My sermon last Sunday morning was the first in a four-part series entitled SBMT. It’s a series intended to stimulate thinking in a fresh way as to how the Bible speaks of what it means to be a follower and lover of God. It’s an attempt to ask this question and to find its true answer: “How does Scripture speak of how people come into a lively, loving relationship with the living and loving God?”
If you look at the Bible – the whole Bible – with that question in mind, you’ll quickly notice a recurring theme. It’s found in the Old and New Testaments. It’s found in virtually every genre of literature in the Bible. It’s repeated by prophets, sages, apostles, and the Son of God himself. It’s a theme that is often summed up in a single word or its synonyms. If you were to try and count the times the thought is expressed beyond the use of that single word, you would soon grow weary of counting. The thought, the theme, the word is, quite simply, “seek.” That is, “seek the Lord.”
For example, consider the following sample of twenty texts and this theme:
… seek the LORD your God … and you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your being. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
Pursue the LORD and his strength; seek his face always! (1 Chronicles 16:11)
… dedicate yourselves to seeking the LORD your God. (1 Chronicles 22:19)
Those who know your name trust you because you have not abandoned any who seek you, LORD. (Psalm 9:10)
The Lord looks down from heaven on humans to see if anyone is wise, to see if anyone seeks God. (Psalm 14:2)
I sought the LORD and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4)
Pursue the LORD and his strength; seek his face always! (Psalm 105:4)
I have sought you with all my heart. Don’t let me stray from any of your commandments! … I’ve sought your favor with all my heart; have mercy on me according to your word. (Psalm 119:10,58)
Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand everything. (Proverbs 28:5)
Seek the LORD when he can still be found; call him while he is yet near. (Isaiah 55:6)
The LORD God proclaims: I myself will search for my flock and seek them out … I will seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the wounded, and strengthen the weak. (Ezekiel 34:11,16)
Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap faithful love; break up your unplanted ground, for it is time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you. (Hosea 10:12)
Seek the LORD and live … (Amos 5:6)
… seek first his kingdom and his righteousness … (Matthew 6:33)
Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock and the door will be opened to you. (Luke 11:9)
The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
But the time is coming—and is here!—when true worshippers will worship in spirit and truth. The Father looks for those who worship him this way. (John 4:23)
… so that the rest of humanity will seek the Lord. (Acts 15:17a)
God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. In God we live, move, and exist. (Acts 17:27-28a)
… without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
How do you come into a relationship with God? You seek God the way he seeks you. And how does God seek us? In two ways (which are actually just two sides of the same coin): he gives a care and makes an effort. This is what he wants from us, too: to give a care and make an effort. And though I won’t take the time to do it here, let me encourage you to carefully read Psalm 142:4 and Psalm 24:1-6 as good examples, respectively, of what it means in Scripture to give a care and to make a real effort. Let me just say that in the former passage, note the parallel thought: to “pay attention” or to is to “care” and in the latter text, to “seek the Lord” is to have a “pure heart,” to not make “false promises,” etc. These are things that go far, far beyond a casual interest or an on again, off again involvement.
Now there are at least two things vital here we must not miss, namely, that God doesn’t expect anything from us that he isn’t already doing himself and what he expects, as well as expresses, is ongoing. It isn’t done in a moment or in a single act and it’s not done by only one party. What the Lord expects of himself and of us all goes on and on. The seeking never stops and the search is never one-sided. And looking ahead, let me just say that we’ll find these two things to be true of everything we see in this sermon series.
But what exactly is meant by the word “seek?” Often in Scripture we’re called to “seek” something in a sense beyond that of “running after” something, but more in the sense of “promoting” or “advancing” something. For example, we’re called to “seek peace” (Psalm 34:14; 1 Peter 3:11) and to “seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). The intent is clearly not to call us to merely chase after peace as if it was something that could be caught, no more than when we’re called to “seek justice” that we’re being called to just vigorously track down every wrong and set things right. No, we understand that to “seek peace” and to “seek justice” are not pursuits, so much as they are promotions. That is, we give a care to make efforts toward things that promote peace between people and God and to do right by God and people.
Still, most times in Scripture the thought of “seeking” has that basic, streamlined sense of “pursuit” or “mission” in view and this seems to be the case with most of the passages that speak of God seeking us and and our seeking him. That “humanity will seek the Lord” is the quest humanity is to be about and this is as sure as the fact that God is certainly on a quest for us, caring completely for us and making a maximum, sustained effort in the expression of that care.
So, let me encourage you with the words with which I encourage myself: be wise, seek the Lord, and live.