Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death into the morning, and maketh the day dark with night: that calleth for the waters of the sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The LORD is his name:
God visited Jacob in a dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-17). When he arose, Jacob was convinced that, “the Lord is in this place,” (vs. 16) and “this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (vs. 17). So Jacob renamed the city Bethel, meaning house of God and left his stone pillow there as a memorial. Bethel however, was more than a mere memorial to Jacob – it was not just a geographic location – Bethel was where God changed Jacob’s life, giving him a promise for a hopeful future. It was where God met with Jacob, changed his affections, and later in Genesis 35:9-13, changed his very name. Bethel was where the old life and the old man became new.
Our text in Amos 5:8 speaks of a God who changes the seasons, the days, the seas and land, and human history. An encounter with such a God leaves that which He encounters completely and utterly changed. And where there is no change, it is implicit that there has been no genuine encounter. It was the sad experience of the Israelites in Amos’ time that they came to and left from Bethel unchanged. They went, they sang their songs, they gave their tithes, made their offerings, took comfort in covenant promises, but they left unaffected. The fault for the failure of the religion of Bethel lied not in the place, nor its promise, nor its God, but in the stubborn willfulness of the people who came week after week, unwilling to lay down their lawless transgression and unbelief.
2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks emphatically and absolutely that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. True Christianity has no middle ground. In saving His children, God literally delivered us from one kingdom into another, so that all things have become new. The old has died! The new man loves Christ and has an affection for His Word; he desires to be governed by truth. The evidence of a genuine encounter with this transforming God, is that the new man desires to have his life changed according to the precepts and principles of His Word. Nevertheless, it is the testimony of so many professing Christians that they go to church, yet continue to live unchanged lives, as if the old has not passed away.
Psalms 66:18 states that, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.” And the New Testament makes it very clear that God expects His church to deal with their personal sin, rather than carry them into their religious place of worship (see Matt 5:23-24, I Cor 11: 27-34). True religion which springs from a true encounter with God and union with Christ reveals its authenticity in a repentant lifestyle demonstrated in a love of and submission to truth. This week seek the Lord, putting your own faith and life to the test. What attitudes and behaviors are more suggestive of the old man than the new? What lingering sinful attitudes have you never repented of? Seek the transforming God who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen.
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