O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:1-8, ESV)
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Perhaps it’s just the odd way my mind works, but the image I recall is from the very first episode of the show Northern Exposure. The young doctor Joel Fleishman has woken up to his new reality. He is, effectively, marooned in a remote Alaskan village. He runs the distance into town (without stopping), bursts into the general store, and promptly consumes most of an entire gallon of bottled water. His thirst is enormous (and his quenching it rather amusing).
Two times in the Psalms, David uses language that engages that picture, but I’m not so sure our English translations adequately capture the scene. In Psalm 42 (verses 1 and 2), he writes “As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” To me, the picture here and in Psalm 63 is of a stag being shot at and pursued doggedly by the hunter. He has darted through the brush and brambles at top speed, shells whizzing by him. He finally breaks through to the small clearing beside the clear, spring-fed stream in the middle of the forest. There, his sides heaving as he catches his breath, he lowers his great antlered head and drinks deeply of the sweet, cool water.
That is how I interpret these passages. God wants us to be absolutely desperate for Him. We need to strip away all passion and want for anything else so we can genuinely feel that need and that need alone. The trouble is, most of us are content just feeling a bit thirsty and going to church (or reading our daily reading, reciting a prayer, etc.) and just dowsing our superficial thirst. We never allow ourselves the opportunity to develop that deep, life-defining thirst that God longs to quench. We haven’t raced through the deep woods and rejoiced to find the brook just when we thought we couldn’t take even one more step. No, we’re just strolling down the hallway of life and looking for a quick sip at God’s cosmic water fountain.
The result, rather than our thirst being satisfied, is that our taste for the fresh, cool waters God provides is dulled. We not only fail to long for it the way the Psalmist describes, we don’t even know what it tastes like. Instead, we’ve substituted some rituals and rites and outward affectations for something that was designed to fill the deep crevices of our souls. And, in turn, we don’t find the rest and refreshment because we never go looking for it. Oh, we’ll sing the songs on Sunday that talk about it such as “This is the air I breathe …” but we don’t grasp the depth they hold for us or the strength they can bring.
When we come to the place we are “beyond thirsty”, He alone will give us the Water of Life to refresh our souls. Once we’ve tasted deeply of that Water and taste Him, we understand the true nature of the deep thirst and how it can be constantly abated … sip by sip and drink by drink of God’s gracious provision. And now as we travel the Crooked Path, we will reach out for Him in earnest, rather than just in passing. We will be satisfied beyond our wildest understanding.
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- Can you recall a time when you have been desperately thirsty for something – anything? What drove you to that thirst?
- How is your level of thirst for God? Can you say with the song writer that He is the very air you breathe?
- Have you become complacently satisfied with a passing sip at the drinking fountain rather than seeking out the deep, clear waters of God’s provision? If so, what will it take to drive you back to Him?
ESV - Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.