Listen and pay attention; don’t be proud!
For Adonai has spoken.
Give glory to Adonai your God
before the darkness falls,
before your feet stumble
on the mountains in the twilight,
and while you are seeking light,
he turns it into deathlike shadows
and makes it completely dark.
— Jeremiah 13:15 & 16 (CJB)
While “Give glory” specifically refers to worshipping God, the Jews, to whom this prophecy was directed, already knew that in order to worship God, you first must seek him. Ecclesiastes 12:1 says, “Remember your Creator”, the intent of which is not just to preserve memory, but to motivate obedience. Again, this was written to Jews who already knew that you cannot remember God without seeking him. The LORD’s desire is for everyone to seek him, whether you already know him and are returning to him or if you are seeking him for the very first time.
Scripture tells us, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6 NIV) By saying God is “near”, we know that we don’t need to go on a long journey to find God. It isn’t distance that separates us from God, but sin, which makes seeking the LORD a spiritual journey. When it says, “call on him”, it means to pray. Chances are, if you’ve never sought God, you probably think you don’t know how to pray. You may think you have to study a religion or go to a church to pray. But those assumptions are wrong. Prayer is merely being receptive to and honest with God, in an attitude of reverence. Prayer is a spiritual connection with God, not a religious rite.
Acts 17:24 states, “The God who made the universe and everything in it, and who is LORD of heaven and earth, does not live in man-made temples.” So, if you are going to different “churches” seeking God, you are barking up the wrong tree. Churches are a convenient place for people to gather for worship, but are only conducive to finding God if those who attend have already found him. The seeker needs to accept the fact that because God is Spirit (John 4:24) he isn’t found in a physical place. But because God is omnipresent (everywhere at all times), finding him is a matter of the condition of one’s heart. And at this point, the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
The atheist or the skeptic would say that seeking God, who does not exist, is an exercise in futility, a stupid waste of time, an irrational pursuit. Misapplying scientific standards used for understanding the physical universe, they insist that the existence of God cannot be proved. Of course, due to the same limitations, they also are unable to disprove God’s existence. Their only rebuttal to the declaration that God is Spirit is to deny the existence of anything that is essentially supernatural. Their argument, boiled down to one word, is denial. They deny that God exists because to them, there is no reality beyond their ability to measure. They sit at the apex of their own reality. Nothing is above them.
It is therefore a waste of time to consider disbelief, because as it says in Hebrews 11:6b, “… whoever approaches him must trust that he does exist, and that he becomes a Rewarder to those who seek him out.” (CJB) “Trust”, as used in this passage, refers to faith. It is the vehicle that makes our spiritual journey possible. It is the communication system that allows us to “call on him”.
But, as Jeremiah 13:15 (above) urges, “don’t be proud!” It is pride that makes us think we don’t need God. Pride blinds us to our need to seek the LORD. Pride gives us a false sense of confidence. Most often, we only seek God after we’ve been knocked down a few pegs. Pride gives us the excuse we need to keep putting off seeking the LORD. Pride distracts us and we end up paying way too much attention to ourselves and to our own view of reality. But God’s reality isn’t our reality. He allows us to approach him according to his conditions, not ours. There’s nothing secret or magic about it. You simply must be willing to give up your pride, drop your demands, expectations or conditions, and humble yourself before God.
Bowing down is the physical representation of this, but what God wants isn’t a particular physical posture, but a condition of your inner being (your “heart”). When you are willing give up your self, you are ready to enter into God’s presence, because after God allows you into his presence, he will change you. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
I realize that can sound scary, because when we think of “self”, we think of our identity. And no one in his right mind wants to lose his identity. But our real identity is our soul and spirit, which God created. The “self” that we think of as our identity is only a garment we’ve acquired in this sinful world. When a person comes before God for the very first time, God wants him to remove those soiled garments and stand before him spiritually naked, without pretense, so that he can put on new garments.
I am so joyful in Adonai!
My soul rejoices in my God,
for he has clothed me in salvation,
dressed me with a robe of triumph,
like a bridegroom wearing a festive turban,
like a bride adorned with her jewels.
— Isaiah 61:10 (CJB)
Again, the essential change we experience when we encounter God, is likened to wearing new garments:
Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
— Ephesians 4:22-24 (RSV)
Of course, this involves self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23), but that’s for another discussion at a later time. For now, seeking the LORD is something that requires the commitment of your entire being. There can be no dabbling, no holding back. God’s greatest command (see Deuteronomy 6:5 and Mark 12:30) is, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” If you hope to love the Lord with such dedication, it only makes sense to seek him with the same dedication. If you do, God promises you will find him. In Deuteronomy 4:29 we read, “… you will seek Adonai your God; and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and being.” (CJB, emphasis added) Scripture reiterates this promise, most notably in Jeremiah 29:11-13:
“‘For I know what plans I have in mind for you,’ says Adonai, ‘plans for well-being, not for bad things; so that you can have hope and a future. When you call to me and pray to me, I will listen to you. When you seek me, you will find me, provided you seek for me wholeheartedly; and I will let you find me,’ says Adonai.” (CJB)
God does not hide from those who seek him, as long as they do so humbly, honestly, sincerely, and wholeheartedly. If you complain that God has somehow ignored you despite your efforts to seek him, look to yourself, as David did in Psalms 139:23 & 24:
Examine me, God, and know my heart;
test me, and know my thoughts.
See if there is in me any hurtful way,
and lead me along the eternal way. (CJB)
The reason God places these demands on us (wholehearted, humble, honest, reverent) is that he is holy and we are not. He will accept no unholiness in his presence. When we seek him, we must have a repentant heart, which simply put is a willingness and readiness to turn away from sin. It’s not just about feeling sorry. It’s about changing directions. Spiritually speaking we can only go in two directions – towards God and away from God. If we turn away from our sin, we’re going in the right direction. Since we are all sinners, none of us deserve to enter into the presence of holy God. But the surprising thing is how willing the LORD is to forgive us, and make us holy. He just wants to see an attitude in your heart that shows you are willing to turn from sinfulness to him. If that attitude is genuine, God will receive you. If you receive him, he will make you his holy child. (See John 1:12)
When you have made yourself truly that vulnerable, you will experience God loving you. And you will discover that now you also love him, because he has forgiven you and even adopted you as his own child. And what makes this even more amazing is that all the time you thought you were seeking him, thinking he was waiting for you to find him, he was actually seeking you. He came to you repeatedly. He knocked on the door of your heart, to find access to your inner being, but you weren’t listening. You didn’t open the door. You shut him out.
This is what is meant when the risen Messiah says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20 NIV) Perhaps eating isn’t what you had in mind. But this speaks of a spiritual meal, just as previously cited verses spoke of spiritual clothing. Jesus is inviting you to have communion with him — not a religious rite, but a relationship with the living God. In John 17:22 & 23 Jesus prayed, “…I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one; I in them and you in me.” (NIV)
Seeking God is about communion with God and unity with God through Christ. Don’t try to figure it out. If you wish to seek God, bow your heart to him, not in an outer show but with inner sincerity. Humble yourself before your maker. God isn’t about humiliating you. He’s about forgiving you, cleansing you, loving you. When you are able to be honest with God about your “self”, listen with your heart and soul and you will hear him quietly knocking. Just open the door and ask him in.
But for all those folks who are too busy, focused on themselves and their own little worlds, God will not forever be near. There will come a day when Jesus stops knocking. We will not always have the bright light to see by. “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1:5 NIV) A dark time is coming when men will stumble. It is good to remember that life is short. We need to use our time wisely. Seek him while you may.
So remember your creator while you are young,
before the evil days come,
and the years approach when you will say,
“They no longer give me pleasure”;
before the sun and the light grow dim,
also the moon and stars;
before the clouds return after the rain;
on the day when the guards of the house are trembling,
and men of courage are bent over double;
when the women stop grinding grain,
because there are so few;
when the women at the windows
can no longer see out;
when the doors to the streets are kept shut;
when the noise from the grain-mill fades;
when a person is startled by the chirp of a bird,
yet their singing is hard to hear;
when they will be afraid to go up a hill,
and terrors will stalk the way,
even though the almond tree is in bloom;
when the locust can only drag itself along,
and the caper berry has no [aphrodisiac] effect —
because the person is headed for his eternal home,
and the mourners are already gathering
in the market place —
before the silver cord is snapped
the bowl of gold is cracked,
the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
the pulley is broken at the cistern,
the dust returns to earth, as it was,
and the Spirit returns to God, who gave it!
Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 (CJB)