Keep Yourselves From Idols

O God, You are my God;

Early will I seek You;

My soul thirsts for You;

My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land

Where there is no water.

–Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

I started memorizing Psalm 63 yesterday.  I’ve loved this passage for many years, and it’s been on my list of passages to memorize for quite a while.  As I was meditating on the first verse while walking Buster early yesterday evening, I realized that there’s another way to look at that verse.  No doubt David was drawing upon his circumstances and compared His longing for God to being in the arid wilderness to which he had been forced to flee – and in that comparison, he paints a very clear picture of the desire of a man after God’s own heart.  And with that picture in the background, whenever I have pondered this passage, I have mostly thought: “Someday, I’ll long for God in that way.  Someday I’ll seek after Him like I would for a drop of water after being stranded in a desert for a few days.”  Because, if I’m honest, I don’t often feel that kind of urgency in my pursuit of God.

However, what if David is also indirectly describing the state of our hearts in general?  Isn’t our default state one where we hunger and thirst after fulfillment and purpose?  It’s just that we are so designed that we can only be truly satisfied in this life if we have the proper object for that hunger and thirst – the only one and true God.  The problem for those who do not follow Christ, therefore, is not having any relationship with God to begin with, choosing as objects with which to satisfy that hunger and thirst the things of this world: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, the boastful pride of life.  And the problem for those who do follow Christ is, well, persisting in seeking after the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life…

Therefore, it is not so much the attaining of some rarified degree of sanctification or holiness that enables one to feel such the urgency David describes in this Psalm, but the stripping away of our desires for the lesser things which cloud our view of God.  Sometimes we are able to strip away these things on our own (though never in a way that is not empowered by the Spirit!  See Romans 8:13); sometimes it takes varying degrees of loving divine discipline.

You might think that there is just some sort of semantic difference between drawing a negative (subtracting idols – or Lewis’s “mud pies” [1]) vs. positive (“adding holiness”) view of this passage – but I think the distinction is a useful one, and one that will help me, at least, to not think that David is describing something out of my reach.  Indeed, I already have this longing within me – I just aim it at the wrong objects all too often.

Little children, keep yourselves from idols. 1 John 5:21

[1] “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
— C.S. Lewis (Weight of Glory and Other Addresses)

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