Psalm 27:4, 7-9
The Rev. Dr. Robert S. Langworthy, preaching
September 10, 2023
In the C.S. Lewis book series The Chronicles of Narnia, a series that’s accessible to children but illuminating to even the most sophisticated theologians, a lion named Aslan represents Christ. One day, a little girl named Lucy, who had a particularly close relationship with Him, meets Him again after having not seen Him for years. She rushes to Him, throws her arms around his neck and buries her face in his thick mane. The great Beast rolls over on His side so that she falls, half sitting and half lying between His paws. He kisses her nose with His tongue, and envelopes her with His warm sweet breath. She gazes up into His large wise face and exclaims, “Aslan, you’re bigger!” “That’s because you’re older, little one,” He answers. “Not because You’re bigger?” “I am not. But each year you grow, you’ll find me bigger.”
We all can know God better and find Him bigger. None of us can finish the task of taking in the wonder of God’s infinite greatness. Appreciating God’s magnificence is like peeling an onion from the inside out. As we pull away one layer after another of His unlimited, ever-surprising majesty, it keeps giving a larger vision of how awesome and enthralling God is.
David had come to know God, but His knowing God some drove him to know God more. David’s heart cried out to his soul “Seek [God’s] face”, doing so with such force that there became but “one thing” David sought after and asked God for: “To live 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.”
David had “one thing” he desired. It wasn’t the only thing he desired, but was the “number one” thing he desired, the prime desire of his life even while he desired other things. David described this one thing as “living in the house of the Lord”. In putting it that way, David did not mean living like a Levite priest who never leaves the temple grounds or like a monk who shuts himself up in a monastery; but living ever near to where God is active – whether it be in the worship of the people or in the service of the world at large.
In seeking this one thing of knowing God better, David desired “to behold the beauty of the Lord” – that is, to know God’s person, God’s heart – and “to inquire in his temple” – that is, to know God’s wisdom, God’s mind. David was all about growing in his appreciation of God’s perfect holiness and his apprehension of God’s sage judgments.
If David models how God wants us all, how do we seek to know God better? Let me mention just two ways.
First, we can seek to know God better by embracing our troubles as blessings in disguise. For adversity makes us aware of our need of God and motivates us to seek Him. It brings us to the end of ourselves and thus opens us up to relying on God as never before. Adversity creates opportunity to know God better.
A second way we can seek God is by believing God is already seeking us, welcoming His overtures of love and letting Him meet us more than halfway, as He takes a thousand steps toward us for every step we take toward Him. We will then still pursue God, but we will also give God a new freedom to pursue us however He sees fit to make a closer friendship between us.
We can think of this relational destination as a promised land on the far shore of a large lake.
We might imagine ourselves in a spiritual rowboat striving to make our way across. With strenuous effort we put our backs into pulling on our oars, but eventually we exhaust ourselves and, enervated, we start drifting with the currents, which may or may not take us where we want to go.
Or we can imagine ourselves in a spiritual sailboat applying ourselves to the relatively easy job of lifting our canvas to avail of a power beyond us: the wind. Doing that is something which, by itself, won’t do anything at all unless the wind is blowing. If it is, we can raise our sail to catch the mighty force in the air and enable it to move us along by its own strength. We may from time to time have to mind our rudder; but, other than that, we get to our destination by the wind’s doing, not our own.
To seek God we must to do something. But it amounts to next to nothing. Yet, if we do that “next to nothing” faithfully, we will come to better know God, His abiding presence and His good peace.
During the Iraq war, Lt. Col. Gary Morsch served as a field doctor near the Iranian border. One day, as part of a Humvee convoy, he was transporting an enemy POW to a Baghdad military hospital where he’d get treated for an infection that was threatening his life. Gary was traveling in an armored vehicle and wearing 50 lbs. of “battle rattle’. Next to him was the gunner, his upper body sticking out of the Humvee, his eyes darting this way and that to spot and stop a would-be sniper or a car poised to speed into them and detonate.
Gary was feeling lonely, homesick, depressed and anxious. He didn’t know what to do, so he sang a praise song. Its refrain captured his attention: “Surely the presence of the Lord is in this place; I can feel His power and grace.” And somehow, crammed into that Humvee, sweating in the 100˚ heat, heart pounding with the unrelenting danger, Gary gained the faith conviction that God was there with him and with everyone on both sides of the war. Gary sensed God’s loving presence among them all. As tears ran down his dusty cheeks, he looked through the thick, bulletproof windshield at the Iraqis in flowing robes and the Americans in battle armor; and he relaxed under God’s empathetic care and concern for every last one of them.
Though Gary never shook free from the anxiety of being constantly vulnerable in war, his heart was filled with a deep and enduring sense of peace that underlay everything he underwent the remainder of his tour of duty.
Even if we found God long ago, we can know God better, His blessings more deeply, and our capacity to bless others more broadly. Let us pray.