Amos 5:4. For thus saith the LORD unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live:
And that it just the message of God to professing Christians now: “Seek ye me.” Get away from your mere ceremonies, from trusting in your outward performances, and get to God himself. Get beyond your fellow-worshippers and your ministers, beyond your sanctuaries and your supposed holy places, and get in spirit and in truth to God himself: “Seek ye me, and ye shall live.”
Amos 5:5. But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal and pass not to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into captivity, and Bethel shall come to nought.
These were the places where the calves and other idols were set up for the worship of God by means of visible symbols. That was the Romanism of that day. Pure spiritual worship was ordained by God, but that was not enough for the idolatrous Israelites. They must needs set up the image of an ox, the emblem of power, — not that they would worship the ox, they said, but that they might worship the God of power through that symbol. And that is the plea of Papists today: — “We do not worship that cross; we do not worship that image; but these things help us. They are emblems.” But they are absolutely forbidden by God: “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them.” The first commandment forbids us to have any other God than Jehovah; the second forbids us to worship him through any emblem or symbol whatsoever.
Amos 5:6-7. Seek the LORD, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel. Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth,
Here you have another great truth, — that, in order to seek God aright, we must turn away from sin. All the ritualism in the world will not save us, or be acceptable to God; there must be purity of life, and holiness of character; justice must be done between man and man, and we must seek to be right before the righteous and holy God.
Amos 5:8. Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, —
The Creator of the spring-bringing Pleiades, and of the winter-bringing Orion, —
Amos 5:8-9. And turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name: that strengtheneth the spoiled against the strong, so that the spoiled shall come against the fortress.
The God of the weak, the Defender of the oppressed. Ye that oppress the poor, and tread down the people, seek ye him, and wash your hands from the stains of your past injustice.
Amos 5:10. They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly.
There is still a generation that cannot bear to be told of its faults, and that shows its venom against everything that is right.
Amos 5:11. Forasmuch therefore as your treading is upon the poor, and ye take from him burdens of wheat: ye have built houses of hewn stone but ye shall not dwell in them; ye have planted pleasant vineyards, but ye shall not drink wine of them.
God has often shown how he can overthrow those who oppress the poor.
Amos 5:12-17. For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right. Therefore the prudent shall keep silence in that time; for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken. Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate: it may be that the LORD God of hosts will be gracious unto the remnant of Joseph. Therefore the LORD, the God of hosts, the Lord saith thus, Wailing shall be in all streets, and they shall say in all the highways, Alas! alas! and they shall call the husband man to mourning, and such as are skilful of lamentation to wailing. And in all vineyards shall be wailing: for I will pass through thee, saith the LORD.
National sins bring down national judgments; and when God grows angry against the people, he makes the places of their feasting, the vineyards where grow their choicest vines, to become the places of their sorrow, so that wailing and distress are heard on all sides. Oh, that nations knew the day of their visitation, and would do justly! Then would such judgments be averted.
Amos 5:18. Woe unto you that desire the day of the LORD! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light.
“The day of the Lord is darkness, and not light,” for such as you, impenitent, unjust, graceless sinners. “The day of the Lord” will not bring blessings to you; but it will be —
Amos 5:19. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him.
From bad to worse do they go who think to escape from present misery by plunging into the presence of God. The suicide is, of all fools, the greatest, for he goes before God with his own indictments, nay, with his own sentence in his hand. He needs no trial; he has condemned himself.
Amos 5:20-22. Shall not the day of the LORD be darkness, and not light? even very dark, and no brightness in it? I hate, I despise your feast days, and I will not 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.
See how God speaks about public worship and formal sacrifices when the heart is not right with him. When the moral conduct of the offerer is wrong, the Lord will not accept his offering.
Amos 5:23-24. 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.
This is what God asks for, — righteousness, not sweet music. Have they not, at this very day, turned what were once houses of prayer into music-halls, set up their idols in our parish churches, and adorned their priests with every kind of Babylonian garment which they could find at Rome, the mystical Babylon? Are they not turning this nation back again to that accursed Popery, the yoke of which our fathers could not bear? Therefore, the Lord is wroth with this land; there are storm-clouds gathering over it, because it is not sufficiently stirred with indignation against those idolatrous men who are again seeking to come to the front among us.
Amos 5:25. Have ye offered unto me sacrifices and offerings in the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?
“Did you worship me? Did you offer sacrifices to me?” “No,” said God, “ye did not.”
Amos 5:26-27. 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.
Oh, for pure worship! Oh, for pure living! Oh, for hearts that spiritually worship the Lord, for Jesus said, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.” “But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?”