An Ancient Problem of Epic Proportions
Ever been somewhere physically, but your heart and thoughts wandered far, far away? You gave yourself credit for being there in the church service, or at the meeting, but a significant part of you was absent.
The Israelites had just such an experience. The remnant had returned physically from exile back to their homeland. They were back on the land God had given their forefathers, but He desired more from His people than a mere change of geographical location.
God tells the Israelites through the prophet Zechariah:
“Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘Return to me’, declares the Lord Almighty, “and I will return to you’, says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 1:3, NIV).
Wait – hadn’t they just done that very thing? Traveled to this place from surrounding lands, streaming back in dusty caravans to the place that would forever call to them? Tired donkeys, laden with household goods, plodded to the music of clattering pots and pans and the chatter of children. Eyes that had seen many winters and eyes that had seen few hungrily took in the sights of the journey as they slowly made their way back.
And finally, God’s chosen people had returned home.
Or had they?
Their feet had ceased to wander, but God knew that their hearts wandered still. Disobedience, the trauma of captivity, and a long sojourn in foreign lands with foreign gods had taken their toll and diluted their devotion.
So God’s word to those who had returned bodily was to return with what really mattered – with their hearts.
If you’re at all familiar with the Old Testament, you already know this was not the only instance of the hearts of God’s people being prone to wander.
A Modern Problem of Epic Proportions
Fast forward to today. We moderns are no different – we suffer from the same ailment of the wandering heart and find ourselves in just as much need of returning.
Always, the heart is preeminent. The wisdom of Proverbs cautions us to guard it above all else.
Our mind and will can direct our feet to go places and do things that we know are good and right. Discipline and resolve aid us in accomplishing necessary tasks when our hearts just aren’t in them.
The problem arises when duty eclipses delight and we are left fumbling in the dark outside the inner chamber. We attempt to enter in and offer this dry resolve to do our duty on the altar of sacrifice to the All Consuming Fire, the Lover of Our Souls. Our paltry and inadequate offering crumbles to so much dust and ash. The wrong offering does not accomplish the right purpose – ask Cain.A lover isn’t romanced by dry duty. Click To Tweet
What, then, is the acceptable offering?
The One Thing God Wants
All of ourselves. Our very hearts. “Return to Me”.
Jealous for us, God desires us to desire Him. Through the prophet Jeremiah, He laments:
“I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved Me and followed Me through the wilderness, through a land not sown.”(Jeremiah 2:2, NIV).
“As a bride” – this is the kind of all-consuming, passionate desire God longs for from the people He created.
Not infatuation, but lasting, burning, devotion fueled by pure love.
John Piper eloquently sums it up like this: “God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.” ~ John Piper Click To Tweet
He is most glorified when we claim Him as our shield and very great reward, as He expressed Himself to Abraham.
When we are able to say to Him, “Even if I never marry, never have a child, never experience that healing, never have that prayer that is most dear to my heart answered – even so, YOU are enough for me” – then, our hearts have fully returned to our God and find their utmost satisfaction in Him.
And when we desire to love Christ enough to obey Him in every area of our lives, holding nothing back – then we have returned.
When we have turned our backs on the things that pull us away from wholehearted devotion and set our faces to the radiant beauty of our Lord, then something wonderful happens.
A Love Story of Epic Proportions
Zechariah 1:3 says that then, He returns to us. What a beautiful picture of intimacy. Distractions are forsaken, face to face once again.
Jesus says in John 15:23 (NIV):
“Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them…”
A special intimacy is shared with those who return. He comes to us and makes His home with us.
We do life together.
Why, I wonder, do I ever walk away from this place?
What could EVER satisfy my soul more than Him?
Yet I find myself, time after time, in need of returning.
Can you relate?
Perhaps it’s just the human condition or our lot in life to be constantly torn between the two worlds we live in, never quite comprehending how to fully live in both simultaneously.
Moving From Duty to Delight in God
A sense of duty creeps in, dulling our senses, robbing our joy, making our offering unpalatable, unacceptable. Not unacceptable because we didn’t DO enough. Unacceptable because what is desired is precious and priceless and we can’t substitute 5 hours of duty for even one moment of face to face intimacy.
The prosaic duties of daily living can rob us of the wonder that we are jealously desired. Me – sitting here biting my thumbnail between sentences, wondering if I’m saying too much, or not enough, or being too transparent. I’m desired by Him. You – sitting wherever you are reading this, with whatever joys and worries your day has brought. He jealously desires your heart – all of it. No matter what.
Dear friend, if you feel Him drawing you to fully return to Him for a renewal of passion, joy, and intimacy, could we pray together? It would be my great joy and honor to do so.
“Dear Father, You have awakened our hearts once again and shown us that we have wandered. We sense You drawing us back to you with cords of love. Right now, we turn away from other things. We turn fully to face You and gaze upon Your beauty and holiness. Nothing compares to You. Bring us out of the place of duty into the place of delighting in Your presence. Revive our hearts, rekindling our desire for You. And may our great joy in Your presence be highly contagious and draw others into a love relationship with You as well. There is no one like You. In the matchless Name of Jesus, Amen.”
With faith, hope, and love,
P.S. – You may also enjoy this beautiful article at www.thedisciplemaker.org about delighting in God. I know I did!