Where should we look?

“For thus says the Lord to the house of Israel: ‘Seek Me and live; 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'” (Amos 5:4-5 NKJV).

Over the years I have done a lot of souvenir shopping in Nepal. That country has much tourism and therefore much more on offer for visitors to take back home.

Katmandu is the capital and largest city, hosting hundreds of hotels and guest houses and literally thousands of shops and venders. One can buy items there to fit most any budget and taste. But there is one caveat for the cost conscious – be careful where you shop.

Stores close to five star (i.e., expensive) hotels often sell exactly the same handicrafts and costume jewelry available at out of the way bargain places. The difference is, they will cost a lot more in the former locations. One would do well to move off the glittering streets before purchasing.

It also matters where one looks for God. The prophet Amos urged Israel to seek him, but then warned them to confine their search to the correct location. A study of the Old Testament reveals the history of the places where Amos tells them not to look: Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba.

Bethel was where Jacob dreamed of a ladder into heaven occupied by angels (Genesis 28:10-22). Later it was home to one of the temples built by King Jeroboam to house a golden calf which he claimed to be the god of Israel (1 Kings 12:25-33). Though the name of the place literally meant “House of God,” it was no longer a place where fellowship with him could be found.

Gilgal was the site of the first camp of Israel following the crossing of the Jordan River, as they began the conquest of Canaan (Joshua 4:19-24) and was where they built the first alter in the promised land. It was not, however, the place selected by God as a permanent home for his tabernacle or the ark, or the central location for Israel’s worship (cf. Deuteronomy 16:1-8). That place was Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 21:18- 22:1).

When it comes to looking for God today, it is popular to stress the seeker and his sincerity to the exclusion of the place or method by which the search is conducted. So long as one wants a relationship with God, it is assumed that he or she will be successful, no matter how they attempt to obtain it. After all, some would say, God is everywhere. He loves us and wants us to find him, therefore all we must do is look. How or where we look is surely immaterial.

True, we are assured that God is accessible to the seeker (Acts 17:24-28). He is indeed Omni-present, and all loving. However, those facts do not eliminate his justice nor his truth. Jesus taught that salvation (sanctification) is by truth (John 8:32, 17:17). He seeks worshippers who will worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Significantly, Jesus himself is “the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through [him]” (John 14:6).

Many in the northern Kingdom of Israel were convinced that God would accept their idolatrous worship in the temples of the golden calves, even though such worship was explicitly forbidden in his law. So today many seem to believe that God is obligated to accept whatever form of worship or service they choose to offer, regardless of laws or commandments he has revealed.

That attitude condemned ancient Israel, and it continues to condemn those today who refuse to accept God’s will. Let us heed the warning of Paul that Jesus will return to this earth “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Share your thoughts: