When you look at the history of revival over the centuries, one common factor has been a renewed desire and longing for the presence of God. Religious formality, church tradition, even denominational markers are replaced by unifying sense of the immanence of God, and a hunger to experience to more of Him.
Of course this desire can’t be manufactured. It’s one thing to know that you ought to desire God. It’s another to develop a desire for Him in the midst of a frantic week, with too many hands on your time.
So where does this desire develop? As the season of Lent reminds us, the surprising answer is in the desert. Having been to Israel last year and glimpsed something of the Judean desert, I understand something of David’s longing in Psalm 63, apparently written when he was driven there by the forces of King Saul. Verse 1:
O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
Deserts are empty, remote, still places where you are confronted with bare necessities of life, where it is just you and God. Of course few of us have ever been to a desert, but one of the challenges of Lent is to ask where we can create that place of stillness which allows us to come face to face with God. After all, it is possible to have a few minutes each day not connected to the Internet, or sat in front of a screen. It is possible to turn off the phone, and leave the inbox unchecked.
But maybe at the moment God seems remote. Yes, of course we want to do business with Him. We want to experience His presence. It is just that, for a want of a better expression, He doesn’t seem to have turned up much recently. What then?
David faced a similar issue. But as he expressed his hunger and his thirst for God, he looked back over his previous spiritual experience. Verse 2:
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Now at the precise moment, David was on the run, an outcast. He could not go up to the familiar places of worship or celebrate the festivals with his family. Yet the objective fact remained there were times when he had beholden God’s power, he had glimpsed God’s glory. Even as perhaps wistfully his thoughts turned back to the times when God seemed closer, the truth dawned on him that this God was still the same God. His character had not changed. His mercy and faithfulness remained the same.
And so his spiritual memories turned from nostalgia into a powerful catalyst for praise.
There’s much more to say about this psalm. But for now let me leave you with two questions:
How can you create a place where you come face to face with God?
What spiritual memories do you have that can sustain your walk with God today?
We’ll come back to this psalm again in a while…