Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Longings and Groanings - A summary of my Old Testament Reading in 2013

This year, I read through the Old Testament guided by Luke 24:27 - "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself." I've been looking through these ancient Hebrew writings asking the question, "where do I see Jesus?" As I looked for Jesus, I began to identify with the deep longing expressed by God's people.

“These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)

“And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised,” (Hebrews 11:39)

“Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.” (1 Peter 1:10–12) 

The word that comes to mind as a summary of my Old Testament reading this year is the word, "longing". The New Testament also uses the word "groaning" to describe the same thing. Those seeking to follow the ways of God in the Old Testament seemed to realize that something substantial, something personal was missing. Often they expressed that desire for a personal God whose face they might see in the most emotional ways. Peter says that the prophets searched intently and with the greatest care to find out when that longing would be fulfilled. The writer of Hebrews commends the great saints of old saying that they died in faith, not having received the things promised.

The gospel is the announcement of the great truth that all of our deepest desires can be met because of one person: Jesus Christ. Fully man and fully God. Eternal, yet personal. Sinless, yet tempted. Perfect, yet approachable. The mediator. The very face of God. Still we see that face dimly, but we do see the face! And we have the hope of seeing His face clearly and becoming just like Him. The longings expressed in the Old Testament are human longings. They are the same longings that agonize people today and sin is their attempt to fill those longings in some inadequate way. The good news is that Jesus can fulfill that longing and today He is available to everyone who will call on Him by faith and follow Him in obedience.

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?”
(Psalms 13:1–2)
“But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.”
(Psalms 13:5)

“They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. Have they no knowledge, all the evildoers who eat up my people as they eat bread and do not call upon the LORD? There they are in great terror, for God is with the generation of the righteous. You would shame the plans of the poor, but the LORD is his refuge.
Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.” (Psalms 14:3–7) 

In Psalm 13, the Psalmist speaks from the perspective of personal emptiness without the presence of Christ in His life. He feels as if God is far off and that the enemy is exalted over Him. He is longing for Christ. This is a personal longing, he needs Jesus. He ends the Psalm by telling God that while his longing is not fulfilled, he trusts in the steadfast love of God.

In Psalm 14, the Psalmist speaks from the perspective of corporate sin. He looks around and sees that everyone has turned aside and become corrupt. He sees that people are fearful, full of evil, and without God. Again the Psalmist expresses his powerful longing that salvation would come out of Zion. He is looking for Jesus and longing for Him just as powerfully as he did in the previous Psalm, but this time it's for the needs he sees all around him. Psalm 13 says, I need Jesus. Psalm 14 says we need Jesus. Only Jesus can meet my deepest needs and only Jesus can meet the deepest needs expressed in society. If I settle for anything less than Jesus personally, I will be disappointed and will harm myself. If I offer anything less to the people around me, I do them a great disservice. I must trust Jesus to be all that He says He is, both for me and from me to the people in my world.

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