14 Seek good and not evil, that you may live; And thus may the LORD God of hosts be with you, Just as you have said! 15 Hate evil, love good, And establish justice in the gate! Perhaps the LORD God of hosts May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph. 16 Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts, the Lord, “There is wailing in all the plazas, And in all the streets they say, ‘Alas! Alas!’ They also call the farmer to mourning And professional mourners to lamentation. 17 “And in all the vineyards there is wailing, Because I will pass through the midst of you,” says the LORD.
There are so many important elements in this short passage. Let’s see if we can get them all. Verse 14 has a cross reference for Micah 3:11-12,
11 Her leaders pronounce judgment for a bribe, Her priests instruct for a price And her prophets divine for money. Yet they lean on the LORD saying, "Is not the LORD in our midst? Calamity will not come upon us." 12 Therefore, on account of you Zion will be plowed as a field, Jerusalem will become a heap of ruins, And the mountain of the temple will become high places of a forest.
Now, I know it is our tendency to look at God’s statement as a reference to physical life, and it very well could hold that double meaning, but we shouldn’t neglect the spiritual side of this. God is telling them (and us) that if we seek good and avoid evil, that we will be able to live a spiritually free life. We will be able to live in the freedom that He created us to live in. When we entertain evil in our minds, bodies, and souls, we become slaves to sin. The reference to Micah shows us the cheap grace that the Israelites had come to live by and He is saying, “yes, this is a possibility if you stop acting the way you are.” God continually explains to us that if we live one way, we are putting ourselves under a spiritual curse of sinful slavery, but if we seek His righteousness, we can live in the blessing of spiritual freedom.
In verse 15, we also hear what Paul says in Romans 12:
9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Again, God tells Israel of the opportunity to repent from their ways! If they turn around right now, they will be shown love and mercy. Why are we so ignorant of this? It amazes me how prideful and stubborn we are to refuse this offer that has been given to us time and again. We might shake our heads at Israel for their ignorance but we do the same thing! Jesus is constantly calling us to repent because He knows we are living in slavery to sin. Paul addresses this in Romans 6:
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
God’s light and purity reveals our sinfulness. This is why we need what Jesus did for us on the cross. It is why He is the intermediary, because if we stand before God unclean, we will surely die. This is exemplified throughout the Old Testament when those who are unclean stand before the Lord, they instantly die. Even the woman who touched the Ark of the Covenant died simply by touching something bathed in God’s holiness. But now, thanks to Christ, we too are bathed in this holiness and can present ourselves to God and have a relationship with Him. However, when we draw near to Him, His light exposes the darkness inside of us. Our denial will no longer be strong enough and we must deal with our iniquities. While this causes wailing, mourning, and lamentation, we get to also celebrate the cleansing of our souls.