To seek the Lord and His kingdom (that realm and those states in which He dwells eternally) is fundamental to the Christian life.
The promise is sure, those who seek will find, there appears to be no doubt about that. God has thoughts toward us all, thoughts of peace and not of evil and to grant both a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11). “You will seek Me and find me, when you seek Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).[supertagline]“I will be found by you, declares the Lord,”[/supertagline]
According to this verse, only when the totality of our being is engaged in seeking Him, does God regard us as being an earnest soul and we are assured that we will find. He must be first, nothing else will do. “I will be found by you, declares the Lord,” is the way God continues when speaking to the damaged and dismayed people of God holed up in their city when Nebuchadnezzar and his armies besieged Jerusalem and threatened to swallow them up and cart them off to Babylon. Apparently that disaster could have been averted, but the stubbornness of the quick succession of kings ruling in those latter days put paid to that possibility and the result was seventy years of exile. “Seek the Lord, while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6) discloses that there are times when He is particularly near and ready to respond. “It is time to seek the Lord” (Hosea 10:12) intones another prophet of God, is it not always that time? Should not our hearts be directed toward Him, not so much toward the things He does, or the church He is building (though that will be involved), but, to see and know Him as our first consciousness in the midst of a troubled and decaying world? Yet, are there not times when He seems to be hidden, elusive and distant even? We seem to miss Him Whom our soul loves whilst we are in a subtle slumber, we sense His voice but maybe are somewhat unwilling to rise up and open for He is ever near (Song of Solomon 5:1-6).
We seem to miss Him Whom our soul loves whilst we are in a subtle slumber, we sense His voice but maybe are somewhat unwilling to rise up and open for He is ever near (Song of Solomon 5:1-6)
On the first occasion we hear His voice at the lattice we do rise and open and He carries us forth in the liberty of His resurrection life as the verses of the Song of Songs so beautifully portray it (Song of Solomon 2:9-13). Indeed the winter is past, it is resurrection morning and the new day has dawned! Perhaps we do feel that we are borne along by Him like a young hart on the mountains (Song of Solomon 2:17). But the experience of the beloved alters, she appears to lose Him Whom she loves, “I sought Him but I found Him not” (Song of Solomon 3:1). It is as though He has moved on and traveled further out of our sight and feeling and clinging to that which is a past experience cannot recompense us for this seeming loss. Why can we not find Him? We have all experienced the strangeness of “I sought Him but I found Him not,” and perhaps the main reason is that we are searching for our own idea of God. In fact He has not departed at all but neither does He conform to our set expectations of Him.
We want to hold Him in set ways and shape Him to our own preferences but we must learn to receive God in ordinary and must let God be God as He chooses to be. He is ever near, always with us, even as He promised (Matthew 28:20). There is no departure, He does not forsake His own but He alters His appearing and makes as though He would go further to see what our response will be (Luke 24:28). Will we prevail on God in disguise to come in and sup with us? The story of the two on their walk to Emmaus is a telling one. Jesus drew near and went with them but they, dismayed, disappointed and disheartened by all that had taken place in recent days did not recognize Him. That certainly shows the power of sorrow to veil the eyes of our heart so that we do not see God there all the while. Yes, Christ was in ordinary that day, present but disguised as He walked with them, conversing, revealing and making their hearts burn within them but they could not conceive of resurrection life in the midst of their sorrow, how could all they had seen in Jerusalem be unto a future and a hope?
Yes, Christ was in ordinary that day, present but disguised as He walked with them, conversing, revealing and making their hearts burn within them
Christ walks at our side, He is with us, in all circumstances and within us too and we so often know it not! How like Jacob we are at times. We remember his story, the quiet man, who lived in tents; he had a heart for the things of God and a mother who loved God too although she erred in manipulating her son. Still waters run deep and those deep waters as they run in a mother and son as happened with Rebekah and Jacob complicated everything. They did not see the nearness of God nor trust that He was present and well able to fulfill the promises He had given concerning the future. Instead they did their level best to obtain a good outcome by their own scheming and endeavor. God needed their help, He must be far away, or so they thought and so it led to Jacob running from his angry maddened brother Esau and to the rocky pillow on which he laid his head the first night of his flight.
The dream God gave Him shocked and amazed him. In his slumbering state he was shown heaven and earth so very, very near, a ladder between the two and converse and communication going on ceaselessly. He awoke to the realization that “God is in this place and I knew it not” (Genesis 28:16). What a place Jacob had come to, not so much the geography, but the situation, the circumstances that he and his mothers deceptions and manipulations had brought him and yet God shows that He is in “this place”. A line of Madam Guyon comes to mind “ could I be cast where Thou art not, that would indeed be, a dreadful lot.” God in ordinary, disguised and hidden from the sight of those set in their course, even if that course is one of endeavoring to do His will. God does not disappear, He changes not and is ever near but because we pursue our own conception of perfection and obedience to His purposes we do become unsighted as to His presence and nearness. He does not absent Himself when we walk the path of duty and what seems drudgery fills our days with the tedious and often called ‘the common task,’ and sometimes more cynically as ‘the daily grind.’
Those who receive God in the disguise of the ordinary days are equally able to grow up in all things into Him and be able to bring holiness to completion in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1). We must surrender to God as the One most present at all times and in all circumstances and do all as unto Him, herein lies the secret of spiritual growth. Yes, He may appear to hide Himself, our idea of God and His workings possesses altogether too much of the extravert and that very search for a dynamic God Who is always doing dramatic things in our lives can make Him Who is the True God seem to be elusive. It is our idea of God and His workings that must be purged so that we might see Him to be everywhere and in all things. Jesus changes, at least He seems to do so. Remember Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). Perhaps, like Mary we find Him near in one way at one period in our lives when we sit at His feet and hear His word and He speaks most delightfully whilst another misses His meaningful presence because of preoccupation with food preparation!
Then later all changes, the contemplative Mary stays in the house weeping and it is the active Martha who met Jesus first when they had buried their brother Lazarus (John 11:20). Now Martha found Him in her activity whilst Mary missed him in her housebound bereavement. And what of Mary Magdalene who went to the sepulcher before daybreak on the resurrection morning; Mary in the dark! The empty tomb nonplused her and coming near to the burial chamber she stooped and looked into the emptiness weeping and saw and heard angels. Heavenly beings with counsel from God, living presence in the place of emptiness and death! “Woman, why do you weep? Her reply “because they have taken away my Lord and I know not where they have laid Him,” (John 20:13) indicates her greatest grief as though she was saying, “I have lost Him whom my soul loveth.” Tears and heartbreak blind the
heart; they amplify the sound of what seems to be the echo of a great void. The Lord has gone, the way we have known Him has changed, the blessedness of His presence departed, or so it seems. We know the story so well; Mary turns and finds Jesus in disguise. What a thing this is, Jesus hiding Himself, but only to perfect her faith a little more, to show that He is indeed risen and truly there. He has not gone away, but in appearance changed, as though a gardener, He speaks, “whom do you seek?” She is still benumbed by her grief and only when He speaks her name does she recognize Him. How often we seek the Lord according to whatever sincere notion we may have formed of Him and miss Him though He be so present and near, ready to comfort and lift up.
This reminds me of something reported to have taken place in the life of Francis of Assisi. Early on in his Christian experience, as he was seeking to obey and know Christ he confessed that he could not abide seeing a leprous person and ran away whenever he did come across such a one. God spoke to his heart that if he was to follow on and know Him he must go to the first leper he saw, embrace him and kiss him on the mouth. What a test from God to His new young servant, it seems almost unbelievable and Francis struggled; deeply revolted by the very idea. Yet, it seemed to him that the Lord had departed and he would never find him until he obeyed.
Accordingly, as he walked he came across a leper and gathered up his cloak and ran to him, embraced him and kissed him on the mouth though his face was all disfigured by the ravages of the disease. Not only did Francis do this, he also gathered up this skeleton of a man into his arms, wrapped him in his cloak and carried him along for a while until suddenly the cloak fell away revealing his face and Francis said that the face was the face of Christ and suddenly he held only the cloak. If this story be true, then what a graphic description of Christ being ever present, even in that which we would run away from. God is to be found in everything, every created thing and in every situation and circumstance. Even in the very thing we would say is quite beyond us to face He is present. He is in the dark as well as in the light, the times of grief as well as gladness. He feeds our soul even though we may walk the valley of the shadow for a while; He spreads a table there too.
Many years ago I was given a silkworm omelet to eat, it was in Thailand, I am not sure whether it is common fare in some Thai villages, I recall it had a pretty strong flavor and silkworms come back to my mind now. I looked up a little about them yesterday, they go through four main stages to come to the maturity of the moth and as we know they spin their cocoon and make their nest of silk, they feed upon the leaves (in some places it is Mulberry leaves) and as they eat what is given them of God they make this choice silk and are transformed.
They pass on from larvae to worm and so to maturity as they eat and as they spin even in the dark. We too, small though we are pass through stages and must receive that which God feeds us as we go. At times it is as though we are in the darkness of a cocoon but faith, hope and love can grow even in that place for He is there too and we must see Him as the one ever present. It is our ideas of God and what He should or shouldn’t do that hamstring us and thus we miss Him until we abandon to Him completely and let God be God as He has revealed Himself to be.
God is hidden at times yet working most incredibly. The narrative of the book of Esther does not contain one reference to God, He is there though, hidden and yet working; it is filled with His providential care in the face of all enemies. The timings revealed are amazing, God in control and active in preparation for that which He knows will come, there is not an atom of chance and coincidence to be found in the story, all is God and yet He is not even mentioned! It is so easy to quote “we know all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28) but another thing to really come to an intimacy with that truth! What a journey for our souls, from the idea of happenstance, coincidence and chance to seeing God in the disguise of those very things! Can it really mean “all things”, are there not occasions when we are in the midst of the storm of circumstances when waves are threatening to smash our small barque to smithereens and we are about to lose our lives and we sense that everything resembles a specter of evil power rather than Christ? It was a ghostly night (Mark 6:49), or so it seemed to those disciples, everything threatened, the future disappearing and the unknown looming large until He spoke, for it was Christ and all became calm as they found Him to be the Known in the midst of the unknown.
But, here is the point, blessed are those who become loosed from their preconceptions and ideas of God and His workings and grow in trust and confidence that He is there, the Known in the midst of the unknown, unsought and unexpected. Blessed are those that are seeking Him first, and His rule, for they shall surely find Him everywhere and in all places.