Seek the Lord and Live

5 Hear this word that I take up over you in lamentation, O house of Israel:

“Fallen, no more to rise,     is the virgin Israel; forsaken on her land,     with none to raise her up.”

For thus says the Lord God:

“The city that went out a thousand     shall have a hundred left, and that which went out a hundred     shall have ten left     to the house of Israel.”

For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel:

“Seek me and live;     but do not seek Bethel, and do not enter into Gilgal     or cross over to Beersheba; for Gilgal shall surely go into exile,     and Bethel shall come to nothing.”

Seek the Lord and live,     lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,     and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel, O you who turn justice to wormwood[a]     and cast down righteousness to the earth!

He who made the Pleiades and Orion,     and turns deep darkness into the morning     and darkens the day into night, who calls for the waters of the sea     and pours them out on the surface of the earth, the Lord is his name; who makes destruction flash forth against the strong,     so that destruction comes upon the fortress.

10 They hate him who reproves in the gate,     and they abhor him who speaks the truth. 11 Therefore because you trample on[b] the poor     and you exact taxes of grain from him, you have built houses of hewn stone,     but you shall not dwell in them; you have planted pleasant vineyards,     but you shall not drink their wine. 12 For I know how many are your transgressions     and how great are your sins— you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,     and turn aside the needy in the gate. 13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,     for it is an evil time.

14 Seek good, and not evil,     that you may live; and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you,     as you have said. 15 Hate evil, and love good,     and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,     will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

16 Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord:

“In all the squares there shall be wailing,     and in all the streets they shall say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They shall call the farmers to mourning     and to wailing those who are skilled in lamentation, 17 and in all vineyards there shall be wailing,     for I will pass through your midst,” says the Lord.

–Devotion–

“Seek me and live.”  We hear and see the Mercy of God for the faithful and righteous here.  God is calling out to his people, and his people are the ones who listen to him.  His people are not to go to other cities or nations to find relief.  They are to come to God alone.  This God identifies himself yet again in vss. 8-9.  He is the God of Creation who stretched out the stars and brings destruction.  Again, God gives us some insight into just what displeases him among his people.  There are many in Israel who are doing evil deeds.  Namely, not practicing the righteousness, justice, and goodness of God.

We learn an important term here also.  “Remnant,” is the term that God uses to describe those in Israel who have not bowed a knee to idols or those who have at least repented of such treachery.  Even though God is preparing to act against Israel, it might be that he relents and perhaps he will be gracious to the remnant…perhaps.  

The people are called together to lament and wail.  And, why are they to wail?  Because they are about to meet their God.  They have tested his patience.  They have tried his reality and god-ness.  And now he is getting ready to come down and show his people all his reality, power, might, and god-ness.  He will pass through their midst, and that is not good news for anyone in Israel.  But it might be better news for the Remnant than it is for those found outside that group. 

I have drawn several parallels over the past few weeks to the situation Israel faced back then and the situation we face today as a Church in the American West.  In a similar way there is an increasingly small number of people who are interested listening to Jesus as spokesman of the God of Israel as if he is sole authority over a people.  Too many add, or more commonly subtract, from the Words of Jesus.  Or, worse yet, we make Jesus a liar!  We say, or hear preachers say, “What Jesus really means here is…”  Listening to Jesus and doing what he says is the only way be assured that you are practicing in thoughts, words, and deeds the justice, righteousness, goodness, and truth of God. 

Pastor Beltz

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