Blog before last I started a series on longing. I’ll pick up here where that left off.
Scripture often describes our longing for God as a deep hunger or thirst. Hunger and thirst are basic drives in our bodies, and there is also a hunger and thirst of the soul. This fallen world, with its fallen people, can never satisfy our fallen selves. But we keep going back to it, as if it can. We set our sights on the objects of a thousand different desires, none of which give us the lasting pleasure we long for.
Passages like these remind me of what I really crave, and what alone will satisfy my deepest longings:
“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for thee, O God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1-2)
“My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee, in a dry and weary land where there is not water.” (Psalm 63:1)
“How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house: you give drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.” (Psalm 36:7-9)
“O taste and see that the Lord is good.” (Psalm 34:8)
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)
“Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture said, streams of living water will flow from him.’” (John 7:37)
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost form the spring of the water of life.” (Revelation 21:6)
“The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” (Revelation 22:17)
We long for God’s Word, that truth which is an extension of Himself, that clarifies and explains, and shows us life as it really is, not as it is constantly misperceived. The world, with its sin and shallowness, leaves a sour taste in our mouths, but there is an eternal sweetness to God’s Word.
“How sweet are thy words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”
“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.”
“I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.” (Psalm 119:20, 131)
"We are to develop a taste for God’s Word, for it is as desirable and essential for our growth as milk is for a baby’s growth: “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” (1 Peter 2:2).
Like eating good food and exercising regularly, if we develop the holy habit of daily meditating on Scripture, we will deeply appreciate it, realize our need for it, and miss it acutely whenever we’re away from it too long.
If you’re not craving God’s Word, you’ve forgotten what you’re missing—or perhaps you’ve never known. If that’s the case, dive into it. After you’ve spent enough time there, you’ll find that television and radio talk shows and popular culture will ring hollow to you.
Though it follows after the first sin, Genesis 3:8 describes a situation which I think was a regular part of God’s relationship with Adam and Eve before their fall: “The man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day.”
This is what we were made for: to fellowship with God, to enjoy His company and the warmth of his love, to worship Him wholeheartedly in the midst of the beauty of His creation, which is the product of the beauty of His being. This is why sin has left us so hollow, such a shell of what people once were. Adam and Eve regularly saw God and it was their delight. But after the fall, all that changed. Consider subsequent passages about seeing God:
“‘But,’ [God] said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’” (Exodus 33:20)
“We are doomed to die!” Manoah said to his wife. “We have seen God!” (Judges 13:22)
This is one side of the picture—a fear of unholy people seeing the absolutely holy God, knowing it would kill them. Yet Job cried out with an ancient hope, and a solid confidence that one day he would experience what ancient theologians called the beatific vision, the happy-making sight. Job longed for the day when he would see God:
“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27)
Jesus likewise described seeing God as something wonderful, declaring “Blessed [happy] are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” (Matthew 5:8)
In fact, it was Jesus himself who made God visible to us: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:18)
Consider the dialogue between Philip and Jesus in John 14:8-9:
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'?”
All of this is a build up to the promise of God of what we will experience after the resurrection, as we live upon the New Earth:
“No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face.” (Revelation 22:4)
We sinners who would have been consumed by the burning holiness of God will be transformed into righteous people with the moral character of Christ, so that we can see God face to face, gazing upon Him with sheer delight. Never again will we withdraw from Him, nor He from us.
When we see Him with our resurrected eyes, we will realize that all our lives, as we went down every dead end street pursuing what we thought we wanted, it was really Him we were searching for, longing for.
And Him alone that could ever satisfy us.
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.