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Friday, April 2, 2010

Insatiable Hunger - Pantry Time!

Psalm 119:17-24 (The Message) "Be generous with me and I'll live a full life; not for a minute will I take my eyes off your road. Open my eyes so I can see what you show me of your miracle-wonders. I'm a stranger in these parts; give me clear directions. My soul is starved and hungry, ravenous - insatiable for your nourishing commands! And those who think they know so much, ignoring everything you tell them - let them have it! Don't let them mock and humiliate me; I've been careful to do just what you said. While bad neighbors maliciously gossip about me, I'm absorbed in pondering wise counsel. Yes, your sayings on life are what give me delight."

Not many of us set out each day with the purpose in mind that we want our day to be simply mediocre, middle-of-the-road, or lacking in any good thing. In fact, we want just the opposite - we long to go for the gusto - dreaming about strongly committed relationships, excellent health, sufficiency in every area of our life. We want, as David so aptly put it, a "full life". If we were honest with ourselves, most of our days generally seem to fall a little short of what we have dreamed of, committed ourselves to, or see as ranking up there as a "full life". I often kid with people that I "have no life". You know what I mean - the condition of going to work, coming home, fixing supper, washing the dishes, checking the email, then drifting off to bed only to go through the same "routine" all over again tomorrow. We see our lives as "less than full" because we are seeing them as "routine" or "ordinary".

Look at the words of David again - "Be generous with me and I'll live a full life..." He is petitioning God to fill his day with those things that God feels are important for him to possess. Indeed, he is hoping that God will intervene in relationships that are not very secure, that are even a little intimidating to him. He has experienced a situation where he is misunderstood, gossip has transpired, and the choices others have made around him are not all that great. In all this, he cries out to God to open his eyes so that he can see God's working in his situation (not just for that day, but for each day he lives on this earth).

A long time ago, I learned a little secret about the names of God that are used in the Bible and I want to take just a moment to share that with you here because it can help you to understand Scripture better. In our King James, NIV, NLT, The Message, and other translations, we will see various forms of God's name written as "God", "Lord", "LORD", or "GOD". Some are "all caps", while others follow "sentence structure" for a formal name. Here's the interpretation of each:
  • LORD or GOD (all caps) - (Jehovah) The unchangeable one, permanent one; carries the meaning of being unchangeable in his promises and his character; speaks of a God of divine compassion and holiness. By using this name, he is revealing his moral and spiritual attributes as a holy and righteous God, unwavering in his moral and just character.
  • God - (Elohim) The creative, governing, sovereign God; absolute in power and authority. This is the plural name of God (referring to the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit). This name reveals God in covenant relationship with his children. Covenant relationship is something we don't really understand well today, but it generally refers to a committed, do or die kind of commitment.
  • Lord - (Adonai) The one who owns or claims unrestricted obedience of all he possesses; sole owner and faithful master to a submissive servant. This name reveals the side of God that faithfully provides for our needs, making available to his children all he possesses.

Who would have ever thought that the names of God meant so much? I usually just read over all those changes in sentence structure and never paid any attention to them as I glossed over those names. If we are really attentive to them as we read, we get a revelation of what God is requiring of us by the name he uses to describe himself in the passage we are reading.

As David started out this Psalm in verse one, he used the name GOD. Looking back, you can see that he is reminding us that we are blessed (happy, content) when we stay on course with GOD (the one who is unchangeable in his promises, unwavering in his character). It is that same "unchangeable one" who will prescribe the right way for us to live and then expects us to live by what he prescribes (because he is placing us under the moral obligation to live holy lives as he is holy). See how the name can open the passage just a little deeper? It is this same "unchangeable one" that David says will train us in wise ways of living. I don't know about you, but I want to be trained how to live wisely - avoiding those things that will leave me bankrupt in the end.

As the passage unfolds before us, David cries out for God's generosity. David is asking for God's kindness, his "openhanded" compassion to be shown in his life. He wants his life marked by abundance and ample proportions of all good things. Don't we all? Sometimes, we have pre-determined ideas of what is a "full life" and our estimation of fullness does not always match up with God's estimation. That is why we need to rely on God to open our eyes to what he is doing around us (opening our eyes to the miracle-wonders). We don't want to miss out on anything God is doing in or through our lives, but we often do because we are inattentive or have a seeming inability to comprehend what is being done.

David describes for us the condition of heart, mind, body and spirit that helps us to be open to the miracle-wonders of God all around. It is a condition marked by hunger - that intense craving or urgent need for that which nourishes our inner man. Just as we experience physical hunger that drives us to the pantry to scour for something that will satisfy our empty stomach, David is describing a spiritual condition of hunger that drives us to the things God has for us that nourish our heart (that part of us that emotionally connects with him and others), our spirit (that part of us that communes with him), and our mind (that part of us that makes volitional choices to either obey or disobey, follow or hold back).

Hunger that is insatiable for God's nourishing commands - deep, intense spiritual craving for God's Word, his wisdom, and his direction. In a very physical sense, we understand hunger. If we are hungry long enough, we become ravenous when we finally have the opportunity to consume something to fill our emptiness. Sometimes, we go through periods of time spiritually where our hunger is building - causing us to become more and more ravenous for God's "feast" when is laid out before us. When we reach this point, it as though nothing satisfies but God himself. That is the condition of hunger that David is referring to here - quenchless hunger serving to "drive" us closer to God, deeper into his Word, and into intimate communion with him.

The closing words of this passage offer us hope for a "full life". "Yes, your sayings on life are what give me delight; I listen to them as to good neighbors!" A neighbor is one who is close at hand when a need exists. A good neighbor even knows there is a need without you speaking a word. God's Word is that kind of neighbor. Hidden away in our hearts through times of diligent study, it is there even before we know we have need of its wise counsel. In them, we can take delight (keen enjoyment). In them, we can find deep satisfaction of soul. There is a condition David describes as bringing us into that fullness of soul / spirit / heart / and mind - it is the condition of "listening".

Let me meddle for just a moment here. How many times do we really hear what God is saying to us? How many opportunities have we taken to really listen? To listen implies that we are paying attention to hear with an attention that is focused, intently directed, and alert to catch what is being shared. I am guilty of hearing without really listening more times than I would like to admit. My attentiveness to what is being spoken into my life is not always "all there" and therefore, I miss out on the direction I am given, miss the open doors before me, or make a choices that are completely off-course for what God desires for my life. Then I find myself complaining to God (and others) because I "have no life"! Amazing, isn't it, how we somehow think God is to blame for us having less than a "full" life?

David knows very well that fullness is a matter of our choices - moment by moment decisions we make that drive us toward satisfying our intense hunger for God with those very things that will really satiate like no other. Those things are simple: God's Word spoken into our lives; his graces embraced by our weary, worn-down souls; and those intimate times with him at his feet, just luxuriating in his presence. Let's choose today to cry out to God for his "spiritual" generosity in our lives - that we may all live full lives, delighting in each morsel of his goodness and grace. Get hungry for God! His "pantry-treats" are awesome!