Thursday, June 6, 2013

Longing for God

Today is the fourth day of our 22nd week, reading the Bible through in a year.  Our scriptures today are:  1 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 1; Romans 8; Psalm 42.

Today's scriptures are all about longing for God.  The Psalmist writes:

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?

...Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.

(Psalm 42:1-2, 7-8 ESV)

Have you ever longed for God so much that you were like a deer panting for streams of water?  When your longing for God can't be quenched by anything but His gushing streams of living water, then He will answer your plea for more of Him.  The deer pants for streams, but God gives an abundance.  When you long for more of God, and won't be satisfied without Him, then He overwhelms you by crashing over you with waterfalls, breakers, and waves.  The depths of His spirit call to the depths of your spirit, and He places His love and His song within you, and fills you with His life.  In John 7:38 (ESV), Jesus says, "Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”  In other words, when you drink deeply of the streams of God, it can't help but overflow out of you onto those around you.

Solomon sought God in this same way.  Though the Temple had not yet been built, He worshiped God at the high places, and regularly made lavish sacrifices to God.  He wanted God more than anything else in his life.  So much so that when God asked him what he wanted above all things, Solomon chose wisdom--the kind of wisdom that can only come from God.  Later, Solomon would write, "The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens (Proverbs 3:19 ESV)."  Wisdom existed with God before the foundation of the world.  John 1:1-5 ESV describes this eternal Wisdom with these words:  "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it."  John says that this Word by whom the world was made was Jesus Himself.  The Wisdom that Solomon speaks of in Proverbs can be nothing but the same Word of God.  So when Solomon wanted wisdom, he got Wisdom (with a capital W)!  God gave him overwhelmingly more than he could ask or imagine.

Paul continues the theme of longing for God.  In Romans 8:5-6 (ESV) he writes, "For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace."  There are so many things in this world that can lure the believer into the trap of flesh-idolatry.  But Paul knows that life and peace can only be found by setting the mind on the things of the Spirit.  In other words, by longing for God.  

If the Psalmist describes this longing for God as panting, Paul says it is groaning after God.  "For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope  that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.  And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience (vv. 20-25 ESV)."

Sometimes our longing for God is so intense that it really goes beyond words.  Have you ever felt so intensely when you prayed that your prayer was more of a groan than intelligible words?  If your prayers don't make sense to you, don't worry--the Spirit knows what you mean, and interprets your groaning before the Father.  Verses 26-28 (ESV) show that you're not the only one who groans.  The Spirit, sensing your inward longing, groans to as He intercedes on your behalf.  "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose."  So again, like He did with Solomon, God hears your prayers (even if they don't make sense to you) and abundantly goes beyond what you could ask or imagine.  He works all things--even your inward groanings--for good.  

Generally, we long for God the most during those times in our lives when we feel weak.  The deer pants when she is thirsty.  The young king longs for God when he realizes that he is unable to govern on his own.  The Christian groans when her spirit does battle with her flesh.  Creation groans as it awaits its redemption.  What a comfort to know that the Spirit of God yearns for us as well!  And He gives us victory:

"...In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:37-39 ESV)."

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