Thirsty for God Psalm 42

In these days of Covid lockdown, many of us may be feeling just as the Psalm writer did.
4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

We may well recall memorable occasions of worshipping God alongside others. From the Big Top at Spring Harvest to the great celebrations at the Keswick Convention to our worship with our dear friends week by week in our own church. Singing God’s praise together may be one of the things we are missing most in these strange times. We may find ourselves asking the very same question as the Psalmist. When can I go and meet with God?

It doesn’t feel the same. We are still joining our voices with the angels and the saints in heaven, but it just doesn’t feel the same worshipping just in ones and twos in our own homes. But if we think we need other people for us to be able to worship God, we are mistaken. It is not the case that we are not able to worship God by ourselves. The truth is rather that sometimes we need the example of other people worshipping with us to inspire us to worship. We aren’t particularly in the mood to praise God and we need others around us to lift us to an attitude of praise. It is the thanksgiving of others which helps us to be thankful.
Yet we can continue to worship God even when we cannot meet together to do so. As the Psalmist says, we just need to turn our hearts to God and set our minds on praising him.
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God.

When we do put our hope in God our Saviour we have so much to praise him for. So many blessings in the past and mercies in the present. We shouldn’t need the help of others to be able to praise God. What really matters is our heart and our attitude to God. Do we really want to worship? Do we really want to meet with God?
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

The secret to praising God in these very difficult days has nothing to do with how many people are with us, or with the music or with the technology. It is all about being thirsty for God, the Living God. Psalm 63 picks up the same theme.
1 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 I will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

We don’t have to be in the sanctuary to praise God. Although our memories of meeting God on those occasions will inspire us. We don’t need to be with others to worship God. We can praise Him by ourselves. The thing that matters is how thirsty we are to meet with God. How much do we really value “resting with God” and “intimacy with God.”?
How thirsty are we for God? A devoted follower of the Greek philosopher Socrates asked him the best way to acquire knowledge. Socrates responded by leading the man to the river and plunging him beneath the surface. The man struggled to free himself, but Socrates kept his head submerged. Finally, after much effort, the man was able to break loose and emerge from the water. Socrates then asked, “When you thought you were drowning, what one thing did you want most of all?” Still gasping for breath, the man exclaimed, “I wanted air!” The philosopher wisely commented, “When you want knowledge as much as you wanted air, then you will get it!”
How much do we really want to meet with God and be in the presence of God? Just how thirsty are we for God? You can be anything from a bit dry in the mouth to parched to dehydrated to dessicated!
A.W.Tozer. “Every Christian will become at last what his desires have made him. -We are all the sum total of our hungers. The great saints have all had thirsting heart. Their cry has been, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” Their -longing after God all but consumed them. It propelled them onward and upward to heights toward which less ardent Christians look with languid eye -and entertain no hope of reaching. I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God.”
The story of Martha and Mary reminds us of the importance of worship and prayer – of making time just to be with God and sitting at Jesus’s feet! We need to get the balance of our lives right between work and prayer. The ultimate tragedy of a life which is too busy is the tragedy that Martha faced. Offered the opportunity to sit at Jesus’ feet, busy people can’t spare Jesus any time. It is hard because we live in a Martha world. But we all need times to just stop and be quiet and be still, and rest in the presence of the Lord. It is good for ourselves, and good for our relationship with God. Mary had her priorities right! As A.W.Tozer said, “God created us to be worshippers first and workers second.”
Remember that scandalous intimate act of worship in the last week of Jesus’s life, when perhaps it was the same Mary who washed Jesus’s feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. Remember the lavish extravagance of anointing his head with precious perfume. Other people criticised Mary for going totally “over the top” in her love for her Lord. But she just ignored them! And her story has been told all over the world, just as Jesus predicted, because her “over the top” worship was pleasing to God! Are we that passionate for God?
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.

We live in a wet country. It rains a lot! For most of the time there is more water than we would wish for. But Israel is not a wet country. It is a dry country where it often does not rain enough. There are deserts in the world where it never rains at all. So the people of Israel that Jesus was talking to know what it is like to be thirsty. In 2017 in Tanzania we watched a large group of elephants gathered in a river bed. The river was completely dry so the elephants were digging with their trunks down into the river bed desperately trying to find the last drops of water flowing underground. They were thirsty. For them, finding a source of water was a matter of life and death. As it is for all living creatures, including human beings. So just how thirsty are we for God?
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Pause for Reflection

“Lord, I crawled across the barrenness to You with my empty cup,
uncertain but asking any small drop of refreshment.
If only I had known You better I’d have come running with a bucket.”
(Nancy Spiegelberg, Decision, November, 1974)

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