Longing – Hebrews 11:1-16
If God wanted a family, why didn’t he just create one? He created angels didn’t he? But angels were not made in the family likeness so he created Adam – the seed of his intentions, but we know the setback in Eden. Consequently, we now live within a mysterious plan of restoration. God will have his family.
En route to this destination we can think of earth as a vestibule. We must all pass through it. Hebrews 11 and the balance of the New Testament describe how we must conduct ourselves in the vestibule. Above all we must have faith and faith is a peculiar thing indeed.
As its starting point, faith requires that we rip up all the previous surveyor’s work. None of the old stakes mean anything. This is very disorienting! What is seen is not made out of things which are visible? Faith requires us to exchange the familiar for the invisible. How important is this? Without faith it is impossible to please Him. By faith we develop a working understanding of the things established by the Word of God. We grasp what has been lost and the glorious potential of its restoration. It is in the vestibule that our love and our loyalties, which at times are scarcely more than longings, are transferred to the kingdom of God.
Faith’s understanding eventually goes public. We confess that we are strangers and exiles on the earth. By our speech we make it clear we are seeking a city of our own, one which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. With our declarations we burn the bridge behind us and God is not ashamed to be called our God. By faith of this type, we please him.
The visible will grow strangely dim. We will not know exactly where we are going but we can look ahead by faith, and see our destination. We can even have assurance of it and conviction, even though we can’t see it with our natural eye.
The type of men and women we become in the vestibule will speak even after we have made our exit. In Christ, our lives will have served as warnings by God about the things not yet seen. Our lives will testify against the wisdom of this world, condemning it by our simple devotion to Jesus Christ.
Father have your way. Establish your family for the world to see. Let our bones ache with longing for you and for each other until our hearts cry out. May faith work itself out, revealing you as the radiant contrast to death and its lame threats. Amen.
Longing – Psalm 36:5-10
God’s love is meteoric, His loyalty astronomic, His purpose titanic, His verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks. How exquisite your love, O God! How eager we are to run under your wings, To eat our fill at the banquet you spread as you fill our tankards with Eden spring water. You’re a fountain of cascading light, and you open our eyes to light. Keep on loving your friends; do your work in welcoming hearts. The Message
Those who have had dealings with God understand why adjectives of cosmic proportion are used to describe him. While the psalmist’s words sound like hyperbole, they are anything but. To even approximate the granduer and majesty of God, human imagination and language must be stretched to their limits, then be multiplied by infinity. I love The Psalms for this reason. They are not theologically precise discourses. They are more like convulsions, spilling out of honest hearts, expressing their deepest longings, making declarations of who God has become to them.
Because we are created in his image, there are longings within us. Those fortunate enough to never succeed in blunting them are referred to by Jesus as the poor in spirit to whom belongs the Kingdom of heaven. In cultures such as ours where affluence and technology create endless distractions as well as the time to indulge ourselves in them, longing can be blunted. It can even be killed. We are the wealthiest, busiest, best fed, most entertained culture that has ever lived. We are also one of the most ungrateful, impatient, unfulfilled, angry and empty ones. Why is this? How could this be?
We are told that in stillness we shall discover God for ourselves. We are told to only dwell on things that are true and lovely and worthy of praise. We are told to watch over our hearts with all diligence because that is where life begins. We disregard these most fundamental of commands at our own peril. While all of God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” our response to the particulars of knowing God often seem to be, “Oh no.”
Learning to respond with an inner “yes” to our longings will expose us to the radical extremes of God’s love. Our longings can lead us to Jesus who is our abundant provision. When we reciprocate with our “Yes” we are responding to his invitation to the banquet. Our ongoing encounters with him fill our lamps. Those who never slow down, whose hearts are seduced by the spirit of this age, who could neither bear silence nor stillness, who never learned to stop and fill their own lamps, will find themselves standing outside a very important door.
But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.‘ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the prudent, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the prudent answered, ‘No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut. Later the other virgins also came, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open up for us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly I say to you, I do not know you.’ Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:6-12
I rarely lean upon fear as a motivator. However since reading Neal Postman’s, Entertaining Ourselves to Death, I have had some fear and trembling in my soul as I have been working this topic out in my own life. It is currently very out of vogue to have an “Oh no” response to any command since it might throw us back into the dark ages of legalism, quenching the grace of God and the liberty it affords us.
Can we have an ongoing experience with the meteoric love of God through the keeping of a list of thou-shalt-nots? I don’t think so. Can we have an ongoing experience with His cosmic goodness by ignoring his warnings and admonitions to live a circumspect life? I don’t think so. So, are we stuck? I don’t think so.
There is a pathway in the Spirit where obedience is no longer a means toward an end. As we walk in the Spirit, obedience is a natural byproduct of a new and grateful heart. Thou-shalt-nots create a tight-rope upon which the saint must balance where his energies are consumed with holiness and sin-management. While this lifestyle sounds noble, it produces nothing but guilt and pride.
On the other hand, those walking in the Spirit travel in a wide open space where all things are permissible, yet not all are profitable. These saints do not convey a life of white- knuckled obedience where well being is dependent on personal discipline. Instead, in simple joyful ways, they convey they have been caught up into something grand and beautiful. Consequently, their hearts will provide the safety and refuge of God’s grace to many.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches. Matthew 13:31-32
Father, teach us to see and nurture our longing. May longing grow full-term within us. May it be birthed into the fulness of Christ’s life. May our hearts radiate the contentment of those being loved by you and the satisfaction of those who dine with you. Oh God, in simplicity and rest, may our lives eloquently state just how exquisite is your love! Amen.
Longing – Proverbs 13:12-25
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life …The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, to turn aside from the snares of death. Good understanding produces favor … The righteous will be rewarded with prosperity … and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.
I proposed on Wednesday that Solomon’s wisdom was inferior to Jesus Christ – the wisdom of God. This comment may rankle those banking on this wealth transfer Solomon has declared. Some of God’s children are keen on the idea that the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity. This preaches well. However, I have noticed many of the rankled have an aversion to the full gospel presented in the New Testament. I’m not speaking of the full-gospel that involves Jesus taking up his cross; I’m speaking of the full gospel that requires us to take up ours. This, actual gospel doesn’t preach as well.
If our hearts are set on material wealth, we will naturally avoid the New Testament. In those pages, the Holy Spirit did not offer a single account of a saint deriving wealth as a byproduct of their righteousness. The wisdom of God is superior and in conflict with any quid pro quo, righteousness-for-riches schemes.
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 1 Corinthians 1:18-20
Yet there are those still pining for that transfer of wealth from the wicked into their accounts. Many of them are stalwart and continue to confess the inevitability of this promise. On the other hand there are those who have grasped that Jesus himself is their windfall. They are made wealthy as their hearts become satisfied in Christ alone. Our hearts, made in God’s image, are designed such that only Jesus can satisfy their longing. With or without an investment portfolio, these saints accounts are overflowing with an other-worldly satisfaction which defies all earthly knowledge and wisdom.
Jesus is always inviting us to divest ourselves of our hope in this material world. He is saying material wealth is a grotesque and costly substitute to his Son, for whom our hearts were created. The New Testament points to Christ alone as our abundance. All other ground is sinking sand.
Father, show us where we have invested our hearts. Deliver us from the folly of materialism. Help us to hear your invitation to come away with you to that place where you can put our hearts right. Amen.
Longing – Psalm 119:17-24
My soul is crushed with longing for your ordinances at all times.
Longing was a quality of David’s heart that pleased the Lord. It seemed to accompany him throughout his life. He longed for God as a shepherd and as a king, as he dispatched giants and as he repented of his sins. Should longing be a part of the normal Christian life? Let’s pursue this together.
The scriptures testify of themselves they are God-breathed. They also declare Adam was transformed from clay to a living being by God’s breath. If we are in Christ, God has breathed in us as well and our new natures are kindred to God’s words, and he speaks very intentionally.
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:11
As God’s words return to him, hunger is evidence they have not done so in vain. David’s story of hunger is now ours to read. When we read about David’s experience with God, we should not see him as a great and mighty anomaly. David is our example and he is God’s invitation to us into intimacy. God has told us David’s story that we might become God’s story. David is not an exception. He is our benchmark.
Having the right reference points is critical if longing is to become a quality in our hearts. If David is a special case, we can applaud, If he is our mentor, we must imitate. Once we see David as God’s invitation to us, we have taken a big step forward in our spiritual formation. Longing is instinctive to hearts created for another realm. Longing is only natural for beings who are just passing through.
Deal bountifully with Your servant, that I may live and keep Your word. Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your law. I am a stranger in the earth; do not hide Your commandments from me. My soul is crushed with longing after Your ordinances at all times. You rebuke the arrogant, the cursed, who wander from Your commandments. Take away reproach and contempt from me, for I observe Your testimonies. Even though princes sit and talk against me, Your servant meditates on Your statutes. Your testimonies also are my delight; they are my counselors.
Father, thank you for Your Word and Your Spirit. May they work in concert to accomplish your will in our hearts on earth as it is heaven. May hunger accompany and escort us into your presence now and forever more. Amen.
Longing – Ecclesiastes 3:1-11
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: a right time for birth and another for death, a right time to plant and another to reap, a right time to kill and another to heal, a right time to destroy and another to construct, a right time to cry and another to laugh, a right time to lament and another to cheer, a right time to make love and another to abstain, a right time to embrace and another to part, a right time to search and another to count your losses, a right time to hold on and another to let go, a right time to rip out and another to mend, a right time to shut up and another to speak up, a right time to love and another to hate, a right time to wage war and another to make peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 MSG
Most Christians believe the bible is inspired. Does this mean Solomon is the final word on all matters? Listen to his conclusions …
In the end, does it really make a difference what anyone does? I’ve had a good look at what God has given us to do—busywork, mostly. True, God made everything beautiful in itself and in its time—but he’s left us in the dark, so we can never know what God is up to, whether he’s coming or going. (Ecclesiastes 3:9-11)
Solomon’s conclusions highlight the limitations of Old Testament wisdom. If we are to take him seriously, God has crowned us with blindness, and made busyness our glory. If Solomon is on point, my bible study application is; eat, drink and be merry, because what we do has zero relevance. All activity culminates in death. Period. Solomon has acknowledged God’s sovereignty, yet it has led him to hedonism and indifference (and polygamy). Solomon’s wisdom was limited. He did not yet know Jesus, the power and the wisdom of God. However, he was spot on with this nugget …
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: a right time for birth…
In the fulness of time, at just the right moment, God came to earth and made some things clear which the old testament could only hint at. Birthed in obscurity to a virgin, God made his understated and miraculous entrance into our time and space, at just the right time.
There’s an opportune time to do things, a right time for everything on the earth: a right time for birth… and another for death.
Also in the fulness of time, at just the right moment, Jesus suffered death in our behalf. We were condemned for our sin. Christ willingly laid down his own life as an unblemished sacrifice, satisfying divine justice. Jesus, God’s power and wisdom have taken us far beyond the wisdom of Solomon. Jesus revealed the Father to us. This was the mystery of the ages – the divine surprise which had been withheld until just the right time.
Solomon had wisdom but he was mistaken regarding life’s futility. Futility is alien to the New Covenant. The Holy Spirit, residing in the heart of the saint, is saying more than, “Eat, drink and be merry since you are going to die soon.” Here are just a few verses, representing the hope-filled spirit of the New Testament. They stand in stark contrast to Solomon’s wisdom.
He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing. (Ephesians 2:10) I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of. (John 10:10) For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:29-30) You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. (Matt 5:14)
So what are we to do with the wisdom of Solomon? Discard it? That would be unwise. His wisdom must be seen in the light of his day and the light of Christ. Given what he must now know, perhaps he would publish The Revisions of Solomon. I can imagine the …
I have had a second and better look at what God has given us to do and I have revised my council. In the end, it really does make a difference what we do. Indeed God has made everything beautiful in itself and He has by no means left us in the dark in this regard. God has come in Christ so that we would know Him as well as what He is up to.
In Christ, today is the right time for salvation. Today is the right time to wage war by way of our love. This is the opportune time to re-present the gospel. Speak up. Cheer up and laugh as this fuller gospel mends broken hearts and ushers healing and peace into the earth. True, the earth is fallen and a former angel is reigning in the darkness of deceit. But his rule is temporary. In the coming hours, the light of Jesus’ life will radiate from a Bride who has made herself ready for her Groom. Darkness will be displaced by the Light of Christ, in men – the hope of glory.
One more thing; while it is not good for man to be alone, 700 wives and 300 concubines is a bit much. I now advocate monogamy.
Father, none of us are exempt from being old wineskins since we are all in the process of being remade into your image. The seed has been planted in us. May our eyes look to the anticipated harvest. Equip our hearts with the wisdom embodied in our glorious calling in Christ. Amen.
An additional thought …
I imagine the word “right” is a joke to the atheist and an annoyance to the agnostic since rightness implies divine intent. After all, right and wrong only make sense in a moral universe and a moral universe implies a just creator. As Pilot asked, “What is truth?” the unbeliever and doubter must ask, “What is justice?”
Longing – Romans 8:18-27
That’s why I don’t think there’s any comparison between the present hard times and the coming good times. The created world itself can hardly wait for what’s coming next. Everything in creation is being more or less held back. God reins it in until both creation and all the creatures are ready and can be released at the same moment into the glorious times ahead. Meanwhile, the joyful anticipation deepens. Romans 8:18-19 MSG
Our passage describes an inner tension we creatures share with creation. By design, creation can barely contain its longings. It knows God’s purposes are embedded in this longing. What purpose is this?
All around us we observe a pregnant creation. The difficult times of pain throughout the world are simply birth pangs. But it’s not only around us; it’s within us. The Spirit of God is arousing us within. We’re also feeling the birth pangs. These sterile and barren bodies of ours are yearning for full deliverance. That is why waiting does not diminish us, any more than waiting diminishes a pregnant mother. We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don’t see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy. Romans 8:22-25 MSG
As a younger man, I took issue with Paul; “A sterile and barren body? Speak for yourself!” I was young and strong. I had visions and the energy to pursue them. Today, in my sixties, I am more sympathetic to Paul’s description of the body, “Yes Paul, I see what you are getting at!”
The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair.
Aging has helped me sympathize with creation regarding longing. God subjected us both to this sense of futility, “in hope“. While I would like to return to the garden of my youth, I find the angel, with flaming sword, still guards the gate. This is ok because there is something growing inside me greater than my desire to have it all in this life. It is that hope of what lies ahead.
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God’s Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don’t know how or what to pray, it doesn’t matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. Romans 8:26-28 MSG
The sixties are turning out to be times of transition, complete with their own unique temptations. When I am tempted to look back with longing for the glory of my youthful strength, the Spirit understands and patiently redirects my longing to his current presence and our future glory. Waiting, in his Word and His Spirit, is not hurting me. It is putting things in context. The declining glory of this life is a temporary arrangement. The longings of my temporal body are being exchanged for the more enduring reality of Jesus Christ and the inevitability of his coming kingdom.
So all things are good – even the aging of my current tent. I am so grateful for it. It has served me so well and still has some life in it. I intend to give it reasonable care and liberal use, as it will allow. But, as the canvas strains and the grommets rust, the ocupant can rejoice because a new tent will be issued, one that will never age. And midst the crucible of aging there is the opportunity to prove Jesus’ claim, that …
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness. 2 Corinthians 12:9
Father, I pray that in this final trimester, in the presence of increasing weakness, our contractions will not be be despised. May a new light radiate from us as our longings are transformed into joyful anticipation. May our hearts be at peace as we decrease and you increase. Reconcile all things unto yourself. Amen.