Psalm 84 (2) – Longing and enJoying

Okay, on to Verse 2 of Psalm 84!

My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; My heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. (Psalms 84:2 NAS)

At first glance a simple little verse, but ponder it a little, and it opens up a feast of truth for my soul and spirit! I hope it will do the same for you.

First, it really gets my attention when David says something in two ways, because he WANTS that emphasis to not be lost on his audience: He starts out with “My soul longed… for the courts of the Lord.” But no, that’s not enough! Because he then adds, “….even YEARNED for, the courts of the Lord.” Okay, it worked on me; I see that second phrase, and involuntarily tilt my head in the same way my dog does when I say something he doesn’t understand: What? What? What are you saying?

So I dig down into the Hebrew words in my nifty NASB Strongs Bible app, and discover these are NOT mere synonyms, these words “longed for” and “yearned.” Not even close! In fact, they cover the range of desire that goes from 30 mph to 120 mph in 6 seconds! Because the first word just means “Yeah, I want that.” But the second word actually means “to be consumed by, swallowed up in, done in by…!!” Wow.

So David essentially says, “I want you, God….. no wait, I want you more than anything! I can’t think of anything else. Wanting to be near you has eclipsed every other desire in me. I’ve got to get to where I can be near you!” And David doesn’t stop there, he tells us what happens as a result of that yearning, when he gets to the courts of the Lord, to the place where he can know God more: both his mouth and his heart are singing for joy!

So, now we get to the good news and the bad news. The good news is that this is a wonderful place to be: to have a heart singing for joy — not because Daddy made you go to church and singing is what you do there, or because the choir is doing a cantata and you have to practice your part — but because you are so full of joy you’ve gotta sing about!

The bad news? It’s the sinking realization, “Gee, I don’t know how to get there.” I know exactly what that is like. I’ve witnessed the unbridled joy in people like David in the Bible, and heard numerous other witnesses in the Bible speak of loving God, yearning for God, wanting him more than anything — and realizing, I don’t know how to make my heart do that…. I don’t know how to fill myself with passion for this invisible God. I believe IN Him, I want to be that full of passion for him, but I honestly don’t know how to get there! How do you make yourself feel passion?

But I have the answer for you: I discovered it in my prayer place years ago. It is simply confessing the truth. It goes like this: on the knees, before the Lord, saying, “God I want to love you like this, but I don’t know how. I don’t want you like David did… but I WANT TO WANT YOU LIKE THIS. PLEASE HELP ME. Holy Spirit, fill me with this kind of love and yearning for God.” Because it occurred to me in a moment of enlightenment, the Holy Spirit is our helper, and what is He here to help us do, if not to love this God we cannot see, with all our might?

And the Spirit WILL answer you. I think I can safely say on His behalf, He LOVES to answer prayers like this. He did for me. He filled my heart with longing for God in the coming days and weeks. And over the years, if my love wanes, I go right back to the Spirit, and offer my wandering heart back to Him to be filled with longing for God. Longing comes, fills up my soul and spirit, and leads to more intimate times with the Lord. And that always brings the joy. I sing for joy because God is greater than my wandering heart, and my life with him flows out of His power, not my weakness — if I knock, ask and seek for it.

Yep, singing for joy, not because it’s time for choir practice.

Just Him and Me

I often think of David, out in his fields with the sheep, on the back side of nowhere…. and how he came to know the Living God, and became established in His love. No cell phone to tend to…. he only cared about communicating with One. No worship music playing on an iPod…. he made his own. And he knew God.

That’s what I go for, in a world where there is a fine line between my electronic tools enhancing my knowledge of God and actually distracting me from Him. I want to know him. I walk into my own fields nearby my house and tell my Father, I am here, I am listening, I want to know you. And I often feel His pleasure in this simple way of being.

Dad had his raw hunger, and he had the Holy Spirit. No scrolls, no Bible, no whiz-bang spiritual superstars to whip up his faith. Not a perfect man, not even close. But he knew God. Among all the voices in scripture, David’s stands next to that of Moses and Jesus himself in witnessing to me about who God is in truth, what he wants of me, and how I might know, enjoy and love him. Faith lives in me that my God is within reach as, as He was for David; for we drink of the same Spirit, we worship the same amazing Person.

Hunger: An Invitation to God’s Table

We cannot bear to feel empty for very long. In America we often have fast food restaurants every few yards, as capitalists cash in on our reluctance to experience hunger for more than a few minutes. The obesity epidemic confirms that we cannot bear the sensation of emptiness, that we are driven to satisfy the physical discomfort of hunger and the emotional discomfort of life: we want it NOW and we want it to wow the mouth.

We crave our junk food, however devoid it may be of real life-giving nourishment. We eat that which satisfies only briefly and makes us hungrier still. Eventually we may learn that what we’ve consistently fed ourselves has not only failed to nourish us, it has slowly stolen all vitality and strength of life; all because we cannot bear to be hungry.

But hunger is a gift, given by God to cause us to seek the nourishment we require for living. We must learn not to be afraid of it, or rush to fill the discomfort of it, with candy for the soul. God uses the word hunger as a metaphor for the neediness of the soul. We tend to do the same thing with the hunger of the soul that we do with physical hunger: finding it uncomfortable, we rush to fill our emptiness.

Our souls need love…peace…contentment…connection. Absent these for very long, we become frustrated and reach for anything to distract us from that hunger, like a Twinkie for the soul. Repeatedly turning to things which satisfy only briefly does not nourish our souls, and may even leave us addicted…to food, drugs, gaming, wrong relationships, and every other compulsion. Fast food is deceptive: it not only fails to give life, it actually steals life from us, day by day.

Don’t run away from your hunger, or rush to fill it with that which leaves you even more needy. Offer your hunger to God, of whom the ancients wrote,  “You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.” (Psalms 145:16, NIV)

Wait upon God in trust, and give Him a chance to satisfy your soul…for he cries out to his children, “Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” (Isaiah 55:2-3, NIV)