Do we long for God’s presence? King David wrote in Psalm 27 about the “one thing” he wanted in life. That was “to gaze on the beauty of the LORD …” Later in the same Psalm he wrote, “You have said, ‘Seek my face.’ My heart says to you, ‘Your face, LORD, do I seek.’”
So what is it to “seek” God? And how will it shape our lives? Is it a devotion to learning: to be trained in theology? Is it experiential: a quest to “feel” God’s presence in spiritual exercises or prayers? Is it a sense of transcendence from singing worship songs at church? Or is it something we achieve by diving into church ministries?
All these may have a place but let’s pause and ask a prior question. What makes us hungry for God? And why are some more hungry than others? So that if and when we have a way to seek God we take it?
In David’s case his desire for God was certainly part of what made him “a man after [God’s] own heart.” And it concurs with Blaise Pascal’s axiom that every soul has “an infinite abyss” that can only be filled “by God himself” (Pensées, 75). As a boy David had been assigned the family shepherding role—and it’s unlikely others wanted it! Yet the long nights certainly gave him time to reflect on God—as we read in Psalm 8—and to cry out to God when marauding bears or lions came by to snack on the flock.
Not long before David’s time Samuel also had the startling experience of God stirring him. In two nighttime moments he heard God’s voice before Eli told him the third time to respond with, “Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.” This isn’t an experience we’re told to expect from God—we aren’t promised midnight calls—but it does fit the spiritual “Seek my face” experiences David referred to in Psalm 27.
Here’s a premise for us to explore. That God really does want “all” to “reach repentance” as is promised in 2 Peter 3:9. But repentance is still a gift from God. We’re able to dismiss it, as in Acts 11:18 & 13:48. So it’s ultimately God’s overriding work to awaken some, but not all (Acts 13:48). That means it’s our fault if we reject his self-giving offers. Just as Paul had, for a time, been ready to “kick against” the Spirit’s prodding to catch his attention (Acts 26:14).
So let’s just assume that God, as revealed in the Son, is more attractive and captivating than we could ever imagine. That he is still the wonderful God who David regularly celebrated in the Psalms. And that God isn’t at all reluctant to share his presence with us.
The problem is actually on our side. That we still have a “veil” of unbelief, spiritual distractions, heart-entanglements, roots of bitterness, or whatever else can get in the way of faith. And the Spirit is, in the meantime, gently whispering, “Check out the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Too many Christians are busy blaming God for withholding himself from us. Even when we have an open invitation to “turn to the Lord” who “is the Spirit” and who promises to transform us as we, “with unveiled face, [are] beholding the glory of the Lord” so that we’re transformed—heart-wise—like Moses was transformed face-wise up on Sinai. Read 2 Corinthians 3 & 4 as a reminder.
And remember that Moses wasn’t self-conscious about his changed face. Others were. In other words he wasn’t seeking God’s presence as an end in itself, but as he needed God’s presence to make life work—which for Moses was all about leading a nation out of captivity—he was pressed into God’s presence by his circumstances. And so was David, out with his sheep.
So there’s a Bible model for us to follow, based on Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians: get busy meeting the needs of others around you. Cry out to God for help. Gaze at Jesus as revealed in the Bible while acknowledging, “Apart from you I can’t do anything!” And, voila: you have a great formula for practicing the presence of God.
Wonderful. Thank you, Ron.
I was recently reading in 2 Chronicles and I came across 12:14 where Rehoboam is spoken of as not having set his heart to seek the LORD. Then I noticed in 19:3 where Jehoshaphat did set his heart to seek God. I’ve been puzzling over what that means. Thanks for this post! You’re helping me understand. I’m still puzzling over how this fits with the idea that no one seeks God. (Psalm 14 & Romans 3) It seems that it has to do with my need for God to be the initiator? Thanks so much for all you teach me Ron.
Title- Five Veils and Sin Discussion
The “”veil” of unbelief” mentioned in your 5-17-20 blog is sin and that hinders our finding God as you mention.
Consider this, the veil Moses was instructed to make, which covered the Holy of Holy’s (Tabernacle), was made of goat hair (Exodus 26:7) and what do goats have to do with sin? A scapegoat for the absolute atonement of sin (Leviticus 16:10.
Also mentioned in your blog, Moses himself wore a veil and was a living reminder of sin to the people because they could not look at his face without that veil. The people all saw their own sin and could not look at the glory of God. Moses removed the veil when he talked to God (exodus 34:29-35). What veil do modern believers need to remove?
I really enjoyed your Grace 4 Square Sunday sermon (5-26-2019) and your discussion of our vows with God. A Veil is a traditional marriage element and at the conclusion of the vows exchange, the bride lifts the veil. That represents the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelations 19:7).
So in conclusion, avoiding the folly of the virgin brides who did not bring enough lamp oil to enter into the wedding chamber and meet their bridegroom (Matthew 25:1-10) seems like wise idea. A veil blocked them forever.
Praise God the Veil was torn and sins are forgiven by his Son, Jesus (Matthew 27:51).
Thanks, friends, for the feedback. Eric, I’m glad you saw the connections between the blog and my sermon at church: the two were a single hearted-exercise. And it’s always a delight to have your thumbs up, Huw. Means a lot.
You question, Lee, about some who seek God despite Bible statements that no one seeks after God, is an apparent paradox rather than a true conflict. When God is working in a soul a spontaneous response to that work is mutual love: a seeking in return. But apart from his ‘chasing’ us we won’t come after him.