Church Devotional | 4/11/20

Posted by Randy Anderson on
Spiritual Thirst
Psalm 42:1-2
Context is King, when it comes to gaining a proper understanding of a Biblical text. In Psalm 42 the context is the inability of being able to get to the temple for worship. Exactly what is hindering the worshippers from getting there isn’t clear. We might picture King David fleeing from Saul, and thereby cut off from the worship at the temple there in Jerusalem. We might picture the average Israelite in a time of war – the landscape is not safe, and therefore there is no way of traveling from Galilee to the Jerusalem temple for worship. Or, later in Israel’s history – we might think of Israelites reflecting on Psalm 42 as they find themselves exiled to Babylon – far from home – far from the center of their worship tradition and beginning to wonder weather or not they might be far from God Himself.
Tomorrow is Easter Sunday. I believe that tomorrow will be the first time in my life, and I am 62 years old, in which I will not find myself in a room with a group of worshippers singing and listening and fellowshipping among God’s people on an Easter Sunday morning. I expect this is true for a number of you as well – this will be in that sense an unprecedented Easter. This Easter Sunday we find ourselves in a worldwide Pandemic – we are supposed to be sheltering in place for the most part. Psalm 42 is designed to reflect a Holy and God pleasing reaction to such a time and to such a situation. Today we will merely touch upon the first two verses.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.  2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?  (Ps. 42:1-2 ESV)
The Psalmist pictures a deer making its way through the dusty desert with a deep desire to arrive at ‘a flowing stream;’ when you are making your way across a dusty desert with the accompanying heat, there is nothing like a flowing stream. The Psalmist says ‘my soul is like such a dear’ when it comes to my seeking after God. Our ‘soul’ is simply a way of speaking of the center of who we are – our soul is our heart of hearts – our soul is the essence of our personhood – in other words ‘at the center of who we are, and in our heart of hearts’ we find ourselves like this dear, only we are not looking for a flowing stream, we are looking for and panting after and thirsting for God.
And we are not merely looking for a tradition about God, or some God related practices. Rather we are in search of ‘the living God.’ The God who lives and exists as the source of all other life. God and God alone simply and absolutely lives – all other life is created and sustained in existence by Him – He and He alone is simply and absolutely ‘living.’ In Revelation 4:9 God is described as ‘the One living forever and ever…’ It is a participial phrase in the Greek New Testament – I pause and marvel at it ever time I come to the reading of it several times each year.  The phrase is repeated again immediately in Revelation 4:10 and then yet again in Revelation 10:6 where it reads this way,
and swore by him who lives forever and ever, who created heaven and what is in it, the earth and what is in it, and the sea and what is in it,  (Rev. 10:6 ESV)
It is a life enhancing life changing purpose giving advantage to know the living God – the living God being the One living forever and ever.’
Bill Gaither captured this life enhancing, life changing, purpose giving effect upon the lives of believers pretty well when he wrote these poetic lines,
Because He lives I can face tomorrow
Because He lives all fear is gone
Because I know He holds the future
And life is worth the living just because He lives
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
He goes on in the second half of verse 2 to pose the following question to the Lord,
When shall I come and appear before God? (Ps. 42:2 ESV)
When shall I get back to Jerusalem, is what the Psalmist is asking, and it is apparent that he doesn’t know the answer to his own question? The little phrase ‘before God’ reflects the Hebrew idea of ‘the face of God ‘– ‘when will I get back to worshipping before the face of God – that is his question?  When will we get back to worshipping the Lord in the same room at First Evangelical Free Church? When will life get back to something like normal? All manner of people are asking this sort of question form 10,000 angles and for 10,000 reasons. As to the normal flow of things here in Sioux Falls, I certainly don’t know the answer to that question.
However, what I do know, is that the dilemma of the Psalmist is not our dilemma exactly. That through the fulfillment in Jesus of all of God’s promises and designs as recorded in the Old Testament, we have no need to get to Jerusalem so as to reach the face of God. Jesus had this very discussion with a woman from Samaria out by a well, just outside the city of Sychar. She posed the following question to Jesus – it is a Psalm 42 kind of question. She asked,
"Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet.  20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship."  21 Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.  22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.  23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth."  (Jn. 4:19-24 ESV)
When shall I come and appear before God? When we are led here by the Holy Spirit through the truth that is revealed in Jesus. The very thing we will be doing together tomorrow morning – through a technological means rather than in person – and that is unfortunate – but still we will be worshipping the Father by the aid of the Holy Spirit and by means of the truth that is revealed in Jesus. I hope you will joining us by the Spirit and through the truth that is in Jesus – the truth found in John 20:1-18.
May the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead aid us all in worship this Easter Sunday morning. We are asking for it in Jesus name.
Pastor Randy

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