall, heartlessly railing against her evil. Amos loved Israel, to him Israel’s judgement was a tragedy, he mourned over her downfall - something Israel herself didn’t do (cf. Elim) - beforehand she was secure and sure it wouldn’t happen and when it occurred, calamity so overtook her that there was no time for the luxury of mourning. But Amos saw clearly what must befall Israel.
v.2 - Amos could see the nation fallen, never to rise again - no last minute reprieve or mercy as before (cf. 4:11). A virgin kept for יהוה alone, she would now be invaded, possessed by aliens. She will fall and none will assist, she will remain down. Utterly devastated and decimated. God is jealous for us, intends us to be pure [2 Corinthians 11:2,3 For I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, so that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.]
v.3 - This would happen because the LORD, יהוה, had decreed it. He has spoken! He has decreed 90% losses - only 10% of those that go out to fight the foe will remain (in modern warfare 10% losses are regarded as extremely heavy - here it is 10% survivors!). But even now there is a way to avoid this impending calamity. The only solution, the only way to life is TO SEEK THE LORD (4-17).
v.4 – יהוה spoke to Israel - a message we would do well to heed ourselves. "SEEK ME THAT YOU MAY LIVE!" (cf. v.6, 14). This is the only way life is to be found: in seeking the LORD (cf. John 14:6). The secret, the key to life, is seeking יהוה and Him alone [Jeremiah 29:13,14 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will restore your fortunes and will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will bring you back to the place from where I sent you into exile.’ Isaiah 55:6,7 Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord,and He will have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.]. It calls for earnest, diligent mental activity - an intense desire that will not let up until satisfied, investigation, inquiry, research, hard work. The LORD rewards those that diligently seek Him (Heb 11:6), not the casual inquirer.
v.5 - Israel was seeking - but in the wrong place. She was seeking in the places of idolatrous worship. It is not just a matter of seeking "god" - as many believe that as long as you’re sincere, you will find God. No, you must seek in the right place - there is only one way (John 14:6; Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,). Jesus is the only way to the Father, only by seeking the true Jesus (and not one after our own imagination), the Jesus revealed in the Scriptures - only by seeking Him do we find God. All other avenues of seeking lead away from Him, to iniquity, not to יהוה. There is a play on the sound of "Gilgal" - "will certainly go into exile" (יִגְלֶה גָּלֹה). Seeking other than the God, the Bible revealed, way results in futility, deception, wickedness, hardship, trouble and distress. Why go that way?! For heaven’s sake: seek יהוה and live! (cf. Deut 30:15-20 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.”). The choice seems so simple, so obvious - oh why do we consistently choose the wrong option?! Why do we choose exile and trouble over life?!
v.6 - There are two options: either/or: life, and if this is not chosen by seeking יהוה, the inevitable alternative is יהוה Himself bursting forth upon us, consuming us along with our idolatry. For anyone who is not continually, diligently, earnestly seeking יהוה is an idolater, whether he realizes it or not. For man is created to worship and will inevitable be doing so - if it is not יהוה then it is not God, and any god that isn’t יהוה is an idol. When יהוה comes as fire who can withstand Him or quench it?! (cf. Hebrews 12:29 our God is a consuming fire.
2 Peter 3:7,10-12 But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!). Evil and idolatry will be consumed by fire and will be no more! Hallelujah! (Revelation 19:3,6 “Hallelujah! Her smoke rises up forever and ever.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.).
v.7 - יהוה gives a desperate call to seek Him and live, else be destroyed in His judgement fire. This judgement is because of Israel’s complete abandonment of morality and justice. Justice and righteousness had been twisted and distorted. Instead of being virtues, they were turned into something that was bitter and despised. Righteousness had been cast down. The two fundamental virtues upon which the Messianic rule is based (cf. Psalm 97:2 Clouds and thick darkness surround Him; Righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.) were no more. They had been deliberately done away with.
v.8 - יהוה reminds them just who it is they are dealing with and spurning - whose standards they are destroying, whose law they are rejecting - He is יהוה! The Creator of all things! Do they not fear, reverence, respect, stand in awe of Him whose Name is יהוה?! The great I AM! The One who made the stars, who turns darkness to morning and darkens day into night. What man has done such things? Just who do they think they are, to be changing His order, His standards, His righteousness?! (cf. Job 38:1-42:6). It is He who calls the waters together and pours them on the earth as seas [drive up Godley head]. Yet man struts around in his pride and does as he thinks best, utterly disregards God, and sets himself up as god, the setter of standards, the arbiter of "righteousness" and "justice", making a "justice" that is not justice but poison and completely sets aside righteousness altogether. Things that the Creator of the universe set in place! Does man think יהוה does not know or does not care about this violation of His creation order? Are they setting themselves up to fight against God Himself and what He has set in place?! Foolish man!
v.9 - Israel had set itself up to fight against יהוה Himself! A God of justice and judgement - who would personally come in great wrath and power and burst forth violently upon those who pervert justice and do away with righteousness - things that He loves. He will destroy the strong and their fortresses - no matter how strong they are. If they disregard His standards and are morally bankrupt and corrupt, they will be destroyed. For they have opposed the ALMIGHTY Himself!
v.10 - They continue in their injustice and unrighteousness. יהוה catalogues their transgressions - the guilt held against them for which judgement in righteousness would come. They hate those who uphold justice - those who decide cases at the city gate to ensure justice and that righteousness is upheld. For their way of living and of amassing wealth was by unjust means. Injustice worked to their advantage so they encouraged it. They abhor those who speak with integrity because such a one exposes their lack of integrity, their corruptness - such a one pricks the conscience, because the utter contrast of uprightness reveals their crookedness. Crooked is only apparent when there is a straight edge to line it up against. Hence the evil hate the upright (cf. John 3:19-21 ). Whilst there is no upright voice, evil can multiply, as "righteousness" becomes relative - one man’s deeds are measured against another - and when both are crooked they can continue on in their evil unchallenged. But as soon as there is a man of uprightness their moral slide is evident.
v.11 - Judgement would come but it was no capricious - it was for a reason: "therefore" (לָכֵן); "because" (יַעַן) - it was because of Israel’s injustice, oppression, exploitation of the poor, greed, getting rich at the expense of the less fortunate, looking out only for their own selfish interests to the complete disregard of the welfare of others - the spirit of our present age! There will be retribution. All they have gained by extortion, they will not get to enjoy. They built fancy stone houses at the expense of imposing heavy tax upon the poor, but they would not get to live in them. All their pleasant vineyards they had planted in order to enjoy their wine, but they would not get to drink it. They had built for themselves, but it would all disappear before their eyes – seek your own life you will lose it.
v.12 - They withhold justice from the poor, take bribes, persecute the righteous - always gaining for themselves by oppressing the poor and weak. They multiply their sins, heaping up their transgressions. Do they think יהוה doesn’t know what they are doing?! He sees all I do - He knows! He knows and will reward each according to His deeds (2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.). Their sin was injustice -not only were they taken up with getting rich, they did so at the expense of the poor, through withholding justice.
v.13 - So had justice been perverted, so did injustice and corruption pervade, that this had become the only means of operating [Ottoman empire]. Because he who maintained righteousness was setting himself up to be exploited and taken advantage of. We live in a similar "season" where if you are honest you will be "taken for a ride" [adding to price of house]. If you speak out for righteousness and standards you will be ridiculed and persecuted [speak against living together]. So the sensible thing has become to keep you mouth shut (cf. v.10). Therefore evil is allowed to continue on its way unchecked, unchallenged. When righteousness can no longer raise its voice, it has come time for יהוה to step in in judgement. This being the case, judgement cannot be too far away from our own society! Such is evil abounding, so evil is the season, that it pays to keep quiet (cf. John 9:4 We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.). When this becomes the case the time of יהוה's intervention is near!
v.14 - Israel claimed יהוה was with them, but He was not! All the time they practised evil יהוה could not be with them but only after they had turned from their evil, repented, actively wrought good instead of evil, sought יהוה. יהוה had made the appeal "seek יהוה and live" (v.4, 6), now He repeats the appeal but phrases it in terms of what practically needs redressing in their lives. To seek יהוה they must seek good - i.e. turn from their evil, injustice and oppression of the poor - turn from selfishness i.e. REPENT – turn around – change whole direction – appeal of ch.4: 5xs "But you have not turned to Me". By doing this, they are seeking יהוה and will find life - once more יהוה will be with them. This was the way to life, otherwise judgement hung like a sword over their head. A complete turn around in their mode of living was required. The way to life is the same for us - only through Jesus/יהוה , through seeking Him (John 17:3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.) and we seek Him by repentance - turning around from our self centred mod of living (Luke 9:23 And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny (say "no") himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. Mark 1:15,17 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” And Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”). Seek life that you may live! Choose life! Show forth the fruit of repentance – must be seen in our living.
v.15 - Israel had to do the opposite to what it was presently: they hated those that upheld justice at the city gate (cf. v.10); now they were to hate evil instead of hating righteousness, now they were to love good instead of hating it. Now they were to establish justice - the very thing they previously abhorred. A total turn around of standards and values is required - a complete transformation of the way we think (Romans 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.). They were to do this because it was right - not just to get out of trouble - there was no guarantee that God would spare them - they deserved judgement. Our repentance doesn’t obligate יהוה to show mercy it only provides the conditions whereby He can show us grace if He so chooses. "Perhaps ..." (cf. Joel 2:13,14 And rend your heart and not your garments.” Now return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. Who knows whether He will not turn and relent ...) - there is no guarantee - we are dependent totally on יהוה’s grace and mercy. He has no obligation to us, even if we do repent. But until we do, there is no possibility of Him exercising His grace toward us. "The remnant of Joseph" - only a remnant would be spared - those that repented - the nation of Israel as a whole was decreed to be exiled.
That's Israel – what about us? Do you want life? Seek יהוה that you may live! Seek יהוה by repentance – turn from injustice, idolatry, taking advantage of others, i.e. Selfishness – turn from self to God – seek Him with all your hear and He will be found of you.