Topical Scripture: 2 Chronicles 7:11-14
Unemployment is on the rise as the recession continues. In my desire to be a full-service pastor, I have come today with a job opportunity. Queensland, a state in Australia, announced on Monday that it is looking for someone to live on the beautiful tropical paradise of Hamilton Island on the Great Barrier Reef for six months.
This person will stroll the white sands, snorkel the reef, and report to a global audience via weekly blogs, photo diaries and video updates. The person will be paid $150,000 and given free airfare from the winner’s home to the island and back. All this to increase tourism to Australia in these tough economic times. Applications are open until February 22; the winner will begin living in paradise on July 1.
Queensland is calling this the “best job in the world.” I know one even better—a job which will take us not to an island in paradise, but to paradise itself.
We’re learning how to position ourselves for spiritual awakening in these days. If we humble ourselves, admitting that we need more of God than we are now experiencing, and pray for our nation to come to God, we are now ready to focus on ourselves.
God calls us to “seek my face.” This is the most amazing, exciting, transforming invitation a human being can ever hear. And the most urgent.
God is seeking you
The Bible clearly depicts a God who is seeking us. God sought Adam and Eve in the cool of the Garden of Eden. He sought Noah, calling him to build the Ark which would save the human race. He sought Abram in the land we call Iraq today, and called him to himself. He sought Jacob on that night they wrestled together, and Joseph in Egypt, and Moses at the burning bush. He sought David after the king had sinned horrifically, and the prophets to speak his word to the world.
Then he sought us in the most miraculous, unexpected way of all—he became one of us. He folded the glory and power which created the universe down into a fetus who grew into a baby who breathed our air, walked our dirt, faced our temptations, felt our pain, died on our cross and rose from our grave. We could not climb up to him, so he climbed down to us.
He sought fishermen beside the Sea of Galilee, and tax collectors in their booths and trees, and lepers in their abandoned loneliness, and demoniacs in their cemetery hideouts. He was the woman who sought the lost coin, the shepherd who sought the lost sheep, the father who sought the prodigal son. He sought Peter after his denials and Paul in the midst of his persecutions.
And then the day came when he made you. In fact, he’s been in the process of making you for a very long time. Bill Bryson, in A Short History of Nearly Everything, puts it well: “Consider the fact that for 3.8 billion years, a period of time older than the Earth’s mountains and rivers and oceans, every one of your forebears on both sides has been attractive enough to find a mate, healthy enough to reproduce, and sufficiently blessed by fate and circumstances to live long enough to do so. Not one of your pertinent ancestors was squashed, devoured, drowned, starved, stranded, stuck fast, untimely wounded, or otherwise deflected from its life’s quest of delivering a tiny charge of genetic material to the right partner at the right moment in order to perpetuate the only possible sequence of hereditary combinations that could result—eventually, astoundingly, and all too briefly—in you” (pp. 3-4).
He made all that is, and he made all of you there is. Your God has given you a heart which pumps enough blood through your body every 24 hours to fill a railway tanker. Every day it exerts as much effort as it would take to shovel 20 tons of gravel onto a platform as high as your waist.
He has made you of protons, the core of atoms. Look at the dot on an “i” in your Bible. It holds something in the region of 500,000,000,000 protons, more than the number of seconds contained in half a million years. Your Father made all of that, for you.
You live in a visible universe is now calculated as a million million million million miles across. Through a telescope you can see around 100,000 galaxies, each containing tens of billions of stars. And you’re watching all this on a planet which spins at the speed of 1,000 miles an hour at its equator. Your Father made all of that, to make a place for you.
And then he made you. His Son died on the cross for you and rose from the grave for you. His Spirit led you to this worship service, and now to hear these words. The God of the universe wants an intimate, passionate, personal relationship with you. He is seeking you.
Are you seeking God?
The question is, are you seeking him? The other day a friend forwarded me this question: “Is there any logic in believing that God started his Church as a Spirit-filled, loving body with the intention that it would evolve into entertaining, hour-long services? Was he hoping that one day people would be attracted to the Church not because they care for one another, not because they are devoted to him, not because the supernatural occurs in their midst, but because of good music and entertainment?”
The world’s religions have always seen worship as a kind of transaction. Make a sacrifice to Athena so she will bless your olive harvest. Practice the four noble truths on the eight-fold noble path so you can achieve enlightenment. Declare that there is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet; pray to Allah five times a day; go to Mecca; fast during Ramadan; give to the poor—all so you will perhaps be accepted by God into his paradise.
Go to get. Transact business. Come to church, pray, read, give, so God will bless you or strengthen your marriage or help your family.
None of that is the biblical invitation. God says, “Seek my face,” not “Seek my favor.” Seek to know me, more intimately and passionately than ever before. Love me, for I love you. Want me, for I want you. Know me, for I know you. Seek my face.
“Seek” translates baqash, a Hebrew word which means to search out, strive after, ask, beg, beseech, desire, request, require. It describes a passionate search for something of great value.
Such is to be our desire for God: “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always” (1 Chronicles 16:11); “devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God” (1 Chronicles 22:19); Rehoboam “did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD” (2 Chronicles 12:14); good king Asa “commanded Judah to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, and to obey his laws and commands” (2 Chronicles 14:4).
Scripture says of Hezekiah, “In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered” (2 Chronicles 31:21). The Bible says of good king Josiah, “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David” (2 Chronicles 34:3).
David assures us, “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Psalm 9:9-10). He later prayed, “may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, ‘The LORD be exalted!'” (Psalm 40:16).
Now the prophet exhorts us, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near” (Isaiah 55:6). God told Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13), a passage Janet framed for me to put on my desk where I can see it every day of the week.
Seek “my face,” the Lord calls to us. “Face” translates paneh, the countenance or presence. To seek a person’s “face” is to seek an intimate, face-to-face encounter with them. I cannot see the faces of those in the back of our Sanctuary, but only of those who are close to me. To seek God’s “face” is to seek a closer relationship with him than you have right now.
How do we seek God’s face? Want to know God more than you know him now. Want to be in his presence, to experience his Spirit’s touch in your spirit, to draw close to him. Make some time to do this. As with any relationship, it takes an investment of time and energy to build a closer intimacy with God. It is best to do this at the start of every day. How?
Seek God’s face as did the people who came to worship him in the Temple which Solomon had just constructed. As they climbed the steps into the outer courts, they came singing psalms of praise to God. These were called “psalms of ascent,” because they were used as the people ascended to Jerusalem and then up the steps to the Temple.
In the same way, we enter the gates of the Lord with thanksgiving and his courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). Sing or say a psalm, a hymn, a chorus. Praise and thank your Father for all he has done for you. Remember his last blessing and give thanks for it. Come to him in worship.
Now continue in sacrifice. The Jews brought the sacrifices for their sins to the priests, where they were laid on the altar. Jesus’ death is the final sacrifice, the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8). Bring him your sins and mistakes, anything which would separate you from your Lord. Ask the Spirit to show you anything which displeases your holy God, and confess it to your Savior. Claim his promise to forgive your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
Now you are ready to bring your offerings to the Lord. The people brought offerings from the harvest and from all the blessings of God. In the same way, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God as our spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).
Submit and surrender your plans, dreams, agendas, and problems. Yield them all to him, asking him to fill you with his Spirit and use you for his glory. Ask God to make his presence real to you, to fill you with his peace and joy. And they will be yours.
God wants you to know him more than you want to know him. You must now decide—do you want to know God intimately and personally? Do you want awakening to come to your heart and life? There is an Oriental saying: “No man can carry two melons in his hand.” There is room for only one on the throne of your heart and life.
Thomas Kelly, the monk and author: “Over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by. Strained by the very mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power.”
Is it yours? Will it be yours?