We are clearly commanded to seek God. "Seek," in this case, does not mean to search for something that is lost. We have already been invited into a relationship; we already know where God is. We do not have to search God out as if He is lost somewhere. Seek means, as the Expositor's Dictionary says, "to turn to Him in trust and confidence."
Barnes Notes comments: "It does not mean to seek to get something from Him, but rather to seek God for what He is in Himself." This hits the nail right on the head, because "what He is in Himself" is another way of describing "seeking to be in the image of God." Do this, and we will live forever, as He does.
When He says "live," He means " live abundantly" and "everlastingly." Regardless of how much we have in the way of material goods, we can still live abundantly, but this is directly tied to "seeking" Him. We seek Him to be like Him. We seek Him to build the relationship with Him.
The commentaries note that both "seek" and "live" are in the imperative. It is a command to be diligent, fervent, and persevering in following through in "seeking."
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Seven)
Note something of considerable importance to church members: Both Isaiah and Amos addressed their counsel to people who had already made a covenant with God. Why? Because these Israelites were in serious spiritual trouble within the relationship that the covenant created. These are stern exhortations for them to get on the ball.
A second but not readily apparent reason why these warnings are important to us is that seeking after God truly does not begin until after He reveals Himself to us and we make the covenant with Him. Many do not realize that seeking God is the main occupation for a Christian during the sanctification process. Amos is clear regarding this.
God warns how devastating the coming perilous times will be, then He counsels us to seek the help of One far greater - our Creator and Ruler. Finally, He urges us to turn our everyday conduct to seeking to do good, showing care for God and His people.
Amos is not charging the Israelites to seek God in order to find Him because, at the very least, they were acquainted with Him, having already made the covenant with Him. However, that He charges them with seeking Him reveals that despite making the covenant, what they knew about Him had not been translated into everyday living or being like Him. This indicates that they were just drifting along with the times.
Four times in Amos 5, he urges them to seek God, and two of those times, he adds, "that you may live." This thought ties directly into John 17:3, which indicates that, more than being just endless existence, eternal life is a quality of life. As we proceed, we will see that they were being exhorted to seek God because, despite having made the covenant, they had stopped seeking Him, and the effect of stopping was their poor spiritual condition and subsequently, their imminent destruction at the hand of the Assyrians.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Seeking God (Part One): Our Biggest Problem
Central to understanding verses 4-15 is the word "seek," which appears four times: three times in relation to seeking God Himself and once to seeking good. The charge to seek God is not in the sense of searching to find Him?because He had already revealed Himself to them to some degree?but of seeking to be like Him.
A second important element is the listing of a number of their sins, all of which are what we would call "social sins." Amos mentions the "poor" twice, but he does not necessarily imply a person with little money. The term includes them, but here the meaning is "weak." The poor are those whom we would say have little or no economic, political, or judicial "clout" or "pull." The sins Amos addresses are matters of the strong taking advantage of the weak.
He also mentions other sins that afflict the poor, such as bribery, unjust judgments in the courts, truth being ridiculed, and righteous testimony being thrown out. Amos especially indicts Israel's corrupt court system.
Undoubtedly, the most important element in this passage, due to its impact on most of the instruction in the chapter, is the mention of Bethel, Beersheba, and Gilgal in verse 5. Amos notes these places because the Israelites were holding their festivals there. His overall warning to the Israelites is, "Don't go there because God is not there. Seek God instead." The rest of the chapter tells why God is not there, why what they were doing is unacceptable to Him, and what He will do about it.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Amos 5 and the Feast of Tabernacles
How can this calamity be averted? The solution is so simple and obvious that God seems to spend very little time on it within the book of Amos. In reality, every word of the book screams what Israel needed to do then - and needs to do today.
"Seek good and not evil, that you may live; so the LORD God of hosts will be with you, as you have spoken. Hate evil, love good; establish justice in the gate." A person does not need to seek God if He has already revealed Himself to him. Thus, seek means "to turn" to Him in repentance, not necessarily "to look for." This is a way of saying, "Set aside your time and life for God."
Seek in the Hebrew is imperative and has the force of a command. Seeking good, or seeking God (verse 4), is an act that we have to set ourselves to do; it is not a natural inclination (Romans 8:7). But it is worth the effort, for its product is life - not just physical existence, but life as God lives it (John 17:3). If we determine to seek good, and continue in it, the result - truly living! - will follow. Seeking the Lord produces godly life.
In living by every word of God, we should notice the order in which He lists these commands: "Seek good and not evil. . . . Hate evil, love good." The action of turning to good precedes the emotions of hating evil and loving good. Holiness involves action and emotion: seeking and shunning, loving good and hating evil. He wants us to turn to the good and make it a target in our daily life. If we wait for God to infuse us with the right kind of feeling before we try to do good, then we will wait a long time because it will never come. We have to take action first by faith and the corresponding right feeling will follow.
If holiness does not involve both action and emotion, it becomes something that we can put on and take off. We could hypocritically live one kind of life during the week, and on the Sabbath put on our holy look and go to services. Action and emotion combine to make a whole way of life.
Holiness is not just a way of life or a rule to live by. It also produces the very best quality of life - the way God lives eternally. God's people have to think constantly of holiness, appreciating that He has chosen us out of this world and given us grace to be holy.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Prepare to Meet Your God! (The Book of Amos) (Part Two)
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Amos 5:14: