Sometimes I go through times of reading Scripture and it seems difficult to see a “big picture” perspective of what God may be speaking to me through it. My Scripture reading habits can be rather eclectic (prayer books, devotional books, theological non-fiction books, and more), although I have used the Lectionary (Book of Common Prayer) as my primary guide. I mention this because there are times when several seemingly unrelated texts come together and form a divine thought that may not have occurred to me had it not been for the collective voice of several “unrelated” Scripture passages. It is for this reason that I like to write down the text references in my journal along with the thought that came to my mind while I was reading. At times, I will go back to my journal, read a couple weeks worth of these entries, and begin to see a “story” emerging that I did not notice while the story was being written in real time. Here follow some of these “quick hits” from God’s Word—shaping me—writing new stories on my heart with each foray into Scripture:
As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God… (Ps. 42)
I wonder sometimes about how much I “long” for God. I think I long for him with all my heart, but I wonder…when I read about the deer, longing for streams of water, I wonder if my longing is on the same scale. I mean, it seems that an animal is driven by instinct and longs for water only when they really need it. Therefore, at the stage of “longing for streams of water,” the deer must really be in need or so it seems to me. I ask myself; am I truly, desperately in need of God? I believe I am. I think back over the past several years and can say with confidence that my thoughts are consumed with thoughts of God and how I need him, how I want to know more of him, how I want to be in closer relationship, and how I want for nothing more than to worship him in every aspect of my life. I do thirst. I thirst for God, the living God. Each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.
…But I will call upon God, and the LORD will deliver me. In the evening, in the morning, and at noonday, I will complain and lament, and he will hear my voice. Cast your burden upon the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous stumble. (Ps. 55: 17-18, 24)
I will complain and lament… I am struck with this thought; it is okay to voice my complaints and laments before God. I know this, but I need reminded often. I often have the idea that I should be this super mature and stoic Christian. I’m knowledgeable and seasoned…experienced in my walk with God, so I shouldn’t feel the necessity to complain or lament. Hogwash. When I think that way I know it is spiritual pride getting the creep on me. While I live on this side of eternity, I will be assaulted with seasons of discouragement and disappointment and I should not be ashamed of them. I should bring them to the LORD, where they will be heard. He tells us to cast our burden upon him and he will sustain and renew… Almighty and everlasting God, at evening and at morning and noonday, I humbly beseech you that you would drive from my heart the darkness of sin and make me to come to the true Light, which is Christ; through the same Jesus Christ your Son.
…So be very careful to follow everything Moses wrote in the Book of Instruction. Do not deviate from it, turning either to the right or to the left. Cling tightly to the LORD your God! Be very careful to love the LORD your God… (Joshua 23:1-16)
I know these words from Joshua are intended differently, but a thought occurred to me regarding the phrase “turning either to the right or to the left.” I suppose it is human nature, but most of my life’s experience has been that people, where the Bible is concerned, seem to lean either to the “left” or to the “right.” I wonder what it is about our nature that draws us to either side of God’s instructions. Perhaps it is the idea we have that the Bible is open to interpretation… and maybe it is to some degree. If that is so, how do we interpret? I think there are hermeneutical tools we can use to assist us in our interpretations, but at the end of the day we still have those whose tastes navigate them to the “left” or to the “right.” I wonder what would happen if we took a more centrist approach, following tradition, being careful to follow what has been written in the Book… not deviating from it, turning either to the right or the left. I wonder…
I also wonder about the reasons Joshua felt it necessary to be so emphatic about reminding his people to “Cling tightly to the LORD your God… Be very careful to love the LORD your God.” Having additional revelation and history of God’s people in Scripture for insight, we can see how quickly distractions to the “left or right” pull us from the presence of God. No sooner are we removed from the presence (clinging tightly) of God, does our love for him begin to grow cool, cold, gray, and dark. This thought brings fear to my soul. I have been witness of this very thing happening in my own life. I never want to go back there… I will cling tightly to the LORD my God and be very careful to follow the words written in the Book of Instruction. I think the historical interpretations handed down from the “cloud of witnesses” who have gone before me is a helpful guide to knowing what this Book of Instruction says to me. I do not have to reinterpret in lieu of contemporary beliefs and dictates from an individualistic postmodern culture. God’s word still speaks relative and timely wisdom and provides me with trustworthy guidance regardless of the day and age I read it or the cultural influences that surround it.
The LORD looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. (Ps. 14:2)
O Lord, please find me faithful; draw me to yourself by your Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, …David stayed behind in Jerusalem. …David wrote a letter to Joab and gave it to Uriah to deliver. The letter instructed Joab, “Station Uriah on the front lines where the battle is fiercest. Then pull back so that he will be killed.” (2 Samuel 11:1-16)
I’ve read this story and heard it preached at least a hundred times. As I reflect upon it yet again, I realize the parallels in my own life. I think how slippery the slope that leads to our undoing. David stayed home from work. Seems innocuous enough, but it set forth a chain of events that led to adultery, deceit, cover up, and murder. He just stayed home from work. Yeah. A slippery slope. Been there. Done that.
David was supposed to be out with his fighting men and chose, for whatever reason, to remain home. He allowed his eyes to be tempted by the beauty of another man’s wife and did not turn his gaze from her. He acted upon the temptation and slept with another man’s wife committing adultery and when he found out his tryst resulted in a pregnancy, he plotted a cover up, but committed a murder instead. All this because David decided to stay home when he should have gone to work. I know this slippery slope all too well. I should resolve to always take the high road…not deviating to the right or to the left…avoiding at all costs the slippery slope and clinging tightly to the LORD my God.
The LORD helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing. The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. (Ps. 145:14-16, 18 NLT)
O LORD, I pray that you would open your hand to me. I long to have my hunger and thirst truly satisfied. I pray that you would destroy the strongholds of my imagination, that every false notion I have of you would be crushed; I desire that you would find me faithful… that you would draw close to me according to your Word as I call upon you in the spirit of truth.
I’m not positive if there is a concrete theme in all these passages, but I do see clear instruction. I know my heart is hungry for God and I know it takes discipline to keep that hunger pure and that hunger satisfied. At the end of the day, there is only One thing that my heart is truly hungry for (the LORD my God) and there is only One thing that satisfies that hunger (the LORD my God). I’m grateful that God speaks to me. I’m grateful that it is often, and every day. I look forward to when my eyes can look upon Him fully in truth and in all His splendor. Praise Him. Amen.