Amos – Bread and Serpents
Amos 5:4 For thus says the LORD to the house of Israel:
“Seek Me and live;
5 But do not seek Bethel,
Nor enter Gilgal,
Nor pass over to Beersheba;
For Gilgal shall surely go into captivity,
And Bethel shall come to nothing.
6 Seek the LORD and live,
Lest He break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
And devour it,
With no one to quench it in Bethel—
In the first three verses of Amos 5 we see a dire pronouncement of Judgement against the covenant breaking people of Israel. They are told only ten percent of the nation will survive God’s hand. Immediately following this jaw dropping proclamation, Yahweh very lovingly extends His hand of mercy to the nation.
“Seek Me and live…”, wait what? Is that all there is to it? Just seek God and live? There must be some penance required? What does God want? How much money will this take? Surely there are some strings attached! Nobody gets off this easily. No way could God be poised to destroy the nation, then in the very next breath whisper, “Seek Me and live”, right? All of the other gods demand sacrifice. Do I have to throw my baby in the fire? What is the cost? Who can pay it?
The very notion that simply seeking God to live is so simple, prevents many people in our day and age from coming to faith. God must require something more, a lot more, in exchange for the forgiveness that we do not deserve, right? Hmmm.
God has placed no other qualification on the Nation. All they must do is seek Him. The prophet makes clear to the people it is Yahweh they must seek. They are not to seek a place, namely Bethel. They are not to go to Gilgal to seek refuge from the Hand of God. Traveling to Beersheba will not save them. Gilgal will go into captivity, Bethel will “come to nothing”. Don’t trust in the temporal physical world thinking you will escape the wrath of God – you must simply “Seek God” if you want to live.
The nation of Israel could have learned from their own family history. Numbers 21:4-9 tells the story of the Bronze Serpent during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. Look at verse 5.
Numbers 21:5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses: “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.”
What was the nation’s sin? They spoke against Moses and they spoke against God. You two didn’t rescue us from Egypt, you brought us out here to die! As a nation they rejected God’s provision, manna the bread from heaven! But they didn’t just reject God’s provision, they “loathed” or hated it and called it worthless.
The text tells us God responds by sending serpents among them. If you were bitten by a snake, you died. The people call out to God, through Moses. God answers their prayer by commanding Moses to construct a bronze serpent on a pole.
8 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.”
9 So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.
The pattern in both Amos and Numbers is the same.
God offers provision for life, the people reject God and His provision, God Judges their Sin and offers them restoration. God is still extending a “life offer” not only to the Nation of Israel, but to all of mankind today.
Everyone knows John 3:16. I think even many non-believers have heard it so many times they could quote it with some accuracy. But how many of us know the two verses that come before it? Look at what Jesus said in John 3:14-16.
14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
15 that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Why could Nation Israel “Seek me [Yahweh] and live”, with no other strings attached? Why did the wilderness wanders only have to “Look at the bronze serpent to live”, with no other strings attached? Because God has poured out His wrath on His only begotten Son Jesus, so that all that is required of us is our belief. Jesus’ death on the cross makes it all possible. It really is that simple.
Remember, God secured our salvation by paying the highest price possible – it cost Him His Son. Salvation isn’t cheap, but it is free.
We have all been bitten by the serpent of sin. Will you “Seek God and live”? Will you look at Jesus on the cross and live?
All Scripture quotations from The New King James Version. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982. Print.