Friday, 4 October 2019

WHEN PANTING IS LONGING, Developing a heart and passion for God

WHEN PANTING BECOMES LONGING
It was a bleak day for Horak Maskil when he was forcibly removed from his post.  His position had become untenable as the approaching enemy forces loomed large just days away from completing their invasion. Horak was a descendant of a long line of officers charged with what he considered to be the greatest responsibility. He had been trained by his father who had been trained by his, as father had trained son all the way back many generations to their patriarch, Korah. Unlike many of colleagues who merely performed a duty in a rather cold fashion, Horak actually enjoyed what he did and it showed. His enthusiasm for his task was contagious and obvious. When he was ‘on duty’ he was in his ‘happy place’. But on this day, that all changed.

A replica depiction of the Tabernacle at Shiloh in Israel
Horak was a worship leader. He was genetically-advantaged as a singer and a gifted musician. Before King David had put things in place for the construction of the temple in Jerusalem, Israel’s worship had focussed around the remains of the tabernacle, that Moses had constructed as Israel journeyed through from Egypt to the Promised Land, which now lay largely in decay and ruins at Shiloh. King David, himself an avid singer and musician, had erected a much smaller and far humbler structure in Jerusalem where worshipers would offer praise, rather than animals and grain, as their offerings of worship. This place of exuberant praise became known as the Tabernacle of David
And David danced before the LORD with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod. So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting and with the sound of the horn.
Second Samuel 6:14-15
Horak’s ancestors had continued this tradition established by King David of leading worshipers up the ascent to the Temple with music and singing as they declared the praises of God in worship. Horak, himself loved doing this. Since he was a little boy he had been taught by his father and his uncles how to develop a sincere love for God. He was taught that music and singing was the best way for anyone to declare their love for God. And Horak deeply loved God. On some days after having led the worshipers who had come to Jerusalem into the Temple precinct with his singing and music, he longed for tomorrow to come so he could do it all again. He lived to worship God. He loved to worship God. Nothing brought him greater delight than to give God delight with his musical praise and worship. But that had all come to end. The terrible thought he had refused to acknowledge now overwhelmed him as trudged out of the doomed city with his family and countrymen. So intimately had he he linked the presence of God with the Temple of God in the City of God, that now leaving it was s if he was now saying goodbye to God. But he longed for God still and wondered when this terrible nightmare would be over.
¶ TO THE CHOIRMASTER. A MASKIL OF THE SONS OF KORAH.
¶ As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,/for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 42:0-2
And as he proceeded from the place he loved, those who blamed God for their sad predicament taunted him with ridicule and mocking the God he still loved and even still trusted. This drove him to tears. He turned his bitter sadness into transparent worship and penned the words of this song –
My tears have been my food
  day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
  “Where is your God?”
Psalm 42:3
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
Psalm 42:10
In the midst of his downward spiral, he did what true worshipers do: He remembered the goodness of God.
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
Psalm 42:4
At this point in Horak’s song he reveals just low he now felt. He describes his depression as being like unrelenting sea breakers and waves that pounded over him (Ps. 42:7). Worship, real worship, doesn’t pretend that everything’s rosey when they really aren’t! But real worship, as Horak had experienced and come to know, shifts the worshiper’s focus off their woes and onto the God of hope.
¶ Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Psalm 42:5-6
Even Horak’s countrymen marvelled at his unwavering love for, and devotion to, God. He was well aware that many of his leaders had long lost their Godward love and devotion—if they ever had it all! For them, it was about the prestige, the titles, the position, and the privileges it afforded them. Horak knew this, but he resisted the temptation to allow their indifference toward God to become a distraction to him. He wanted to love God, to worship God, to adore God, even when no one else did! But he believed that his focus on knowing and loving God through his musical gifts could inspire others to also life their eyes off their troubles and get a vision of the God who was infinite love, infinite beauty, infinitely glorious, the Satisfyer of mankind’s deepest longings, and the One who radiated infinite peace and joy on all those who entered His presence.
By day the LORD commands His steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
Psalm 42:8
While others panted for power, Horak panted for the presence of God. As he marched out Jerusalem he saw a deer sprinting toward a stream as it was being pursued by hunting dogs. Not only did the deer long to be refreshed by the water of the flowing stream, it also knew that it was by immersing itself in the stream that the pursuing hounds would lose its scent. This is how Horak felt too. As the enemy’s forces prepared to march on Jerusalem in the coming hours, Horak longed for the refreshing streams that come from God’s presence. Only in God’s presence would he feel truly safe. But how could this ever be again, now that Jerusalem was being forever abandoned?
An artist's depiction of the destruction of Jerusalem
An artist’s depiction of the destruction of Jerusalem
Then, at some point in Horak’s escape, he heard the Spirit of God speak gently into his beleaguered soul that God does not merely inhabit a building or even one particular city, for all the earth is the Lord’s and no matter where you are, He is there. Hope in God didn’t require a temple or a priest or a ritual, it simply required a heart that was prepared to worship and seek God in His Word, in prayer, and in praise. With this gentle and reassuring revelation, Horak was able to comfort his soul, and I suggest that we can too.  
¶ Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:11
 Pastor Andrew

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