Psalm 37:1-8, 14
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
March 13, 2022
One evening Mike Benson and his family were finishing dinner when he noticed his eight-year-old daughter hadn’t touched her green beans. He told her to eat them. She replied, “Dad, I’m full to the top.” “Eat them anyway,” he responded, “you won’t pop.” “Yes, I will pop!” she answered. “Risk it!” he said. She shook her head, “Dad, I couldn’t eat one more bite.”
Knowing his wife had made pumpkin pie squares, his daughter’s favorite dessert, Mike tried a different tack. He asked, “How would you like a double helping of pumpkin pie squares with two big dollops of whipped cream?” “That sounds great!” she exclaimed, pushing her plate back, ready for dessert.
“Wait!” he demanded. “How could you have room for all that when you don’t have room for a few green beans?” Whereupon the girl stood up, pointed to her belly and said, “This is my veggie tummy, and this is my meat tummy. They are both full. This is my dessert tummy. It’s hungry and needs dessert!”
We only feel the need of God when we heed our soul’s tummy and its hunger pangs. Of course, often we’re too full of the world’s candy to feel our spiritual hunger. That’s why a persecuted saint, Wang Mingdao, thanked God for his imprisonment for Christ in China. The confinement confronted him with his deep desperation for God, and the forced idleness in jail gave him time to seek God. Though it often seemed as if nothing were happening, he found out there how God is everything, giving us both power and peace in handling trials.
When David wrote this Psalm, he keenly felt his need of God. His life was under constant threat, and he struggled to fight off the fear. While he kept reminding himself that he had nothing of which to be afraid, he could not deny that fierce foes meant to “devour” his flesh. David was, I think, striving to possess the faith he professed. He did that by affirming the truth he only half-believed: that one day those enemies would “stumble and fall”, that one day God would “lift” him up above them, and that one day he “with shouts of joy” would “sing and make melody to the Lord”.
David was, as each of us is, a person in process who genuinely believed and yet still struggled with unbelief. But David was wiser than many of us because he bore in mind that we gain both faith and peace of heart by seeing God’s face, beholding His beauty and inquiring of Him. That’s why David’s first and foremost aim was to encounter God; why he said: “One thing I asked of the Lord, that I will seek after: to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life”. He was not saying that he wanted to participate in worship services 24/7, but that he wanted to stay positioned 24/7 to welcome, and to make the most of, God’s visitations whenever and wherever they came.
David sought to know God better, and grasped what we all must grasp: To know God better we must give God our attention and time. We must linger as long as we can in the moments of grace and revelation that come our way and do what we can to increase their frequency. We do that by regularly engaging in the practices of the spiritual life: such as each day keeping a devotional time for being available and accessible to no one but God, each week joining a community of faith in worship, and each hour remaining ready to serve others as needed. We don’t have to do these things all that well; but we do have to keep doing them – and the God who is also seeking us will take it from there.
Anyone who wants to know God better can seek and find God. Seeking God makes a connection with Him apart from any perfection in us and a growing intimacy with Him apart from any competency in us. Our modest contribution is just to persevere in the pursuit.
So it makes sense that at the end of this Psalm that David twice urges us to “wait for God”. To seek God is to wait in silence, that we may hear from God; to wait in still restfulness, that God may work in us; to wait in expectant emptiness, that God may fill us; to wait in honest acknowledgment of our fears, that God may calm the storms in our souls.
Seeking God is no more than showing up and being there for the One who is always there for us. It is to persist in our pursuit of Him even in our brokenness, deceitfulness and ambivalence. To seek God is not to see ourselves together enough to warrant a friendship with Him. The aim is not to see ourselves any way at all; the aim is to see God up close and personal. To seek God is simply to be present to the Presence we hope will present itself to us– and then wait for God and His grace.