I. THE REASONS IN MAN'S NATURE AND CIRCUMSTANCES WHICH SHOULD LEAD HIM TO SEEK THE LORD.
1. Man is so constituted that he cannot find a full satisfaction in any earthly and created good. He returns from every such endeavour with the complaint, "All is vanity." "Our heart," said St. Augustine - "our heart is restless till it rests in thee."
2. Especially do all human religions prove their insufficiency. Israel was learning this by bitter experience. "Seek not Bethel," etc., was the admonition of the prophet to those who had been in the habit of resorting to idol shrines. The gods of the heathen were known to the Jews as "vanities."
II. THE REASONS TO BE FOUND IN GOD WHY HE SHOULD ENGAGE THE SEEKING POWERS OF MAN.
1. His own proper excellence is such that the soul that gains even a glimpse of it may well devote to the pursuit of Divine knowledge and favour all powers and all opportunities.
2. God alone is able to succour and to save those who set their affection and desire upon him.
3. God condescends to invite the children of men to seek him. By the mouth of the prophet he gives an express command and invitation. We may be assured that this language is sincere and trustworthy.
4. There is an express promise of incomparable preciousness addressed to such as are ready to respond to the heavenly call. "Ye shall live," is the authoritative assurance. By this we may understand that seekers after God shall be delivered from destruction, that they shall be made partakers of the Divine life, in all its spiritual energy and happiness.
III. THE METHODS IN WHICH GOD MAY BE SOUGHT AND FOUND.
1. Observe where he is to be found: i.e. in his holy Word; in his blessed Son, by whom in this Christian dispensation he has revealed himself unto us, and who has said, "No man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
2. Consider how he is to be found: i.e. by penitence, in humility, through faith, with prayer; in a word, by the exercises special to the spiritual nature.
3. Notice when he is to be found: i.e. now. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." - T.
Seek ye Me, and ye shall live... But seek not Bethel, nor enter into Gilgal.I. THE SEARCH WHICH ENDS IN LIFE. The end of such search is life. "Ye shall live." Doubtless that form was given to the promise because of the calamities which were impending over the State. But there is something more than preservation from the scourge of sin. Life of the soul — full exercise of its powers, full pleasure in its blessings, with that "life for evermore" which God gives to those who seek Him.
II. THE SEARCH WHICH ENDS IN RUIN. Bethel, Gilgal, and Beersheba were the centres of idol worship in Israel (Amos 4:4; Amos 8:14). They could not keep themselves from ruin, what then must be the fate of their worshippers? The deluded people brought their sacrifices; but when trouble came it was in vain to turn to Bethel and Gilgal — even their deities perished. Application. Verse 6 shows that God would punish the nation, and none would be able to stay His hand. From Bethel in the days of vengeance there should be no deliverance. The sinner must meet his Judge, whom he had despised and refused to seek, and meet Him alone.
(J. Telford, B. A.)
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