Amos writes Israel to warn them of the captivity to come, yet he writes to urge and warn them to repent for as long as God will forbear. In Amos five, God gives them a three-fold encouragement to preserve or regain spiritual life. All three required Israel to “seek” with the promise that they would find. What was God’s prescription for life in this chapter?
“SEEK ME” (Amos 5:4-5). In these verses, God contrasts Himself with Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba, three prominent cities in the northern kingdom. Ward and Smalley show the extreme alliteration about Gilgal (“Gilgal shall surely go into exile”), considering it a literary device to drive home the fact of their punishment (cf. A Handbook on the Book of Amos, p. 102). Bethel means “house of God” but they had made this and their other dwelling places “Beth Aven” (the house of evil). Beersheba, along with the other two cities, were sites for worship. Yet, their worship and their lives had turned from God. The point with all three cities is that they represented the people turning somewhere else for help and purpose rather than Him. All generations should mean what we ask in song–“Where could I go but to the Lord?”
“SEEK THE LORD” (Amos 5:6-7). Amos ends this short section by adding his inspired echo to the Lord’s. Instead of exposing false alternatives, now Amos is warning of spiritual consequences. Punishment awaited those who did not recognize and submit to the rule and authority of God. He warns against twisting justice and perverting righteousness.
“SEEK GOOD AND NOT EVIL” (5:14ff). It seems Israel was saying the right things, but they were not living the right life. Their mouths professed, but their lives denied. An omniscient God was not fooled, and for that reason He could reject their pleas for help and deliverance. Repentance means truly reaching for right and rejecting wrong from the inside out, heart and actions. If we truly want life, our heart and lives will tend toward God. Otherwise, whatever our lips say in worship or in trouble, God knows the truth.
Many have suggested that “seek” better means “come back” in the case of Amos five. Today, one may be seeking for the first time or seeking to come back to God again. Either way, God and good are the ways to life!