Lenten Week 5: Seek Me and Live

Written by: Derik Huemann

Derik Heumann is the Lead Pastor and Church-planter of Evergreen Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan where they host a Set Free team. Derik is passionate about seeing people experience hope, healing, and wholeness in and through Jesus Christ.

Amos 5:4-17

“Seek me and live…Seek the LORD and live…Seek good, not evil that you may live…”

Amos is a shepherd from Tekoa (located in Judah) who is sent to Israel to preach and prophesy against the religious hypocrisy, idolatry, and injustices present amongst God’s “faithful” community. After condemning other nations in the first chapter, Amos focuses on Israel in full force. Amos has just proclaimed the words of the LORD who state in 5:2 “Fallen in Virgin Israel, never to rise again, deserted in her own land, with no one to lift her up…” And yet, we are given three recurring exhortations/admonishments to seek after LIFE, not death. Seek God, not idols. Seek justice, not injustice.

Two significant words must be understood for Amos, or any of the prophets before moving forward. Righteousness and Justice. Righteousness, or tsedaqah in Hebrew refers to a standard of honest and right equitable relationships between people regardless of their social status. Justice, or mishpat, are the actions taken to correct inequity and injustice. A restoration of tsedaqah for all people to flourish in this covenant community with God and one another.

As God is a God of life, justice, and righteousness, He desires to see all of life flourish in abundance. His relentless pursuit throughout history for redemption, renewal, and reconciliation between himself and all of creation through the people of Israel is his driving motivation. Our God is a jealous God and cannot, will not put up with his bride being smitten and beholden to anything lesser than himself, nor will he stand idly by while his own people harm and hurt one another…AND YET, this is the state of nation of Israel’s heart and soul…idolatrous, hard hearted, unjust, and oppressive to the poor.

It is this kind of thing that Amos is condemning as he names Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba as the contrast to Himself. All three of these places held significant prominence as religious and historical landmarks and sites of worship. Bethel was named by Jacob (Gen. 28:19) and turned into the Northern tribe’s primary place of worship instead of Jerusalem (1 Kgs 12:26-33). Gilgal, was the site of the promised land encampment in the conquest. Joshua circumcised the generation there (Josh. 5:2-12), and Beersheba has ties to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Gen. 22:19, 26:23, and 46:1-5), serving as a site of pilgrimage for northern tribes people (Amos 8:14; 2 Kgs. 23:8). The people thought they were fine and in right standing with God when in fact the opposite was true…they just could not see it because of their pride and arrogance. By the time Amos is speaking, all three sites had been defiled and represented faithlessness on behalf of Israel. Additionally, Israel neglected the poor and even put heavy burdens on them by raising rent and taking most of what little they had. All so they could build summer homes, plant pleasant vineyards to cool and satisfy their thirst, and even accepted bribes to turn aside the poor (5:11-12).

God sets himself against the unjust actions and idols of his people and points them to himself for the path they are on leads to destruction and death, whereas he is the way of righteousness, justice, goodness, and life.

Application:

God’s invitation to us is to walk through the door of confession and repentance so we may live! Regardless of how long we have followed God, we all can and do get swept up in the traditions and our past experiences with Him, even elevating them, or holding onto them over God’s revelation and commands to us now just like with Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba. We all can grow a hardened and idolatrous heart, when we think everything is fine.

Heart check. Is everything fine though? 

Do you hear the cries of the needy and the poor in your own neighborhoods, cities, counties, and nation? Are you through action or inaction holding up systems of injustice just like Israel in Amos? Can you see it, hear it, feel it? Or does your privilege, power, and “right standing” with God and others based on tradition and history prevent you from noticing that everything is not fine.

“Seek me and live…Seek the LORD and live…Seek good, not evil that you may live…”

The repeated invitation is for us as well! Seeking the LORD means repenting, or turning from death and turning to life. Repentance is only accessed when we humbly admit we have done something wrong or failed to act in a just, equitable, and righteous way. We have desired and followed after false gods. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We have not loved the LORD our GOD with all of our hearts, souls, minds, and strength. 

Will you enter the door of repentance through confession this Lent? For it is in repentance where we find rest and life. It is in repentance where we unlearn, learn, and relearn how to follow our LORD as his disciples. Come. He stands at the door and knocks. He is waiting for you to seek Him so you may live!

 

Prayer: 

Father God, forgive us for the ways we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed through what we have done to perpetuate injustice and idolatry through our actions and our inaction. Help us to heed your words through the prophet Amos, a simple shepherd from Tekoa. Strengthen us through your Holy Spirit to draw near to you through your Son Jesus who invites us to come to him just as we are. In confession you have promised to cleanse us. To heal us. To help us follow after you in righteousness and holiness. May we notice those within our contexts and see them as you see them. May our hearts break with your heart for the injustices and religious idolatry which plagues our world still. May we be found faithful as unlearn, learn, and relearn your ways as embodied through your Son and our Lord Jesus. May he be our guide in all things. Humble and teach us. May your Kingdom come and your will be done in our hearts, our cities, and our world as it is in heaven. Amen.

 

Reflection Questions: 

  1. What are you seeking after this Lent? Life or death? God or anything less than all of who God is, all that God’s done, and all that God’s promised us?
  2. Who are the poor, oppressed, and marginalized in the contexts or regions where you live, work, study, and play? What might God be inviting you to do about it?
  3. What do you need to confess and repent of today? What do you need to turn away from so that you may turn towards God?

How can we respond this season of Lent? 

  • Give instead of Giving Up: 

What if instead of giving something up for lent you gave something. What if you gave just $2 a day through the season of lent to help expand the work in Kenya to help keep girls in school through the Wunders program? You can invest here today.

  • Reflect and join the community conversation: 

For additional ways to grow and reflect during this Lenten series, follow us on social media for journal prompts.

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