These two verses are thin glimmers of hope in the all-consuming fire that is the book of Amos (If you need another glimmer, look at 5:4-7). Be careful as you read these two verses to see them within the context of extreme judgment. Amos is a doomsday prophet and the only cracks of light he offers here come through an exhausted remnant: “… and that which marched out a hundred shall have ten left” (5:3). Ninety percent evaporate and only ten percent survive—barely.
Amid overwhelming violence, Amos offers this hope: Seek good and not evil, that you may live . . . . Hate evil and love good (vv. 14a, 15a). Israel’s harsh treatment of the poor and downtrodden is the evil that Amos calls the people to turn away from. Israel has rearranged its economy in a way that leaves the poor devastated while the rich drink wine in their castles. Amos repeatedly references this evil of the wealthy trampling the poor (2:6b-7a; 3:10; 4:1; 5:11; 5:12; 8:4-6).
The sliver of hope that Israel needs to grasp is this command from God that they turn away from the evil of oppressing the poor and seek good. Only then will God save the remnant, Amos prophesies, saying, establish justice at the gate; it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph (v. 15). What would this saving justice look like in our time? A justice that would create equity among the people and prevent the slide into greater human inequality. May we live for, act on, vote for, and work towards this sort of saving justice.
How will you seek good and not evil today, so that you may live close to God?
God, help us recognize the ways that lead us to life and courageously choose to walk in them with you. Amen.