Reasons For Seeking God

Charles Haddon Spurgeon April 4, 1907 Scripture: Amos 5:8 From: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 53

No. 3034
A Sermon Published on Thursday, April 4th, 1907,  
Delivered By C.H. Spurgeon,
At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

“Seek him that maketh the raven stars and Orion, and turneth the shadow of death in to the morning, and maketh the day chuck with night: that calleth for the waters of sea, and poureth them out upon the face of the earth: The Lord by his name.” — Amos 5:8.

IDOLATRY has been in every age, the besetting sin of mankind. Inform or another, the unregenerate are all given to it; and even in God’s people there remains in their old nature, a tendency towards it, In its grosser manifestation idolatry is the desire of man to see God with his eyes, to have outward representation of him. who be represented; who is too great, too spiritual, ever to be described by human language, much less to be set forth by images of wood, and stone, however elaborately carved and cunningly overlaid with gold. There is a great God who filleth all space, and yet is greater than space, whose existence is without beginning and without end, who is everywhere present, and universally self-existent; but man if so unspiritual that he will men hip this invisible One in spirit and. in truth, but craves after outward similitudes, symbols, and signs. If Aaron makes a calf, Israel forgets the Divine Jehovah’s glory, and says of the image of an ox that eateth grass, “These be thy gods, O Israel which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”

We are apt to imagine that it is a very strange freak of human depravity when men are led to worship visible objects and signs; but it is not at all unusual or singular; it is the general sin of believer has to contend against it in its subtler forms; for idolatry takes insinuating shapes, less gross in appearance than the worship of Dagon or Ashtaroth, but quite as sinful.

Take, for instance, the common religious idolatry of our own country, which coming, in part, of reverence to holy is, as it, brass, when architecturally arranged. English idolatry reveals itself in reverence to an order of meal, not because of their superior character, but because of contain mystic rites upon them, by virtue of which they are supposed to become the representatives of heaven, and the reservoirs of grace. How are our English idolaters in these men when they behold them appareled in vestments which the tailor has cut into fashions remarkably helpful to devotion! Without these priests and the sumptuous adornings, and grotesque disfigurement, our modern idolaters cannot publicly worship, but in these they have as much as the Ephesians had in their great goddess Diana.

They earn only worship their God by objects which appeal to the mines. An outward altar, an outward priest, an outward ritual, outward rites, — all these are nothing but another form of the old idolatry of Babel and of Bethel. Man still burns from the unseen God; the unseen Priest, who has passed within the veil, man still ignores. The spiritual feast upon the body and blood of Jesus Christ, which is the joy of the saints, they know not; but, the outward emblems are adored by some, and hold in great reverence by others. Bread and wine, which are but created and common things, even when placed on the table to assist us in communion, are made into deities by the blind idolaters of this age. Could Egypt, or Assyria do worse? Broad used at the ordinance is hub bread, and no other than ordinary bread; its emblematic use imparts to it no measure degree of sanctity, much less of divinity. It is idolatry, — flat, groveling idolatry, and nothing less, which am all sides is spreading its mantle of darkness over this land under the pretense of profoundly reverent piety.

Where Ritualism does not reign, how easy it is for men to be idolaters of themselves! What is self-reliance, understood as too many understand it, but idolatry of self? It is the opposite of dependence upon the living God, the great, source of power wisdom. Reliance upon, my own wisdom, upon my own resolution, upon my own strength of mind, — these are idolatries in a subtle and attractive shape. What, is much of our overweening affection to our children and to our relatives? What, is our unsubmissive repining but idolatry? How is it that we rebel against God if our friends are suddenly taken from us? O man, why is it, that, thy God has so little of thy love, and the creature so much? There is a lawful affection; up to that point, thou shouldst go. There is an unlawful affection when`, by ally means, the creature comes before the Creator; to this thou mayest not descend. Unlawful love, love which idolizes its object, is to be avoided with all our might.

Then, again, perhaps a less excusable form of idolatry, though no excuse is to be offered for any, is that in which men idolize their estates and their confidence in their accumulations, living only to acquire wealth and position, struggling in the race, not to win crown which is immortal, but that poor wreath with which men the wealthy merchant, the diligent student, the eloquent barrister, the valiant men of arms. This is idolatry again, for it is setting up an earthly object in the place of the Creator. To God is due all my love, my trust, my fear. He made me, and therefore I am bound to serve him; and whenever I lay down, at the feet of any person or object, dominion over my powers, apart from God, I am at once guilty of idolatry.

I cannot stay to tell you all the various form which this idolatry assumes, but may God give us grace to strive against them; and you who are still held captive by these idolatries, amy he deliver! May he save you from leaning upon an arm of flesh, from trusting in what may be seen, and be handled, and bring you to rely upon the invisible God, to whom alone belongeth power and strength, and who has a right to our confidence and our service!

The text is addressed to those who have been guilty, either, either in word, or thought, or deed, of idolatry against God. It gives arguments to persuade them to turn away, first in its natural sense; and them, diving into its meaning a little more deeply, we shall spiritual reasons in it for seeking Jehovah, and Jehovah alone.

I. First, then, in the natural sense of the text, we find a truth, which is plain enough, but which we need constantly to be reminded of, namely, that Jehovah is really God. If Jehovah were not really the Creator of the world, if he did not in very deed make “the seven stars and Orion”, if he did not actually work in the operations of Providence, changing the night into day, and day again into night, we might be excusable for not rendering him service into night, we might be excusable for not rendering him service, since homage might be safely withheld from an imaginary deity.

But, as God is real, and exists as truly as we do, as our existence is dependent upon his sovereign will, and he is All-in-all, it is due to him that we should “seek his face” And simple as that utterance is, I have need to push it home to you. I am afraid, dear friends, that many of you think of religion in its bearing towards God as being very proper, but at the same time imaginative, matter. You do not practically grasp the thought that God is, and that he is the Rewarder of them that diligently seek him. You do not lay hold upon this fact that, as surely as there are fellow creatures round about you, there is a God close to you, in whom you live, and move, and have your being. The worldly man puts his foot down on the earth, and he says, “This is the main chance; I believe in this.” He takes up certain fragments of that earth, yellow and glittering, and he says, “Ah! I believe in this; here is something solid, and I feel it.” Just so, the created earth is real to him, and God, who created all things, is to him but a shadowy being. He may not rudely deny his existence, but, practically, he reduces his thought of God to a mere fancy, and says in his heart, “No God.” My attentive hearer, I trust that thou art not so unwise. Thou knowest that God is, that he is even if we are not, that is the Creator, the First and Chief of all things, I trust thou art anxious to seek him, and to yield to him thy obedience.

Note, from the text, that God is not only the true God, but his is the glorious I cannot understand how the heathen, supposing their gods had been gods, could worship such little, mean, base, and contemptible being. Think of Jove, for instance, the great god of Rome and Greece, what a disgusting animal he was! What a monster of sensuality, selfishness, and folly! I should feel it hard, as a creature, to worship such a god as that,, if god he could be. But. when I think of him who made “the seven stars and Orion “, who stretched out the heavens like a curtain, and made the sky as of molten looking-glass, who is magnificent in the acts of creation, marvelous in the wonders of grace, and unsearchable in all the attributes of his nature, my soul feels it to be her honor and delight to adore him. It is an elevation to the soul to stoop to the dust before suck a God. The more we reverence him, and the less we become in our own sight, the mare sublime are our emotions. Well did even a heathen say, “To serve God is to reign.” To serve such a God as ours, is to be made kings and priests. Oh, were not our hearts perverted and depraved, it would be our greatest happiness, our highest rapture, to sound forth the praises of a God so glorious, and our hearts would be evermore enquiring of him, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Thy will is wiser and better than mine own will. I ask no greater liberty than to be hound with thy bands of love; I ask no greater ease than to bear thy blessed yoke.”

Since, then, the Lord is real, and, moreover, so glorious as to he infinitely worthy of worship, we should seek him and live.

Again, ‘Jehovah, the true God, is most powerful, for he “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: Jehovah is his name.” Think reverently of him, for he is not like the gods of the heathen, of whom the psalmist said in satire, “Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands. They have mouths, but, they speak not: eyes have rainy, but they see not,: they have ears, but they hear not noses have they, but they smell not.: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither streak they through their throat.” Contempt and ridicule are poured upon these wooden gods by the prophet Isaiah when he tells of the workman who takes one end of a log, and makes a god of it, and with the other part kindles a fire, and warms his hands, and cooks his food. Such a god as this it is indeed a degradation for the human mind to worship; but the true God, who has displayed his power in the glittering firmament, and in the foaming sea, who is revealed with wonder to the eye of the astronomer in the innumerable worlds revolving in boundless space, such a God we must reverence. In the hour of storm and tempest, when the Lord is abroad, riding in his chariot of thunder-cloud upon wings of bias wind, casting forth his hailstones and coals of fire, making the earth to shake at the sound of his voice, and breaking the cedars of Lebanon with the flash of his spear, we feel we must adore him, and as we bow before him, reason endorses the worship which grace suggests. Is not, his power a cogent argument for seeking him? Will not you, who have hitherto lived without him, now afore him? A real God, so glorious said so powerful, should surely command your reverent adoration.

Further, he is a God who works great marvels, achieving wonders every moment which would astonish us if we were not so used to beholding in They tell the story — ‘tis but a legend of the days of Solomon the wise, that the king astonished all beholders by taking a seed, and producing from it,, in a few memento, a full-grown plant. They cried, “How wonderful! How astonishing!” But the wise man said, “This is only what the Lord doeth every day; this is wirer, he is performing everywhere in his own tame, and you see it, and yet you never say, ‘ How wonderful! ‘“ When we have watched those who practice sleight-of-hand perform their feats, we have marveled greatly; but what are a few poor conjuring tricks when compared with the ordinary, but yet matchless processes of nature? Our fields and hedgerows teem with marvels never equaled by all the wisdom and skill of man. Walk into the grass field, and you tread on miracles. Listen to the birds as they sing in the trees, and you hear marvelous speech. If one little mechanical bird, with a few clockwork movements, were warbling out something like music in an exhibition, everybody would gather round it, and some would even pay to heat it sing; and yet thousands of birds sing infinitely more sweetly than anything man can make, and men had rather kill them than admire them. Meal fail to see the miracle which God is working in each living thing.

Turn your eyes above you to the starry firmament, and watch the Pleiades and Arcturus with his sons; for though we know but little of them, they have won from ninny an observer an awestruck acknowledgment of the greatness of God, insomuch that it has been said that —

“An undevout astronomer is mad.”

The order, the regularity, the manifest calculation and design which appear in every one of the constellations, in every single planet, in every fixed star, and in every part of the great multitude of worlds which God has created, are such decisive evidences that, if men do not see something of God in them, they must be weak in their minds or wicked in their hearts. Surely, what is seen of God, in this way, has tended to make us worship him. Many of you may know but little of astronomy; but, still, you see every day that God is working everywhere around us, and that heaven, and earth, and land, and sea, are teeming with the products of his marvelous skill. The revolutions of day and night,, and the formation and fall of rain are indisputable proofs of the presence of eternal power and Godhead. Let us, therefore, seek the Lord.!

How is it that a man can go up and down in God’s world, and yet forget the God who made the whole? I do not suppose that a man could have walked through the Exhibition at Paris without thinking of the emperor whose influence gathered all those treasures together, and who attracted the kings and princes of the earth to visit it; and yet men will go through this world, compared with which the Paris “Exposition” was a box of children’s toys, and will not recognize God therein! Oh, strange blindness, mad infatuation that, with God everywhere present., and such a God, — the God whom to know is life eternal, whom to delight in is present happiness and future bliss, — man is willingly ignorant, blind to his own best, senseless to the sweetest and the most ennobling emotions, and an enemy to his best Friend!

The surface of the text supplies us with motives for seeking G0& Oh, that the Holy Spirit might supply us with grace that we might feel the motives, and be obedient to them!

II. We will now regard the text With a more spiritual eye. We speak to those who are sensible of their departure from the living God, and are anxious to be reconciled to him, by the forgiveness of their sins for Jesus’ sake, but our text has also a word far the obdurate and unawakened. In many parts of Scripture the Lord has been pleased to invite the penitent to come to him; but, in this passage, in order that the invitation my miss none, it is made exceedingly wide in its character. Our text will appear to be very wonderful if we notice the connection in which it stands: “Ye who turn judgment to wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, seek him.” There is no mention of those who thirst for him, who are humbled, and confess their faults; but this exhortation is given to those who have no good points about them, but many of the most pernicious traits of character. Those who turn judgment into wormwood, and leave off righteousness in the earth, even they are bidden to seek God. Marvelous mercy ! Who after this shall dare despair? If my hearer has, up to this day, lived a stranger to God, the text does not exclude him from seeking God; but, as with an angel’s voice, it whispers, “Seek him.” If sill has perverted your judgments, yet seek the great Creator and Preserver; seek him, for you shall find him; you are not bidden to seek his face in vain; the command to see him implies the certainty of his being found of you.

The reasons given for seeking the Lord are, spiritually, these. The Lord “maketh the seven stars” that is to say, the Pleiades, and he also “maketh Orion.” Now, the Pleiades were regarded as being the constellation of the spring, harbinger of the coming summer. We read of “the sweet influences of Pleiades.” They are most conspicuous at the vernal period of the year. On the other hand, the Oriental herdsman, such as Amos was, when he saw Orion flaming aloft, knew the wintry sign right well. Both the Pleiades and Orion* are ordained of the Lord, he makes our joys and our troubles. See, then, the reason why we should seek God, because, if Orion should just now be in the ascendant, and we should be v/sited with a winter of despondency, chilled by howling winds of fear, and sharp frosts of dismay, if we seek God, he can withdraw Orion, and place us under the gentle sway of the Pleiades of promise, so that a springtime of hope and comfort shall cheer our souls, to be succeeded by a summer of rare delights and fruitful joys. Hearest thou this, poor troubled one?

Whatever thy sorrow may be, the God who made heaven and earth can suddenly change it into the brighter joy. By the dispenations of his providence, he can do it. Thy circumstances, which are, now so desperate, can be changed by a touch of his hand within an hour. To whom canst thou better apply for succor? And if thy heart be sick and sad with a sense of sin, and thou art pining with remorse, his grace can find a balm and cordial for thy wounded conscience, which shall give thee peace at once. Before the clock ticks again, Cod can grant thee perfect salvation, blot out thy sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thine iniquities. Seek thou the pardoning God. Seek him, I say, for to whom else shouldst thou go ! Where else shouldst thou look for strength but to the Strong? Where else for mercy but to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

The Lord, moreover, turns grief into joy. In the text it is added, “he turneth the shadow of death into the morning.” The long dark night of sorrow, blacker them darkness itself because it presages everlasting wrath, the night created by the grim shadow of death, cold, chill, terrible, may have fallen upon your soul, but the living God can at once turn this darkness into the brightness of the morning. When the sun arises with healing beneath his wings the whole earth is made to smile, and oven thus can the Lord at once make your whole nature glad with light of his countenance. Though you age ready to lie down in despair, though you suppose. that hell yawns for you, and will soon receive your guilty soul, — he can turn this shadow of death, into the morning of peace and joy. To whom, then, should you go but to this God? He has already given his dear Son to be the way of life for us sinners. Have you ever heard of another who gave his son to die for his enemies? Gad not about after other helpers, but come at once to your Heavenly Father’s arms.” If you say, with the prodigal, “I will arise and go to my ‘Father. If you are willing to come to God, the way is open, for Jesus died. You must not come arrayed in the supposed fitness at your own good works or good feelings, but you must come resting on the finished work of the appointed Savior. If you look to him, you shall be lightened . If you come with his name upon your lips, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you. Should not this be a reason for coming, — -that he can turn your night into day, your winter into summer?

But the text bears another aspect, namely, that God can also turn your present joy into grief, and therefore you should see him. He makes the seven stars give way to Orion. “‘He maketh day dark with night.” At this moment, it may be that you are at ease; but how long will you be so? Though you have no God, you are content with what you possess in this world, satisfied with you daily earning, or with your yearly income charmed with your wife, your children, your estate; but remember how soon your joys may be taken from you. Have you not heard how often God’s providence has stripped the house, stripped the family, stripped the man’s very soul of every comfort? Remember ye not the story of Job, who, although the wicked spread themselves abroad like a green bay tree, they shall suddenly wither, and though they be exceeding proud and strong, they shall come to their appointed end, like the ox fattened for the slaughter?

All our joys on earth are dependent on the sovereign will of heaven. Some of you know this by bitter experience, for you have seen the delight of your eyes taken away at a stroke, and the comfort of your heart carried to the grave. Now, to whom should you fly for succor, but to him upon whom all your present comfort depends, and who can so soon take it all away? How prudent to be at peace with him! How wise, above all wisdom, to be reconciled to the mighfty God! But, alas for those who lave often been warned, but who will not heed the warning! They have hardened their necks, and will be suddenly destroyed. Their day will blacken into everlasting night. The proud sinner will die as others do, his eye will pale, and his brow grow cold, for he must face inexorable Death; and then, when he comes into the land to which the wicked are banished, he will enter into the outer darkness, darkness which shall be felt, in the land of confusion, where there is no beginning of hope, or end of misery; who would then desire to stand in his soul’s stead? Escape then before the darkness gathers. Seek him, O man, who maketh the day dark with night!

“Ye sinners, seek his grace,
Whose wrath we cannot bear;
Fly to the shelter of his cross,
And find salvation there.”

The last clause of the text suggests a fourth reason for seeking the Lord, namely, God may make that which is a blessing to some a curse to others.

Did you observe it? Seek him “that calleth for the waters of the sea, and, poured them, out upon the face of the earth.” This may allude to the deluge, when the waters of the ocean covered the very tops of the mountains; but it my be equally well explained by reference to the clouds which yield refreshing rain. The sun draws up the waters of the sea, leaving the salt behind; and when these exhaltations have floated their appointed time in the air, they descend upon the thirsty earth to make glad the soil. Now, since the clause bears two readings, it were well to note how the actions of God oftentimes bear two renderings. There is, for instance, the gift of his dear Son, an unexampled act of love, and yet to some of you it will prove “a savor of death unto death.” To the unbeliever, it will prove a terrible thing that Jesus ever came into the world. He is a precious cornerstone to those who build upon him; but those who stumble upon him shall be broken, and if this stone shall upon any man, it shall grind him to powder. That which is heaven’s greatest joy is hells greatest horror. When Christ shall come, the sight of him shall draw forth the acclamations of his people, but it will also cause the utmost anguish to his enemies. They shall weep and wail because of him. They shall call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon them, and hide them from the face of them, that him upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb. Since you, who so constantly hear the gospel, must have it made to you either a savor of death unto death or of life unto life, I pray that the Eternal Spirit may show you the wisdom of seeking God by Jesus Christ, and of seeking’ him now. It will be a dreadful thing, at the last, great day, to find the gentle Lamb become a Lion to you, to tear you in pieces when there shall be none to deliver ! Why should that, which is the meat of humble souls, become your poison? Why should the blood of that Savior, in which so many have washed their robes, and made them white, be your condemnation? Remember that the blood of Jesus will be either upon you to cleanse you or upon you to condemn you. That dreadful cry of the Jews in the streets of Jerusalem, “His blood be on us, and on our children,” what a curse it brought upon their race in the massacres within the city walls, and in the bitter exile and suffering which they have so long endured! Take care that the same curse does not bring upon you an eternal exile from God ! Seek you his face, I beseech you ! You may not long have the opportunity to seek it. The day of his mercy may close as closes this day with the setting sun. You may not survive to enjoy another day of gospel invitation. May God the blessed Spirit, who alone can do it, make you seekers, and then make you finders, and his shall be the praise!

Thus much to the unconverted. The people of God can think over the text in relation to themselves It is rich in priceless instruction to them, but time forbids me to direct their meditations. Farewell.