A Seeking Heart

William C. Brownson Uncategorized

READ : Proverbs 2:1-6

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom.

Proverbs 2:1-6a, RSV

How does anyone get to know God? I wonder if that question reaches out and grabs you as it does me. What must it be for a human being to know the true God? I mean not just know about God so that we could discuss Him learnedly in the third person, but actually know Him. I mean to be acquainted with Him, be in communication with Him, be able to say to Him, “My Lord and my God!” I’m talking about knowing God in some such way as you know a family member or a close friend. Does that interest you, does that stir some response deep down inside you? Would you like, if you could, to know the living God?

Here’s a passage of Scripture that tells you how. Some things about it might seem surprising. It’s from the Old Testament Book of Proverbs, chapter 2. Listen:

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you cry out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom.

The passage begins with the tone of fatherly advice – “My son…” but what it inculcates is the call and promise of God. It instructs the young and the old in how they can find the knowledge of God, how they can understand the fear of God, yes, in how they can know the Lord.

What is described here is a kind of search which becomes more and more intense. First you “receive His words,” you are open to what God says. You listen to His voice. Then you “treasure up His commandments,” that is, you internalize them, you hide His Word in your heart, you memorize it, appropriate it.

But you not only take in God’s Word, you cry out to Him for light. So eager are you for finding the path to God that you raise your voice for it. “O God, teach me your way!”

Now it becomes more than desire, more even than prayer. It is effort; it is action. You seek as though for silver, you search as though for hidden treasure. In other words, you value the knowledge of God supremely. You devote yourself to seeking after Him. You make knowing Him the quest of your whole life. So great a treasure does this seem to you, so eager are you to find it, that you never stop searching.

Now for the promise: “then you will understand the fear of the LORD, then you will find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom…” He gives it but apparently He gives it to those who seek it in this way, with receptiveness, with retentiveness, with ready hearing, with deliberate, focussed attention, with a due sense of its preciousness and with unflagging persistence. Along that road, we are told, people come to know God.

I’d like to explore that with you today, how the knowledge of God can be a gift and yet something also that you seek for, how it can be all of grace to those who don’t deserve it and yet also can be found at the end of a search.

A GIFT

All right, in what sense is knowing God a gift? In the first place, the Bible makes it plain that God reveals Himself to us freely, as He chooses to do. He breaks the silence, He draws back the veil, He lets Himself be known. If He didn’t, we could never know Him at all, could we?

Think about that for a minute. How could you possibly know God if He didn’t choose somehow to disclose Himself to you? Where would you go to discover Him? With which of your senses could you discern Him? And even if you could see Him, or touch Him, would that tell you who He is, what He is like, how He feels toward you? Why, we can’t even know other human beings if they don’t open up to us, if they don’t make a kind of self-disclosure. The apostle Paul asks the question, “What person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is within him?” Only we know what is going on deep inside us. Only we know how we really feel. We can hide that from others, can’t we? We can keep them from glimpsing our inner self. They can only know us if we are willing to open our hearts and share our lives with them.

The Bible bears witness from beginning to end that God has done just that. He has opened His heart; He has shared His life; He has revealed Himself to us. He showed Himself to Israel as the God of covenant, as the One who visits and redeems His people, the One who hears prayer. He revealed His holy will through Moses, through the words of the prophets, and the songs of the psalmists. He showed Himself in His mighty acts of judgment and deliverance.

Then in the fullness of the times, He revealed Himself uniquely and finally in Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus was the Word of God enfleshed. He was God translated into a human life. He was the brightness of the Father’s glory, the express image of His person. He could say to His startled contemporaries, “He that has seen me has seen the Father.” In His words of truth, works of mercy and supremely in His dying for our sins, God revealed the depth and wonder of His saving love for us.

Now, all of this was sheer gift, that God should call Abram and make promises to him, that He should give his Word to Moses and the prophets, that He should send his Son to be our Savior. We haven’t begun to deserve any of it. In fact, we have deserved the very opposite. Yet in prophetic word and saving deed and supremely in His Son, God has made Himself known to us.

But there’s more to the gift. God has raised Jesus from the dead and exalted Him to the throne of the universe. He has sent forth the Lord’s own Spirit now to dwell in the hearts of His people. By the power of the Holy Spirit He now recreates us, breathes new life in us. He gives us eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts to understand. He gives again what we have lost by our sin and hardness: the capacity to know God. Without His working in us we would never appropriate the Word; we would never taste and see that the Lord is good; we would never truly know Him. Everything, you see, is gift; everything is grace.

A QUEST

“But if that is true,” someone asks, “how can knowing God be described as a quest on our part?” If it’s all a gift, how can it be for us the goal at the end of a search? The passage we’re talking about today speaks of making our ears attentive and inclining our hearts to understand, of crying out for insight, and seeking it like buried treasure. If it’s all “gift,” why do I have to go after it so strenuously? If God chooses to be known, why does it take so much effort to know Him? If He wants to be found, why do we have to seek?

Let’s think for a minute about what “seeking” means. God invites His people in the Scriptures to “seek” Him “while He may be found.” He calls to them: “Seek ye my face.” His Word urges “seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” For us to seek something or someone involves first of all, desire. We want to reach; we want to find; we yearn to know. There’s a kind of eagerness involved in seeking. Second, there’s effort. When we seek, we don’t simply long and pine; we put forth effort. We act in such a way as to arrive or find or gain. And that action usually takes the form of movement toward something or someone. We start out in their direction; we keep on moving toward them.

Now the God of all grace, the One who reveals Himself to us freely and grants us salvation as a gift, still wants us to seek Him. That’s His idea. He gives us the faculties, the inner capacity to see, to hear, to ask and seek. But we must use them. Remember how Jesus said again and again, “He who has ears to hear let him hear”?

How does learning take place in any discipline? Is it enough that reading materials be provided, that lectures be given? Will every person exposed to an education in this way truly learn? Obviously not. There has to be a desire for learning; there has to be an application of oneself to it. It takes a spirit of inquiry and sustained effort. And yet we often act as though we can remain apathetic and still know God. That isn’t so. It can never be so.

Think of Jesus’ words, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you will find, knock and it shall be opened to you.” These verbs are in the present tense, which in the Greek language involves a continuing action. His promise, in other words, is to those who keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking. It’s to those, in other words, who are eager, not bored; active, not passive; moving, not standing still. To Jesus, the persistent search is of the essence in true faith and devotion.

It’s true in learning any subject; it’s true in developing any friendship; it’s true supremely in knowing God: we’ve only just begun. There’s always “so much more.” When the apostle Paul prays for his friends in Ephesus, who already manifest faith in the Lord Jesus and love for all the saints, he notes, do you know what he asks for them? That they may know God, that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened . . . .” Or again, “that you may know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge.” Don’t they know God? Yes! Aren’t they aware of Christ’s love for them? Of course they are! But there is so much more. We’re talking about the infinite God and about a love that passes knowledge, about riches that are described as “unsearchable.”

The knowledge of God, friends, is a gift, but it’s never something I own as a kind of possession apart from fellowship with Him. It’s a satisfaction, but not one that I can hoard up and keep. I’m always receiving it afresh. Those who have tasted this call it a kind of “unsatisfied” satisfaction.

God wants you to take His Word, to welcome His salvation, to believe in His Son, all as a gift. But He also wants you to press on in knowing Him, to feel like Paul “not as though I had already attained . . . I follow after, I pursue, that I may know Him.” It’s never more true than in knowing God, that “to him who has [or to her who has], more will be given.” That’s why those who are already on the way can still be told to strive that they may enter in by the narrow gate. That’s why the kingdom of heaven is described by Jesus as being somehow “taken by force.” Remember Jacob? He knew at Peniel that the God of all grace had come to Him to reveal the Lord’s name and to claim Jacob’s life. That made the patriarch, you remember, a wrestler. That left him saying to God, “I will not let Thee go unless Thou bless me.” May you have, may I have, that kind of seeking heart – that we may truly know God!

PRAYER: Freely, Lord, You have given to us, freely You have opened your heart to us and made Yourself known. May we be throughout all our lives those who truly seek after You, that all of us may find through Jesus Christ what it is to know God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.