Hunger

Original Date: 
Sunday, September 22, 2013

Psalm 63 Beyond Sunday Morning: Hungry

Duty or Delight?
Imagine , if you will, that I brought home a dozen roses for Beth. Now, some people, like Beth herself, might have to use a little more imagination here. I don’t bring home roses as often as she deserves. But let’s imagine that I do.

And let’s say that she gets the roses and is very moved by them. Let’s say she gets a big smile on her face and gives me a hug and says “Thank you, they are very beautiful.”

Now, let’s imagine that I respond by saying, “As your husband, it is my duty to occasionally bring you nice things.”

I hope you know that would not be a very good answer. While technically true—it is my duty to do nice things for my wife—Beth is not going to be made to feel very special if I only bring her flowers out of a sense of obligation.

Rather, upon see her smile and receiving her hug, I should say something like: “It is my pleasure to bring flowers to you. You are my favorite person and it is a delight to be married to you.” I bring her flowers not because I have to, but because I want to. Because I want her to know how special she is to me.

Or, let’s consider another example. Suppose you are invited to an enormous feast. Imagine that all of your favorite foods are there—a carving station with prime rib, crab legs, fried chicken, cheesy potatoes, garden vegetables, fresh salad, cheesecake, a chocolate fountain --maybe those are some of my favorite things to eat— but you can imagine whatever appeals most to you. And let’s say that you are hungry, you’ve been busy and active and you’ve hardly eaten all day.

Now, when you are invited to sit down at the table, do you say to yourself: “Well, I suppose I should eat a little bit”? Do you eat out of a sense of duty, or obligation?

Or do you go to the table and eat because it is a joy to eat such good food? Do you go to the table eager to have your hunger satisfied?

It’s those two images—bringing a gift to someone you love, or coming to a table filled with delicious food--that I want you to have in mind today as we consider our topic: seeking God.

We are in a series we are calling “Beyond Sunday Morning…” We are talking about how we grow in our individual relationships with Jesus Christ. It’s sometimes called Spiritual Formation. And earlier this year a task force made up of some staff members, some board members, and some members of the congregation spent some time thinking about what Spiritual Formation looks like here at Hope. And we came up with this definition:

A fully-devoted follower of Jesus is someone who is secure in God’s love, seeks for more of the things of God, serves with Christ-like character and shares Jesus with others.

We are challenging everyone to look at how we are doing in these key areas of seeking, serving, and sharing; how we are doing Beyond Sunday Morning. Last week Jay looked at the key area of serving. This week I’m going to talk about the key area of seeking more of the things of God.

And here’s my thought on this topic: I think this is something a lot of us struggle with. We’ve heard that we are supposed to spend time with God. Call it devotions, or “quiet time”, or daily prayers. We know we are supposed to pray and read our Bibles. But for a lot of us, it starts to feel like a chore. Like Tim in the video, we find it’s something we have to talk ourselves into. Something we have to really prepare ourselves for.

And so, if we do have regular “quiet times” with God, it’s often something we do out of a sense of duty. It feels like an obligation. A check mark on our daily “to do” list.

And often, we start to neglect it. And then we feel guilty about it. And then we do it less and less. And we just spiral farther and farther downward.

And here’s where my illustrations come in. If I have to force myself to be sweet to my wife, if I can only be romantic with her out of a sense of duty, then there isn’t going to be much joy there. If I have to eat out of a sense of obligation, if I only eat because I know I need to in order to survive, but I don’t feel any hunger, then I’ll never experience much pleasure in my food.

But when I am really in love with my wife, then being sweet with her never feels like an obligation, it is a delight. When I have a taste for the wonderful flavors of food, then eating is not a duty but a pleasure.

And I think things are similar when it comes to seeking after God. When we get a taste of God spending time with Him becomes a joy and not a duty. The way to get past the sense of “have to” and guilt when it comes to spending time with God is to think of it less as an obligation we have to fulfill and more of an opportunity to delight ourselves in Him.

David’s Desire
My text this morning is Psalm 63. This is a Psalm of David. We are told he wrote it when he was in the Desert of Judah.

1O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary
land where there is no water.
2I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5My soul will be satisfied as with the
richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.
7Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.
9They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
11But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

Clearly, for David, time spent with God is not a duty, but a delight. The first line, again, is “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you.” David does not sound like a man who seeks God out of obligation, but a man who hungers for more of God. I’d like to go through this Psalm by asking three questions: Who is this God? How does David feel about Him? And what is David doing about it?

You are My God
So, first question: Who is this God? Who is the God that David so earnestly seeks after? We can go through the Psalm to find a number of things about this God.

Consider verse 1:

1O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;

David begins by claiming God as his own. “O God, you are my God.” This is very covenantal language. Frequently in the Old Testament God says to the people of Israel: “I will be your God, and you will be my people.” There’s a sense of being in relationship, a special connection. While God is the God of the universe and thus the rightful God and Lord of everybody, there is another sense in which God has a particular relationship with those He is in covenant with. That’s what David is claiming here.

And, of course, we too are in a special relationship with God. No longer in the Old Covenant, we are members of the New Covenant through what Jesus did at the cross. We can call God “my God” because Jesus shed his blood, died, and was raised again for us.

So we can get a taste of a God who is for us. He is the God who is on our side. He is our God.

Or, again, verses 2 and 3:

2I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
3Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

Our God is a God of power, glory and love. Power. Our God can accomplish anything. Nothing is too difficult for Him. Nothing is beyond Him. Glory. Our God is breathtaking in His splendor. The beauty of creation springs from His mind and pales in comparison to His majesty. And love. Our God shows steadfast, unwavering love to those who fear Him.

But there’s still more. Verses 7 and 8:

7Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

God is a God who helps His people. Like a mother bird who gathers her chicks under her wings to shelter them from weather and to hide them from predators, David talks about singing under the shadow of God’s wings.

And, again, verses 9-11:

9They who seek my life will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
10They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals.
11But the king will rejoice in God;
all who swear by God's name will praise him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced.

These are not particularly cheerful verses. This is what scholars call an “imprecation” or a curse. Every now and then you will find imprecations in the Psalms where the Psalmist will call on God to act against his enemies.

The heading at the beginning of this Psalm tells us it is a Psalm of David, written when he was in the Desert of Judah. We’re not certain of when exactly David wrote it, but it most likely dates from one of the times when he was a fugitive—either when he was running from King Saul or running from his own son Absalom. David is clearly asking God to act on his behalf, to save him, and to bring his enemies to grief.

The important thing this tells us about the character of God, though, is that God is a God of justice. He will set things right. The wicked will be punished. The mouths of liars will be stopped.

So, get a taste of this God. He is a God who is for us, a God on our side. He is a God of power and splendor and love. He is a God who helps His people. And He is a God who always does what is right.

Earnestly I Seek You
So, now, second question: How does David feel about Him? We’ve gotten a description of the God of Psalm 63, now let us look to see how we should respond to Him. Verse 1 again:

1O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary
land where there is no water.

David is intense in his desire for God. That’s what the word “earnestly” means. It means a “serious and intent mental state.” It means God is all David can think about. It means God is all David wants.

You can see that in the image David employs. He talks about being thirsty. He talks about being in a dry and weary land. Remember, he’s on the run as he writes this. He’s hiding out in the Desert of Judah. So David knows about thirst. He knows what it is like to be so dry and dehydrated that all you can think about is getting something to drink.

Imagine what you would feel like if you were lost out in a desert. Imagine wandering under the scorching sun, surrounded by nothing but sand. Imagine how desperate you would get for water. Imagine how your mind would increasingly become consumed by finding that next drink. Imagine how your body would cry out and long for relief.

I remember reading the autobiography of Aron Ralston, the mountain climber who got stuck in a canyon in Utah. For five days and 7 hours his arm was pinned beneath a boulder. As he describes his thirst during that time, it becomes horrific. He called and called for help, but nobody came. Until finally, so desperate was he for water, he used a dull pocket knife to amputate his own arm.

That, David says, is how he feels about God. That is how intense and serious his desire for God is.

Or, again, verses 3 and 4:

3Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
4I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.

David says he wants God more than he wants life itself. If you want God more than you want life, then you want God more than you want anything else in life. More than family, health, food, friendship, romance, job-satisfaction, productivity, books, entertainment, music, adventure, sunset, or fall colors. When David says that the love of God is better than life and therefore better than all the beauty that life means, he’s not denying that all those good things come from the love of God. He’s just saying that God the giver is greater than all the gifts that He might give.

Verse 5:

5My soul will be satisfied as with the

richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

Here’s the language of hunger, the image of food. David says that all that God is for Him is satisfying to him.

But don’t get the image of David pushing himself away from the table, patting his belly and saying: “I’ve had enough, I couldn’t eat another bite.”

It doesn’t work that way with God. We’ll never find ourselves full on God. That is to say, the more we taste of God the more our hunger will grow. The more we meet with God the more we’ll say “I need more of that! I want to see more! I want to know more!”

Joshua Harris says: “Grace doesn’t make us less thirsty; it creates new and greater thirsts that only communion with Christ can satisfy.” (Sermon notes: “Desperate, part 1: Earnestly I Seek You,” Oct. 10, 2010)

So, verse 8, David says:

8My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

If God represents water and food to David, if God’s love is greater even than life, then David is going to cling to God. He’s not going to let God go.

I Remember you
So, third question: What is David doing about it? If David has gotten a taste of God and he desperately longs to have more of Him, what is He doing? How does he seek to satisfy his soul?

In two ways: through public and private worship. His intense desire for God expresses itself in the way he allocates his time and his thoughts.

So, verse 2:

2I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

This is the public worship part. David recalls times when he has come to the house of the Lord to worship with the people. He gathers with others to sing and hear from God’s word. He brings His sacrifices to God’s altar.

This would be the equivalent of us gathering together on Sunday mornings. When we gather as a church with the express purpose of worshipping God and studying His Word and encouraging one another it is an opportunity for us to drink deeply from God.

But David doesn’t just wait for the public worship service. He also seeks God privately. Verse 6:

6On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

David meditates on God on his bed. In the middle of the night, he remembers God. When he is restless and can’t sleep and consumed with worry over those who are pursuing him, he turns his attention to God. That’s a sleeping aid that some of us could use.

David remembers God. To me that means David thinks about God. He fills His mind with God. Whether it is thru Bible reading or prayer or recitation of memory verses or just contemplation of God, David is intentionally focusing His mind on God. He is making a point of giving attention to the things of God.

Balance Your Diet
So, now, let’s consider the application of this to our own lives. What can we do so that David’s experience of earnestly seeking God is also our experience? How can be growing in this area?

Well, sticking with the image of food, I have three points of application.

First, come to the feast. Make it a point to be in worship on Sunday Morning.

David talks about beholding God’s power and glory in the sanctuary. Public worship was an important part of His relationship with God. He drew strength from gathering and singing with the rest of God’s people.

And, in the same way, I want to challenge you to make our public gathering a priority.

We’re calling this series “Beyond Sunday Morning…” because we don’t want this hour once a week to be the extent of your spiritual diet. If you only ate one meal a week, no matter how large or how good it was, eventually you would get pretty sick. So we don’t want Sunday worship to be the extent of your relationship with God.

But, at the same time, this gathering is still important. This is meant to be a celebration, a feast of singing and hearing from God’s Word. This is meant to be an hour that energizes us and encourages us for the week ahead. So make Sunday worship a priority, and come earnestly and expectantly every week.

Second, have consistent mealtimes. Don’t leave all of your spiritual nutrition to Sunday morning. Make time in your schedule, throughout your week, for remembering God.

Be intentional about this. Fix a time of day. David talked about remembering God on his bed. Maybe he’s talking about bedtime prayers. Making a habit of having a conversation with God just before closing his eyes. He also talked “the watches of the night”. Perhaps there were certain hours of the night when David would get up to talk with God.

For others, it’s first thing in the morning. Still others, the noon hour or right after the evening meal. You tend to eat your physical food on a regular schedule. Find a way to eat your spiritual food on a consistent basis as well.

And then, third, explore the menu. Look at different ways for connecting with God.

This is an important point, and one that I don’t know that I’ve heard talked about very much.

You see, when I talk about spending personal devotion time with God, I’m pretty sure we all have a similar idea of what that looks like. For most of us, the idea of a “quiet time” means 15 to 20 minutes of Bible reading followed by 15 to 20 minutes of prayer. That’s what you’re supposed to do: “Read your Bible and pray every day, pray every day, pray every day. Ready your Bible and pray every day, and you will grow, grow, grow.”

And, of course, taking time to read your Bible and pray is a very good thing to do. It’s a very good way to feed yourself on God. There’s only one problem: what if reading and sitting quietly isn’t your thing?

I think of it this way. Suppose that you lived in a home where pizza was served every day, at every meal. For some of us, that wouldn’t be a problem. We would be happy to eat pizza all the time. But for some of us—and these people really do exist—pizza wouldn’t appeal all that much. Some people just don’t like pizza, and couldn’t bring themselves to eat it day after day after day.

So, if that is the case, what should those people do? Should they just starve? Or would they, perhaps, find some other things to eat?

I’m afraid that we’ve turned “quiet times” into a sort of one item menu. We’ve said that if you are going to grow in your personal relationship with Jesus, there’s only one way to do it: Bible reading and prayer. And for people who have a hard time with that, for people who aren’t wired for sitting quietly with a book in front of them, we’ve left no alternative. We’re basically saying: do it this way or starve.

But, in fact, there are many ways of spending time with God. For some people connecting with God works best while exploring nature. For other people connecting with God involves music and celebration. Others need absolute solitude. Still others need a cause to get behind, or a project to involve themselves in.

My contention is that the menu for ways to earnestly seek after God is much broader than we have realized. There are many ways for us to intentionally pursue our relationship with Him. And the workshop we are going to be holding in October, the one on seeking God, is going to explore some of these different Spiritual Pathways and give you a chance to experience different ways of connecting with God.

We’ve turned “quiet times” into an obligation that has left a lot of us feeling guilty and empty. Many of us regularly do take time to read our Bibles and pray, but we don’t necessarily feel fulfilled by the experience.

But if we get a taste for the wonder and splendor of God, then spending time with Him—in a variety of ways, becomes a joy and not a duty.