Hunger for God
Psalm 62. God is to be our rock, salvation, fortress, and refuge - our solid base, our source of freedom, our stronghold of protection, our place of safety.
Psalm 119. God has steadfast love, salvation, and hope available. Those who accept those gifts have spiritual liberty. The freedom to avoid the penalty of sin and the freedom to live righteously.
Psalm 40. It is God who lifts us out of whatever pits of life we experience. He does that because of His love. His lifting comes as we trust in Him alone.
Psalms 62, 119, and 40 are Bible passages we have studied over the past three Sundays. Today three more Psalms, all of which teach a very important thing. The need to have a hunger for God.
That teaching is always important, including as we draw close to this year’s Vacation Bible School. We will have the opportunity to teach children about the promise of God that He will be with us when we go through troubled waters - troubled times - in life. That teaching will come through opening skits and spoken words and music and crafts and recreation and treats. Think how much more the lessons will be impactful as the younger ones among us see those of us who are older trusting God, which requires us to hunger for God, which gives the topic for today, which is the need to hunger for God.
Such hunger is described many places in the Bible. Three of them are in this message. They are Psalms 27, 63, and 37. All of them are Psalms of David.
First, Psalm 27, specifically verse 4. “One thing have I asked of the LORD, that will I seek after.” There was one hunger David had spiritually. It was a hunger for God. “One thing have I asked of God. One thing will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”
Why did David want that kind of relationship? Why did he have that spiritual hunger? It was because he knew the importance of God in his life.
Verse 1. God was David’s “light” and “salvation.”
David’s use of the word “light” is significant because David was called the “light of Israel.” As a hero and then as a king, David had been and was very important to the people of God, but David, in great humility, acknowledged that any light he had was God’s light shining through him.
God was David’s light, and his salvation. David realized and proclaimed that the successes he had achieved had God as their source. It was God who made it possible for David to be successful.
David’s successes had included victories over his enemies. Verse 2. When evildoers had “assailed” him - when they had attacked him, not only physically, but also verbally in the use of slanders - they stumbled and fell. That is because his enemies were fighting, not only David, but also God who was with David. The strongest enemies were no match for such a team.
Back to verse 1, two interesting questions. “Whom shall I fear? Of whom shall I be afraid?”
Actually, a lot of people could and should have caused David to fear. As we know, David had a lot of foreign enemies. He had a lot of family issues. Concerning both of those, verse 3 introduces the concept of those enemies joining together in “encamping against” David and “waging war” against him. Plus, he had his own human nature with which to contend. So there were a lot of people who could have been feared.
However, David refused to succumb to any and all his enemies. Instead, he proclaimed he would, with God’s help, stand strong and be victorious, unafraid and confident. That was possible because God had been and continued to be his light and salvation.
Hence David’s intent to keep hungering for God, expressed like this. Again verse 4. “One thing have I asked of the LORD. One thing will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple.”
Verse 4 might mean David wished, from time to time, that he was not king. At least occasionally he might have wished he had been called by God to be a priest who would be free, day after day, to be in God’s house, noticing God’s beauty and asking and learning about God.
Verse 4 might mean that, but let me suggest that since David was the king and he knew his position was not going to change, his wording might indicate, not wishful thinking, but rather a desire, no matter where he was, to be close to God. To feel close to God and still see God’s beauty and still have permission to talk to and learn about God, doing so day by day, no matter where he was. Which means David recognized his need to hunger for God. He wanted that hunger every day.
Which leads to the rest of Psalm 27, in which there are more statements about having a hunger for God. How David was going to keep that hunger alive so he would continue to learn.
Verse 6. “I will sing and make melody to the LORD.” That relates to Psalm 40, which we talked about last week. Remember? David shared that God put a new song in his mouth. That is repeated here, including that he promised to sing about God’s love and salvation and protection.
Verse 8. David promised to “seek God’s face.” That is what God wanted. That would help David’s spiritual hunger to continue. David promised to do that.
Verse 9. David prayed, “Hide not Your face from me. Turn not Your servant away in anger. Do not forsake me.”
Verse 12. Another prayer. “Protect me from my adversaries.” David was hungry for that.
In addition, David listed more examples of the results of his hunger for God.
Verse 5. God was hiding him. Concealing him.
Verse 6. God lifted David’s head above his enemies.
Verse 13. David trusted he would see God’s goodness.
Verses 11 and 14. “Teach me Your way, O LORD, and lead me on a level path even in the face of enemies.” Being willing to be taught and led by God are examples of a hunger for Him. And “wait for the LORD.” That was a message David gave himself. It was also a message for the people he ruled. It is a message for us. Wait for the LORD. Be hungry enough for God that we will wait. “Wait for the LORD,” David wrote. “Be strong. Let your heart take courage.”
As mentioned earlier, this year’s Vacation Bible School is about to start. We will have young people with us. They will be taught the need to rely on God, which will require a hunger for Him. May we who are older add to the skits and the spoken words and the music and the crafts and the recreation and the treats by being examples for our young people of having a hunger for God, us relying on Him to be our light and salvation, our hope in times we are faced with enemies, desiring to be with Him and to be taught by Him and to wait for Him and to be strong in doing His work. May our example of hunger for God help others.
Spiritual hunger is also taught in Psalm 63. In verse 1, there is a statement of hungering - and in this case thirsting - for God. A statement of how deep the hunger and thirst are to be.
“O God, You are my God.” David claimed God as his God. That is how close he felt to God.
“God, I seek You.” Again, David was not just going to wait for God to show up. He promised he was and would be seeking God. Searching for Him. Remember God promises to be with each of His people all the time, so it was not like David needed to try to find God who was hiding, but the seeking is an indication David wanted to continue to find God’s way and will and approval.
“God, my soul thirsts for You. My flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where no water is.”
At the start of Psalm 63, we learn this Psalm was written in the wilderness of Judah. That wilderness was a place described as a dry and weary land, which means David hungered and thirsted physically. To survive, he had to seek water, which was difficult to find, and food, of which there was a lack, even of animals to be hunted.
David was at risk of fainting physically. Even more so, he knew he needed God’s presence and help to avoid fainting spiritually. That is how spiritually hungry and thirsty he was for God.
That is the kind of hunger and thirst we are to have. We are to be so hungry and thirsty - spiritually - that we, too, will seek God, including when we are in spiritual wastelands. To foster that, let’s consider how David’s seeking is described.
Verse 4. “I will bless You, LORD, as long as I live. I will lift up my hands and call on Your name.” Remember David was in a dry and weary wilderness. He still lifted his hands to God. He still called on God’s name.
Are we doing that, not only in difficult times, but good times as well? That is the challenge.
Verse 5. “My mouth praises You with joyful lips.” Joy? In a dry and weary wilderness? In the midst of that place and in the midst of having so many enemies? How amazing David’s attitude was, but he hungered and thirsted for God, so he was willing to praise God, no matter what.
Will we do the same, no matter what?
Verse 6. “I think of You upon my bed [when I lie down], and I meditate on You in the watches of the night. Even at night David took time to think about God and His teachings.
Do we think about God and how to live out our faith in Him all the time?
Verse 7. A David thought about God, he again promised to “sing for joy.”
Verse 8. David wrote, “My soul clings to You.”
Over and over again, David expressed his intent to keep seeking God. To be so spiritually hungry and thirsty that he would continue to work at getting ever closer to God. Why? Verses 3, 7, and 8. Because God’s “steadfast love is better than life.” David knew that because God had been his help in the past. That made him confident of the LORD’s help in the future. Even then - even in the wilderness - David felt God’s “right hand holding him up.”
With all that, verse 11. “The king [David himself] shall rejoice in God.” All who swear by God - all who trust in God - shall glory, but David himself promised to rejoice in God. That was part of his spiritually-hungry seeking.
We need to do the same, including when this year’s Vacation Bible School starts. The students will be taught to rely on God, which will require a hunger for Him, even in difficult times. May we who are older add to the skits and spoken words and music and crafts and recreation and treats by being examples for our young people of having such a hunger and thirst for God that we will seek God and then rejoice in Him, no matter what. May our example of hunger for God help others.
Speaking of troubled times, let’s move to Psalm 37.
Verse 1. “Fret not yourself because of the wicked. Be not envious of wrongdoers.”
It seems, at least at times, that wicked wrongdoers are very successful. The challenge is to not be discontented or envious when seeing wicked evildoers succeed and prosper. The call extends to not trying to imitate them or join them.
One reason is that fret and envy are sins, which can ruin us. So not fretting and not envying is good for us.
But verse 2. Evildoers may seem to be succeeding and prosperous, but that is only materially. Spiritually they will soon “fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.” Their ruin is inevitable. They will fade and wither, at least at the end of life, when they will have no hope.
Instead - verse 3 - “trust in the LORD.” Even in troubled times, trust Him to give you what you need, even if it is not seen as important by the world. And “do good,” even if doing good - doing things according to God’s will - do not make you rich or well-known.
Trust and do good because when anyone trusts in God and does good things for Him, the promise is “security.” Spiritual security. A security that can get us through this life and, through faith in Jesus, take us to Heaven.
“Trust in God and do good according to His word.” That means to confide in Him and conform to Him. Both are important. Both are what David promised to do.
Verse 4. “Take delight in the LORD.” David promised to do that. The reward David expected - the reward all who trust in God will receive? He will give you “the desires of your heart.” Your good, God-given desires.
How to do that? Later in Psalm 37 are these challenges.
Verse 7. “Be still before the LORD. Wait patiently for Him.” David was willing to do that, also expressed in other Psalms.
Verse 8. “Refrain from anger and forsake wrath,” even toward the evildoers who prosper and succeed. How David did that in the midst of his enemies, I do not know, except that it was with God’s help. Help David sought.
Verse 11. “Be meek.”
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Hunger for God. That is a challenge presented many places in the Bible, including the three Psalms highlighted in this message. With that challenge, here are some questions I found.
Have you ever been so hungry your stomach growled uncontrollably? One devotional writer remembers the time in a U.S. history class, her stomach growled so loudly it disrupted the class. Her stomach was so loud the teacher had to bring her food so the class could focus on the lesson that day.
The writer continues, “I am sure you have had situations where you have been hungry. What did you do when you were hungry? Did you just sit around hoping to get food, or did your hunger cause you to do something?
In most cases, hunger produces action. For example, if you are hungry, you find yourself a snack or ask someone for food. Hunger produces action.
That is how it should be spiritually. We should be hungry for the things of God. That hunger should produce action in us. Attending church for worship and other activities comes to mind. So, too, our hunger for God can be satisfied by reading and studying the Bible. Our hunger should drive us to apply what the Bible teaches. It should also drive us to pray.
Are you - am I - are we hungry - and thirsty - for God? Are we desiring the things of God?
Let’s be so hungry for God that it causes us to act. Our hunger for the LORD should empower us to do what we can to change ourselves and our world. And one more time, this year’s Vacation Bible School is about to start. We will have young people with us. They will be taught to rely on God, which will require a hunger for Him. May we who are older add to the skits, spoken words, music, crafts, recreation, and treats by being examples for our young people of having a hunger for God, relying on Him to be our light and salvation and hope and teacher, by showing what it means to seek God and rejoice in Him, and by displaying that we trust in Him.
During VBS and beyond, may our example of hungering and thirsting for God help others.
The closing song for today is the hymn Ye Servants of God, Your Master Proclaim.
Ye servants of God, your Master proclaim,
And publish abroad His wonderful name;
The name, all victorious, of God we extol:
His kingdom is glorious, He rules over all.
God ruleth on high, almighty to save,
And still He is nigh, His presence we have;
The great congregation His triumph shall sing,
Ascribing salvation to Jesus, our King.
Then let us adore and give Him His right -
All glory and power, all wisdom and might,
All honor and blessing, with angels above,
And thanks never ceasing, and infinite love.
Lord, help us to always be hungry and thirsty for You. Help us to learn from the Bible, including the Psalms of David talked about in this message, how our hunger and thirst can be quenched even as it grows. May our hunger and thirst - may the satisfying of those things - help not only us to get closer to You, but also be seen by others. All of this for our good, for their good, and for Your glory. Amen.