That You May Live

Seek good and not evil, that you may live. ~Amos 5:14

The prophet Amos was a sheepherder from the land of Judah. When God called him, he went to the kingdom of Israel and prophesied repentance and warned of impending destruction during a rare time of peace and prosperity. After generations of war, death, and vassalage to foreign kings, Israel had finally regained its territory as had been prophesied by Jonah (2 Kings 14:25).  In the past, God had called to His people in Israel during times of great trials and now during a time of rest and abundance, God sought the people of Israel through the prophets Amos and Hosea. Through Amos, God declared His displeasure at the complacency of the culture which led to oppression of the poor, extravagant self indulgence of the rich, and hypocrisy of the nation in following the commandments of God. After relentless hardships, the people felt they had won this time of ease for themselves and they were not open to a reminder of God's sovereignty especially if it meant sacrificing their hard-won lavish lifestyle. The condemnation of God through the words of Amos did not feel like a call to greater good and their lives lives, finally without famine, plague, or war certainly must not have felt like an evil.

When we live for ourselves we often do receive a material reward and it does feel pretty good. I've generally not been burdened with a constant need for more and on the occasions when I've I had plenty I've felt satisfied, comfortable, and complacent. Without God in my life, I also felt that not doing evil was the same as doing good.  Without the Holy Spirit, I had no way of telling real good from evil except by secular social norms and cultural standards.

The quality of our lives notwithstanding, we all face the question of what happens when we die. The current view of atheism is that you cease to exist. The belief is that the spirit, which is more than the sum of your biology, is still constrained by biology.  As an atheist, I felt that a belief in a life after death was for cowards who are afraid to face absolute mortality. In this context “seek good and not evil that you may live” can only mean that your life won't be cut short and in that context is extremely desirable.

How rich is it to face a life in which death is only a minor interruption. As John Donne put it: “One short sleep past, we wake eternally, and Death shall be no more: Death, thou shalt die”

The key is straightforward - all we have to do to have this life is to “seek good and not evil” - it is so simple! Yet without the Holy Spirit we are incapable of making that distinction. Without a personal relationship with Jesus, completed in faith, we do not receive the Holy Spirit. It is still simple but suddenly full of the absolute necessity for Jesus Christ. Our salvation – our life – is through Him and the Bible is full of this simple message, even in a short statement made to a faithless nation 750 years before Jesus was born.

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved. ~Acts 4:12

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