You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek” (ESV).
Let us look more closely at this. God speaks to us and we may speak to him, but how we speak to God flows from our heart’s direction: “My heart says….” As our minds think about the truthfulness and preciousness of God’s word to us, and our emotions join in with proper corresponding attitudes, then our wills issue correct orders to our whole being. These responses will vary according to the various parts of the word of God to us. For example, reading Psalm 8 should produce a different response than reading Psalm 51. Reading Lamentations 2 should stir something different in us than when we read Romans 8. This will occur if our whole heart is directing our response to God. If we find the same responses to varied passages, we have a fairly strong reason to believe that they are canned responses, like the “canned laughter” in TV sitcoms. Or perhaps we are just being highly selective listeners. An example is the programmed responses to established rituals from various churches, including from those churches that claim to lack ritual.
What should be happening is that the whole heart should listen attentively, and then the mind, emotions and will should jointly frame an appropriate response, as we see that happened to David in the rest of this verse. But to use another example first, think of Psalm 34:8. Here we hear a call to Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him (NIV). What can you learn about framing an appropriate response to the Lord from this verse?
God expects us to apply the word and direct our whole being to seek him. This is necessary when the word of God exposes our true character to us. As we learn from the Bible our sinfulness, we may become discouraged from seeking the face of the Holy God. But it is at such points that we must by faith act upon the Scriptures and believe that God will receive us for Christ’s sake (cf. Hebrews 10:19-22). For example, what application and direction should we receive from Romans 15:7? What should we receive from Isaiah 40:28-31?
We must grasp that God truly wants us to seek him. Using the word of God with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, we are to venture on God’s call to the soul and by faith approach the Lord. God speaks to us through the Scriptures in order that we might fellowship with him. The way is already established in Christ; now we may simply by faith draw near to God.
However, too many use the word improperly. We allow other matters to distract us. For example, when we hear the word preached or taught, we care more for the way the message is presented than for the content of the message. What are some mistakes people make when they listen to the Scriptures?
- They desire to hear ideas cleverly presented.
- They wish to increase speculations about doubtful matters.
- They are eager to hear what agrees with their church tradition.
- They like easy answers that ignores life’s complexities.
- They want to hear moving stories.
- They want to receive memorable phrases.
- They like to hear what will make them feel good rather than change.
What direction does Christ give us? Listen to two challenges from the Lord Jesus. And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear. By the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and more will be added to you. For whoever has, more will be given to him, and whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Mark 4:24-25 CSB, my emphasis). Therefore take care how you listen. For whoever has, more will be given to him; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken away from him (Luke 8:18 CSB, my emphasis). Both the what and the how of our listening matter.
Thinking of how we hear, a lack of concern about our sin and a failure to repent will interfere with seeking God. Christ tells us that those who are poor in spirit, and who mourn (over sin) will be blessed by God (Matthew 5:3-4). But the Lord promises nothing to those who are unrepentant and refuse to listen to the word of God (Deuteronomy 29:19-20; Psalm 66:18; Proverbs 28:9). These truths also must be applied to our hearts!
Grace and peace, David