Years ago, cultural anthropologists understood that man’s basic desire was to worship whatever he perceived to be his god. But more recently, anthropologists have discovered another equally important fact. Their research has revealed people not only desire to worship their god, they have an inborn desire to enter his presence and interact with him.
That is amazing! It is remarkable because I don’t believe these anthropologists were attempting to confirm the Bible when they made their discovery. But in so doing, they disclosed a divine truth: God created man with a yearning to know Him and fellowship with Him on a deeply personal level. This is why God appeared in the Garden of Eden to walk with Adam. However beautiful Eden appeared it could not compare with the glorious transcendence of the grand and glorious creator of the universe. Adam was never more alive and invigorated than when the giver of life descended into his presence. And Satan resented this! It is not coincidental that Satan’s temptation fractured Adam’s sacred communion with God. Man’s sin incurred separation from God. And yet, hidden deeply under the sinful hearts of men, there has remained a desire to fellowship with God. And the secular, cultural anthropologists insist this is so!
But Adam’s disobedience would not forever exclude mankind from God’s presence. Fellowship would be restored! Thank God that grace intervened through Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). But how do people secure that “abundant life” through Christ Jesus? It is obtained by fellowshipping with him through prayer. Our communion with God through prayer reconnects us to the fountainhead of life. This is what Amos 5:4-5 means when it says, “This is what the LORD says to the house of Israel: “Seek me and live; do not seek Bethel, do not go to Gilgal, do not journey to Beersheba.”
When God issued this directive for Israel’s spiritual renewal and relief from their enemies He gave them direct instruction: “Seek Me and live”! But Israel assumed their answer to victory and claiming “abundant life” involved returning to cities renowned with Hebrew heritage—Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba—places where God had manifested Himself in great power. Each city was royally situated in Hebrew antiquity. Let’s briefly investigate each city.
Bethel means, “House of God.” It’s where God met with Jacob and he saw the angels of God rushing to and fro between Heaven and Earth. So to paraphrase what God said through Amos, the prophet said, “Do not seek the House of God in Bethel because you won’t find Me there.”
But then, the Lord warned Israel not to seek Gilgal. There are forty references to Gilgal in the Bible. Most significantly, Gilgal is where Joshua parted the Jordan River and Israel entered the Promised Land. But Amos had warned the Israelites that their hopes could not be secured by returning to a place known for miracles.
Finally, God warned Israel not to seek Beersheba. Beersheba was that special place where Israel’s grand patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—had supernatural encounters with God. But Beersheba, a place dated with miracles of the past, was not where Israel would again experience God and claim a personal manifestation of his presence.
The Lord wanted the Israelites to directly approach him and renew their experience out of his very presence. And the same is true today. The Lord is saying: ‘Pray, commune with me, and linger in my presence. Drink from my fountain of life and partake of my nature.’ In accordance with Amos 5:4—5, God wants his people to ‘seek him and live.’ Entering the presence of God is what animates the soul, and in some measure helps us understand his mind and participate in his plan.
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