Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

Text: Amos 5:4-9


I.         God wants us to seek Him

            A.        It is not that God is hiding or “playing hard to get.”

                        1.         God is not found unless we are looking.

                        2.         Example: the child who cannot find his shoes.

                                    a.         He has looked “everywhere,” but he is standing in the middle of the living room doing a slow spin.

                                    b.         Asked if he looked where his shoes are suppose to be, but the answer is always yes.

                                    c.         You go to look, move one item and there they are!

                                    d.         Where the shoes purposely hiding?

                                    e.         Then why couldn’t they be found

                        3.         Too often seek God in the same manner. If He is not right where we expect Him to be so we can see Him without much effort on our part – well, then it is God’s fault.

            B.        God wants us to live.

                        1.         Ezekiel 33:11 - God has no pleasure in punishing the wicked.

                        2.         II Peter 3:9 - He wants everyone to repent.

                        3.         However, the wicked will be punished - Amos 5:6

            C.        The best way for us to live is to actively search for God

                        1.         When we truly look, we will find Him - Matthew 7:7

                        2.         Like the child’s shoes, God is easier to find than you might expect - Acts 17:26-28

II.        God has told us where to look

            A.        You’ve heard the old joke of the woman looking for her glasses. “Where did you last see them,” she is asked. “Oh, in the bedroom,” is her reply. “Then why are you looking in the kitchen?” “The light is better in here.”

            B.        God told the Israelites to worship Him in one place - Deuteronomy 12:5-6

                        1.         They were specifically warned not to worship God anywhere else - Deuteronomy 12:13-14

                        2.         Eventually, the chosen place was the Temple Solomon built for God in Jerusalem

            C.        Like the woman, Israel was looking for God in all the wrong places.

                        1.         Bethel

                                    a.         From its history, it seems to be good choice

                                                (1)       Abraham built an altar near Bethel - Genesis 12:8

                                                (2)       It was at Bethel that Jacob had the vision of the ladder to heaven - Genesis 28:10-22. It was Jacob who named the area Bethel, meaning the house of God.

                                                (3)       Jacob did return a wealthy man and offered a tenth of his possessions to God - Genesis 35

                                                (4)       Deborah judged near Bethel - Judges 4:5

                                                (5)       Samuel often judged in the city - I Samuel 7:16

                                    b.         However, Jeroboam choose Bethel as a location for his golden calf as a rival to worship of God in Jerusalem - I Kings 12:26-29

                                                (1)       The entire idolatrous worship was a mockery of the true worship established by God through Moses.

                                                (2)       It had a false priesthood and false feasts - I Kings 12:31-33

                                    c.         Just because Abraham, Jacob, and others worshiped there did not mean it was acceptable for the Israelites of Amos’s day to offer worship to God in that location.

                        2.         Gilgal

                                    a.         It too was strongly associated with godly worship

                                                (1)       Joshua built a memorial of the crossing of the Jordan at Gilgal - Joshua 4:19-24

                                                (2)       All their cares and worries from slavery, wandering, and other problems were rolled away by God at Gilgal - Joshua 5:9

                                                (3)       The first Passover in the promise land was held in Gilgal - Joshua 5:10

                                                (4)       Gilgal was Joshua’s headquarters during the conquest of Canaan

                                                (5)       Samuel often judged in this city - 1 Samuel 7:16

                                                (6)       Israel’s first king, Saul, was coronated in Gilgal - I Samuel 11:15

                                                (7)       Before the Temple was built, Gilgal was the center of worship - I Samuel 15:21

                                    b.         However, it became a center of idol worship

                                                (1)       It was connected with Bethel’s idolatrous practices - Amos 4:4

                                                (2)       Hosea, a contemporary prophet with Amos, calls it a place of wickedness (Hosea 9:15) and false worship (Hosea 12:11)

                                    c.         Just because God was previously worshiped and served at Gilgal did not mean that it continued to be acceptable.

                        3.         Beersheba

                                    a.         It too was strongly associated with godly worship

                                                (1)       Abraham worshiped here - Genesis 21:33

                                                (2)       Isaac worshiped here - Genesis 26:25

                                                (3)       God appeared to Jacob here just before he left for Egypt - Genesis 46:1-4

                                    b.         However, it too became a center of idolatry

                                                (1)       Coupled with Dan - Amos 8:14

                                    c.         Even though it was in the right kingdom, it was still the wrong place to worship God.

            D.        Today, the worship of God does not take place in a geographical location - John 4:20-24

                        1.         However, there is still “places” to look for God

                        2.         In His Word.

                                    a.         The Gentiles learned of God and salvation through the teaching of the gospel - Romans 10:17-20

                        3.         Through belief - Hebrews 11:6

                        4.         By leaving a sinful life behind - I Peter 3:11

                        5.         Salvation is found in Christ - II Timothy 2:10

                                    a.         We enter via the door of baptism - Galatians 3:27

                                    b.         Those saved are added to the church - Acts 2:47

III.       Unfortunately, like the Israelites of Amos’s day, people still look in the wrong places for God.

            A.        Some wish to find God by outdated religious practices. Just like the Israelites tried to worship God in old areas of worship, some today will not leave Old Testament worship behind.

                        1.         The Old Testament was not intended to be permanent - Hebrews 8:8-13

                        2.         It’s purpose was fulfilled and removed - Colossians 2:13-14

                        3.         To seek it today is to fall from God’s grace - Galatians 5:4

            B.        Some seek God within themselves. The New Age philosophy that we carry a bit of God within us.

                        1.         The Bible teaches that we are made in the image of God - Genesis 1:27. But that does not mean that God is found in us.

                        2.         Man does not have the capability to direct his own steps - Jeremiah 10;23

                        3.         The heart, our feelings and our emotions, is easily deceived - Jeremiah 17:9

            C.        Many seek God in man-made religions and philosophies - Colossians 2:8

            D.        Most seek God in convenience, taking the road of least resistance - Matthew 7:13-14

IV.      God wants us to look for Him, to know Him, and to do His will. His is not hard to find. He has even told us where to look. Stop looking in the wrong places and open the Word of God.