Explore the Bible Study: Seek God

12:50 PM


This past week we witnessed the death of Queen Elizabeth II. According to The Guardian news, the UK has entered a 10-day period of national mourning for the Queen. This means all concerts, sporting events, and even strikes have been cancelled. As one observes the ceremonies that are taking place, it's amazing to hear so many references from the Bible regarding salvation, Jesus Christ, and Heaven. A time of mourning does appear to have motivated some UK citizens to seek God. The Explore the Bible Study: Seek God, focuses on another time of mourning when people were challenged to seek God and live.

Amos 5:1-3 describes how Amos mourned or lamented over a different kind of death. It was the death that would take place in the future. It was the death of Israel because of sin and rebellion: “Listen to this message that I am singing for you, a lament, house of Israel: 2 She has fallen; Virgin Israel will never rise again. She lies abandoned on her land with no one to raise her up. 3 For the Lord God says: The city that marches out a thousand strong will have only a hundred left, and the one that marches out a hundred strong will have only ten left in the house of Israel.”

His lament took place during a time when Israel was living life to the fullest. The people had enjoyed a period of success and prosperity under Jeroboam II, which fostered arrogance. The people had come to think of God's blessing in the form of wealth as their birthright. Amos warned that they were soon to hear God's verdict. Their wealth, their nation, and their pride would lie in ruins. Much like the way many people seek God or examine their faith during the loss of a loved one or when experiencing some other loss, Amos called for the Israelites to seek God and live.

Just as Amos prophesies about the impending death of a nation, the Bible also reminds us that death is something that we will all face—the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Additionally, God reminds us that one day this entire world will be destroyed because of God’s judgment against sin (2 Peter 3:10). Yet, Amos’ message is not without hope. If we seek the Lord, we will live. As we examine Amos 5:4-15 consider the ways in which you should seek the Lord and live.

Seeking God Requires Authentic Worship – Amos 5:4-9

Israel was pretending to seek God in all the wrong places with all the wrong motives. The shrines described were places of idol worship while others became shrines because of their historical religious importance for the people of Israel. 

  • The shrines at Bethel, located about ten miles north of Jerusalem, was one of two locations where Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, built altars, made two golden calves, and said to the people: “Here are your gods” (see 1 Kings 12:26-33)
  • Beer-sheba was a significant place of pilgrimage because of its significance in the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 
  • After Israel crossed over the Jordan River, Joshua established Israel’s first camp at Gilgal, where they were circumcised and observed the first Passover in the promised land (Joshua 4–5). Gilgal was also near the place where Elijah was taken up into heaven (2 Kings 2:1). Consequently, Gilgal became a sacred shrine for the people of Israel.

Yet Amos emphatically stated that none of these locations or the religious practices that took place there would suffice for finding God. Nothing could be substituted for seeking God. All such substitutes would lead to destruction, and this destruction would be brought about by an inextinguishable, all-consuming fire.

What might be our “shrines,” religious rituals, or religious activities that we use as substitutes for seeking God?

Notice the phrase in Amos 5:7, “Those who turn justice into wormwood also throw righteousness to the ground.” Wormwood was the most bitter of plants. Amos uses this statement to point out that they weren’t really seeking God when they worshipped. If they were, then it would be obvious in how they expressed their love for God and people, but that wasn’t the case. 

Notice Amos 5:8-9 again. What is Amos saying about man as compared to God in these verses? In what ways does man consider himself to be greater than God today? How does this kind of thinking impact authentic worship?

It is the God of Creation, the Lord God Almighty, that they needed to worship. It is this God who is in control of all things, including the future. It is this God who exhorted His people to authentically seek Him and live, even with the impending judgment that was to come.

Seeking God Demands Radical Honesty – Amos 5:10-13

Israel had drifted so far from God that they had quit loving others as God had commanded. Amos says they hated the judge who was willing to render fair judgments and convict criminals, and they despised any witness who faithfully spoke the truth in defense of the innocent.  Additionally, those who had a lot in society didn’t use it for good but used it to abuse the poor. It was through this exploitation that they built houses of expensive cut stone. They also planted lush vineyards, hoping to enjoy the fruit of the vine they would produce. The Lord declared that these greedy people who were oppressing and profiting from the poor would not live in the houses they built or drink wine from the lush vineyards they had planted. 

Would you say our society today is guilty of the actions mentioned in verses 10-13—Hating the one who convicts the guilty; despising the one who speaks with integrity; trampling on the poor; oppressing the righteous; taking bribes; depriving the poor of justice?

Notice what Amos says in verse 13, “those who have insight will keep silent at such a time, for the days are evil.” If everyone had been honest, they would have realized there would be no legitimate reason to protest the destruction God was going to exact on unfaithful Israel. Their rebellion against God, their moral corruption, and the oppression of people had perverted the entire nation. God would bring down His righteous judgment because the days are evil, and those who have insight will realize nothing can be said about it.

Do you believe Christians find it easy to remain silent when injustices are observed? Why is it so hard to be honest about the sins we observe around us?

Perhaps believers are silent because they don’t know how to respond. Or perhaps it is because of fear. But perhaps the greatest reason we might not speak out is because we are guilty as well. However, if we are to seek God, we must be radically honest about our sin and the sin that permeates this world and our society.  We must honestly take responsibility for the part we play. Being radically honest requires immediate action.

Seeking God Requires Immediate Action – Amos 5:14-15

Seeking God required repentance. True repentance is accompanied by action, and Amos called the people of Israel to pursue good, and not evil. They were to hate evil, love good, and establish justice at the city gate. 

Do you believe pursuing good, not doing evil, hating evil, and establishing justice is the path to repentance or the result of repentance?

All these actions reveal the heart of one who is truly seeking God. Notice the phrase in verse 14, as you have claimed. These people, just like many people today, claimed to know the Lord God, yet their actions did not back it up. Amos states that if you claim to know God then your actions must back it up.

To love good means to be devoted to, to value above all else, to delight in, to aspire to that which pleases and honors God, because God alone is truly good (Luke 18:19). Because man is created in God’s image, we can express some aspects of His goodness, but our goodness is broken by sin. Only through a personal relationship with Christ can we truly and purely learn how to love good as we pursue good.

Does your response to people today, either personally or on social media, demonstrate that you are pursuing good and loving good?

We usually think that people won’t pursue something that is evil. Yet, we live in a sin-broken world in which man is always tempted to embrace and pursue evil. Hating evil means to hate everything that is in opposition to God’s Word and His character. To hate means to despise, to abhor, to reject, to see something as ugly and to separate oneself from it. Hating evil begins with hating one’s own sin which leads to repentance.

If you claim to be a believer, do you actively pursue evil or do you hate evil?

When we realize we are sinners, repent, and receive Christ’s payment for sin, and believe God raised Him from the dead, then our view of evil will begin to change. As we seek God, and He empowers us to pursue good and love good, then we will grow in our hatred of what evil has done and is doing to this world.

We will come to hate the evil that so easily entangles us and this world. But hating evil does not mean we hate people who pursue evil. Amos says that the result of seeking God will result in justice being reestablished. People will be treated as God expects them to be treated by those who claim to follow God. They too will be given the same opportunity to seek God through repentance.

When you observe or hear of people who are pursuing evil, does your heart break for their brokenness, or do you tend to hate them instead of their sin? Do you view people as a means to an end, or do you view people as individuals who need to seek God and live?

Perhaps

There is one important word in verse 15 that we can’t miss. It’s the word, “Perhaps.”  God’s judgment awaited Israel in 722 BC with the invasion of Assyria. Amos held out hope that some would avoid that wrath by turning from their evil ways and throwing themselves upon the mercy of God. Those who loved good and upheld justice would indicate they were sincere in seeking God, and therefore they would live. They needed to seek the Lord regardless of what God would do in response. By doing so, it would be a true outward expression of their faith and repentance toward God, and not just a ploy to win God over and escape His judgment. God was not negotiating with them.

How do you know you are seeking God? How would you define what it means to seek God and live?

The call to seek God is not about finding something lost, but about passionately pursuing someone. Jesus spoke of this pursuit of God, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you (Matthew 6:33). 

Believers realize that what was true of Israel in the Old Testament is going to ultimately be true for this entire world. One day judgment is coming upon all who refuse to seek God and live. We know that day is coming when Christ returns. Yet, we have hope when we seek Christ with our entire being. Christ says to seek Him, and we will live. We will have life, not just a life of hope this side of death, but life eternal in a place where there won’t be any weeping or mourning. Seeking God this side of eternity gives us the chance to offer hope to others. Hopefully you are one that is truly seeking God and expressing it through authentic worship, radical honesty, and immediate actions.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. Be sure to use this as a supplement to your study of the Explore the Bible Study resources provided by LifeWay.

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