Saint Francis of Assisi in prayer
“Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” (Isa. 55:6-7).
“Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore!” (1 Chr. 16:11 NKJV).
Do we realize that we actually have a command to seek God? There are people in this world who seek a lot of things – fame, wealth, influence, power, etc., but there are not too many people who really seek God. Yet, seeking God must be man’s most glorious and rewarding assignment.
In regards to our seeking God, it is first of all necessary for God to seek us before we are able to seek him. After man fell, the first question God directed to him was this: “…Where are you?” (Gen. 3:9). Since that point God has been the seeker. Man is not able to seek God on his own, but simply responds to God’s seeking. The Bible tells us that God looked down from heaven to see if there were any that sought him. The Lord had to conclude that there was not one (Psa. 14:2-3). Imagine that! In all the earth there was not a single person really seeking God.
One of the problems in seeking God is that he, by his very nature, is hidden from us. This is mostly due to our own sinfulness. Isaiah says that God’s arm is not too short to save and his ear is not deaf, but it is our own sins which have separated us and hid his face from us (Isa. 59:2).
There is another reason why God is sometimes hidden. It is due to God’s own mysterious nature. Isaiah laments, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel” (Isa. 45:15). We read in the Psalms that “Clouds and thick darkness surround him….” (Psa. 97:2). It is said in scripture that “…Moses approached the thick darkness where God was.” (Exo. 20:21). What a paradox! The God who dwells in unapproachable light, is surrounded with thick darkness! Perhaps we can realize by this paradox that when things are the darkest, God just may be the nearest.
SOME BIBLICAL EXAMPLES OF SEEKERS
Well, how will we respond to God’s command to seek him? Will we respond like David? He was probably the greatest seeker of all times. In his search for the divine he cried out: “My heart says of you, ‘Seek his face!’ Your face, LORD, I will seek” (Psa. 27:8). Because David sought the Lord, God gave him a kingdom that would last forever.
There are other biblical examples of people who sought God. Actually some of Israel’s later kings were God seekers. King Asa was such a one. We read that Asa and his people: “They entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their fathers, with all their heart and soul” (2 Chron. 15:12). We also read that good King Asa gave a decree to put to death all those who refused to seek the Lord (15:13). In his zeal he removed the altars and high places of Israel. He even deposed his grandmother, who was queen mother, because she had made an asherah pole.
Later when he was attacked by a mighty host of Ethiopians and Lubim, the prophet Azariah spoke to him and to his bewildered troops. The prophet said, “…If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you” (2 Chron. 15:2). God then proceeded to give King Asa a miraculous victory.
Then there was good King Josiah. We read of him that “In the eighth year of his reign, while he was still young, he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, asherah poles, carved idols and cast images” (2 Chron. 34:3). Amazingly, this child king was only about sixteen years old and yet he was a devout seeker after God.
He took down the asherah poles, and broke down the altars to Baal. We read the astounding statement that he also removed the male prostitutes from the Temple of God, and along with them the sacred horses that were dedicated to the sun (2 Ki. 23:6-7, 11). How could religion sink so low, that there would be homosexual practices and idols in the very Temple of God?
Josiah purged out all this mess, and as he was cleaning out the Temple he discovered the hidden law of God. Some people think it was the book of Deuteronomy that was discovered. The simple message is that, as we seek God we will find God’s law and his plan for our lives. Josiah and his people were then able to experience a mighty spiritual awakening.
There were other great seekers in Israel’s history, such as King Jehoshaphat and King Hezekiah. Without exception, we see in the Bible that God came to help these men in miraculous ways. We understand that as we seek God, he seeks to help and deliver us.
We learn from these and other biblical examples that seeking God also requires some things on our part. We must be willing to cut the groves, smash the idols, take the abominations out of the temple (and the heart), pray, weep, fast, etc. Seeking God also requires that the men of God, the leaders, priests and Levites prepare themselves. It is about at this point that our zeal to seek God wanes, but we must press on.
SOME SEEKERS IN MODERN TIMES
We may say that all this seeking God stuff was just for Bible times, and that it doesn’t apply to our day. Yet, in modern times there have been some great seekers after God. I am thinking of one preacher and theologian by the name of Jonathan Edwards. Pastor Edwards said on one occasion: “I made a solemn dedication of myself to God…giving up myself, and all that I had to God; to be for the future, in no respect, my own; to act as one that had no right to be himself…and solemnly vowed to take God for my whole portion…”
Things suddenly began to happen in his town of Northampton, Massachusetts. Edwards later remarked that “…the number of true saints multiplied, soon made a glorious alteration in the town; so that in the spring and summer following, anno 1735, the town seemed to be full of the presence of God…” Perhaps largely as a result of Jonathan Edwards and his seeking after God, the Great Awakening began to sweep over the American colonies.
There have been others – like John and Charles Wesley and George Whitfield. On January 1, 1739, the Wesleys, Whitfield, and some Moravian brethren met together. They said of that prayer meeting that “About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground…” Imagine, they were still seeking God at three A.M.! As a result of their devotion, a new move of God swept over Europe and America, and changed the course of history. We can see from these examples and from those in the Bible, that earth’s great blessings seem to come from people who have sought the Lord.
GOD’S PROMISES TO SEEKERS
God makes some promises to those who seek him. The Bible says, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” (Matt. 5:6). We read that those who seek God will not lack (Psa. 34:10); and that they will rejoice (1 Chron.16:10). Also the Bible says that those who seek God will understand (Prov. 28:5).
We are also assured that seekers will find. God says, “Ask, and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7). We are encouraged to seek the Lord like we would seek great treasure: “and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:4-5).
What if someone told us that a great treasure had been buried outside around the church. Imagine, gold coins, sparkling diamonds, precious jewels! What if it were announced that the hour of the search would be at 11:00 A.M.on Sunday morning and that all would be invited. I wonder how many of us would wait till Sunday morning? I wonder how many of us would even wait till morning? We would probably be there with our flashlights at midnight scratching in the dirt wouldn’t we? We must learn to seek God with just the same eagerness.
Perhaps best of all, God promises a revival for those who seek him. He says, “if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chron. 7:14).
The great revivals of the past were not predicted in the Bible. The Bible says nothing of the revival in Northampton, Massachusetts, or of the one in Wales. We do read in the Bible about a great coming revival, and we are told exactly where it will happen. God has promised a revival to Israel and Judah (Jer. 31:31; 24:6-7). The Bible is even more specific than that. The great revival of the end days will be in the very city of Jerusalem (Zech. 12:10).
We don’t know exactly when it will happen. Perhaps it could come in times like these, in days of restoration, as hundreds of thousands of new immigrants are gathered home to Israel (Psa. 14:7; & Ezek. 39:25-29).
This last great move of God will surely come as a result of men and women seeking God. No doubt this last great revival will affect the whole world. It seems from what we see in the Bible that this could be the right time for such a move of God. Are we willing to pray and fast and break down the idols like the people of old? In Hosea 10:12, the prophet says to us: “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.”
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem, and was first published in 1992.