But SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33)
In the reformed church you will often hear the teaching that man is not able to seek or come to God unless God first decides to “wake him up” (something they incorrectly call “regeneration”) and in this way enables a person to seek and come. They also believe (if they are consistent Calvinists) that God does not show this mercy to everyone but only to those he has decided to save already from the foundation of the world (the elect). In their view, Jesus did not even die for the rest of the people. The Bible however, teaches that God created all men precisely in order TO SEEK HIM, and the promise is that he is not far away from any of us if we should decide to do so. God does not want anyone to perish, and he will forgive us for our past ignorance, provided that we repent from our sins – all men everywhere:
Acts 17:24 God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands;—;26 And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation;27 THAT THEY SHOULD SEEK THE LORD, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, THOUGH HE BE NOT FAR FROM EVERY ONE OF US: 28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring.29 Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:31 Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto ALL MEN, in that he hath raised him from the dead.—
Acts 15:13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brethren, hearken unto me:14 Simeon hath declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name.15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written,16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:17 THAT THE RESIDUE OF MEN MIGHT SEEK AFTER THE LORD, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.
Those who seek him and come to him must start out believing that he exists, and that he does respond to our actions and rewards those who choose to seek him:
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently SEEK HIM.
Luke 12:31 But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you.
God stands knocking at the door. IF any man open the door, he will come in and provides a wonderful relationship. This is a promise to all of us:
Rev. 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.
Matt. 7:7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
John 1:7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that ALL MEN through him MIGHT BELIEVE.
We have no excuse for not seeking him, since we CAN:
Rom. 1:18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.24 THEREFORE God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.26 FOR THIS REASON God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting (NKJV)
The below is a psalm, and psalms often contain poetic descriptions, or hyperbolic expressions. If Acts 17 claims that God created us to seek him and no one seeks him, then we have a problem. Does he want us to seek him or not? If he prevents people from seeking him, then our disbelief is not our fault but his fault and we would have an excellent excuse for not turning to God. Psalm 14 also mentions that “no one” seeks God, but on the other hand the psalm contrasts such people with people who DO seek him!
Psalm 14:2 The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
You can read more about such psalms quoted by Paul in Rom. 3:10 (“no one seeks God”) in this article.
Other psalms which urge us to seek him:
Psalm 9:10 And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.
Psalm 10:4 The WICKED, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.
Psalm 105:4 Seek the Lord, and his strength: seek his face evermore.
Proverbs 28:5 Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the Lord understand all things.
We can read about an instance where people do seek God and yet he has withdrawn himself from them, but this is part of a prophetic warning to the house of Israel which would not need to come true if Israel would cease with its pride and start obeying the Lord. Sin often produces serious consequences and it is not certain that God will step in to block such consequences from happening even if people have repented. For instance, King David repented from his serious sin and by doing so restored his life, but his child died anyway.
Hosea 5:6 They shall go with their flocks and with their herds to seek the Lord; but they shall not find him; he hath withdrawn himself from them.
Hosea 7:10 And the pride of Israel testifieth to his face: and they do not return to the Lord their God, nor seek him for all this.
Hosea 10:12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.
In the Old Testament
Here are some more verses which show God’s expectations on us – that we should seek him. In 2 Chronicles 14:4 we can see that God specifically commands all Judah to seek him (and obey his commandments) and we know that all of them did not always do that. This shows our free will, and our ability to obey or disobey.
Deuteronomy 4:29 But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.
Jeremiah 29:13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart
Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts.
1 Chronicles 16:10 Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. 11 Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually.
1 Chronicles 22:19 Now set your heart and your soul to seek the LORD your God; arise therefore, and build ye the sanctuary of the LORD God, to bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and the holy vessels of God, into the house that is to be built to the name of the LORD.
1 Chronicles 28:9 And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever.
2 Chronicles 11:16 And after them out of all the tribes of Israel such as set their hearts to seek the LORD God of Israel came to Jerusalem, to sacrifice unto the LORD God of their fathers.
1 Chronicles 12:14 And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.
2 Chronicles 14:4 And commanded Judah to seek the LORD God of their fathers, and to do the law and the commandment
2 Chronicles 15:4 But when they in their trouble did turn unto the LORD God of Israel, and sought him, he was found of them.— 12 And they entered into a covenant to seek the LORD God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul; 13That whosoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, whether man or woman.
2 Chronicles 19:3 Nevertheless there are good things found in thee, in that thou hast taken away the groves out of the land, and hast prepared thine heart to seek God.
2 Chronicles 20:3 And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. 4 And Judah gathered themselves together, to ask help of the Lord: even out of all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.
2 Chronicles 30:19 That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.
2 Chronicles 31:21 And in every work that he began in the service of the house of God, and in the law, and in the commandments, to seek his God, he did it with all his heart, and prospered.
Isaiah 51:1 Hearken to me, ye that follow after righteousness, ye that seek the Lord: look unto the rock whence ye are hewn, and to the hole of the pit whence ye are digged.
Isaiah 56:6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near
Isaiah 58:2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
Lamentation 3:25 The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.
Daniel 9:3 And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:
Ezra 6:21 And the children of Israel, which were come again out of captivity, and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the heathen of the land, to seek the LORD God of Israel, did eat,
Ezra 7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.
Ezra 8:21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.22 For I was ashamed to require of the king a band of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy in the way: because we had spoken unto the king, saying, The hand of our God is upon all them for good that seek him; but his power and his wrath is against all them that forsake him.
Amos 5:4 For thus saith the Lord unto the house of Israel, Seek ye me, and ye shall live:-–6 Seek the Lord, and ye shall live; lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph, and devour it, and there be none to quench it in Bethel.—8 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:—14 Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and so the LORD, the God of hosts, shall be with you, as ye have spoken.
Zephaniah 2:3 Seek ye the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, which have wrought his judgment; seek righteousness, seek meekness: it may be ye shall be hid in the day of the Lord’s anger.
We can clearly see that we both have the ability and responsibility to seek God rather than the temptations of the world:
Numbers 15:39 And it shall be unto you for a fringe, that ye may look upon it, and remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring:
Numbers 24:1 And when Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.
Isaiah 9:13 For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the Lord of hosts.
Isaiah 29:15 Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?
Isaiah 31:1 Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord!
Zechariah 8:21 And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also.22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.