THE HUNGER TO READ HIS WORD – COMES FROM GOD
“Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God!” [Ecc 5:19]
That’s right! Whether it be your physical food or your spiritual food, unless the Lord gives you ‘the power to eat thereof’ you just will not have the hunger for it! How many rich people there are who have fully loaded pantries and jumbo refrigerators packed with all kinds of delicacies but have not the power or hunger to eat it for one reason or another; and how many Christians there are in our day who have access to the best theology and sound doctrinal books and have a Bible in almost every room and even on their smart-phones but alas there is no hunger for the Word of God! Or as the wise man said, “GOD GIVETH THEM NOT POWER TO EAT THEREOF, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease!” [Ecc 6:2]
If the above is a description of YOUR spiritual state then please read on . . . for it is a solemn truth that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God!” [Matt 4:4]
Let us first prayerfully read and consider the following Psalm –
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of Thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.
Give me understanding, and I shall keep Thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
Make me to go in the path of Thy commandments; for therein do I delight.
Incline my heart unto Thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in Thy way.
Stablish t\Thy word unto Thy servant, who is devoted to Thy fear.
Turn away my reproach which I fear: for Thy judgments are good.
Behold, I have longed after Thy precepts: quicken me in Thy righteousness.” – [Psalm 119:33-40]
As you know, this is a psalm all about God’s Word, with each verse referring to the Bible by one of many synonyms or titles (commandments, statutes, precepts, ways, ordinances, law, etc.). In verse 40, the “behold” draws attention to the statement “I LONG for Thy precepts.” THIS IS A PSALM OF LOVING AND LONGING FOR SCRIPTURE!
Maybe you’ve heard it said that God doesn’t make us do things, won’t cause us to love Him or follow Him or walk after Him, but He wants us to do that of our own volition and will, so that our love will be spontaneous and self-caused and therefore genuine. But the writer of this psalm trusted in God, not his own heart. If God didn’t cause these, they wouldn’t happen. The problem with “free will” of humans is that men freely and willfully choose sin by nature and are not inclined to good unless God’s will and God’s free grace first rescues us from ourselves.
Fallen humans are not as naturally free as they think they are, according to Jesus in John 8; all who sin are slaves to sin, and they’re not truly free, they need the truth to SET THEM FREE, i.e. the Son to set them free to be truly free.
This writer wasn’t concerned with his free will being off limits to God’s intervention — He knew divine intervention was his only hope. If God didn’t make him walk in the right way (v. 35) his tendency would be to go his own way. Does God’s causative grace mean we’re robots? No, it recognizes we’re REBELLIOUS at heart in need of changed hearts to be made willing to believe and read the Word. If God didn’t cause his heart to be inclined, it never would be (v. 36). If God didn’t open his eyes, they would still be closed (v. 18).
Even as believers we need to pray like this psalm if want to be like this psalmist and be growing in our desires for God’s Word.
I think it’s appropriate to quote the words of Martin Luther the Reformer, as his theology and attitude was very similar to this psalm: ‘your first duty is to begin to pray, and to pray to this effect that if it please God to accomplish something for His glory—not for yours or any other person’s—He may very graciously grant you a true understanding of His words. For no master of the divine words exists except the Author of these words, as He says: “They shall be all taught of God” (John 6:45). You must, therefore, completely despair of your own industry and ability and rely solely on the [illuminating Holy] Spirit.’ And he pointed to Psalm 119:34-37
- Give me understanding, that I may observe Thy law …
- Make me walk in the path of Thy commandments …
- Incline my heart to Thy testimonies …
- Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity, And revive me …
Luther: ‘completely despair of your own [faculties], for by these you will not attain the goal … Rather kneel down in your private little room and with sincere humility and earnestness pray God, through His dear Son, graciously to grant you His Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide you and give you understanding.’
As one biographer summarized Luther’s view: ‘All our study is futile without the work of God overcoming our blindness and hard-heartedness. Luther and Augustine were one on this central issue of the Reformation. At the heart of Luther’s theology was a total dependence on the freedom of God’s [all-powerful] grace rescuing powerless man from the bondage of the will. Concerning free will Luther said, “Man has in his own power a freedom of the will to do or not to do external works, regulated by law and punishment [genuine choices made within his nature, but he cannot just change his nature by mere willpower] … On the other hand, man cannot by his own power purify his heart and bring forth godly gifts, such as true repentance of sins, a true, as over against an artificial, fear of God, true faith, sincere love, chastity.…”
In other words, the will is “free” to move our action, but beneath the will there is a bondage that can only be overcome by the free grace of God. Luther saw this bondage of the will as the root issue in the fight with Rome and regarded this one book of his—The Bondage of the Will— as his “best theological book, and the only one in that class worthy of publication.” … the powerlessness of man before God, not the indulgence controversy or purgatory, was the central question of the Christian faith. Man is powerless to justify himself, powerless to sanctify himself, powerless to study as he ought …
“My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto Thy judgments (Thy Word) at all times!” [Psalm 119:20]
“I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for Thy commandments (Thy Word)!” [Psalm 119:131]
“I have longed for Thy salvation (Thy Word), O LORD; and Thy Law is my delight!” [Psalm 119:174]
Praying in utter dependence is not trusting by being passive and inactive; true faith and prayer mobilizes action. We trust and obey. It’s not enough to be readers of the Word, or as James says, hearers of the Word only, we must be doers of the Word. Praying is essential and recognizes God’s sovereignty, but our responsibility is equally balanced in this passage.
It’s like Philippians 2:12-13 which commands our responsibility to “Work … For it is God which worketh in you BOTH TO WILL AND TO DO of His good pleasure.”
In Galatians 2:20 Paul says “The life I now live I live by faith in the Son of God” but in the same verse he says “it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me…” Which is it? The answer is yes/both
His philosophy wasn’t “let go and let God” – a better slogan is “get going and trust God”
If you do already love the Lord and His Word, but need revival and rekindled longings for Him and His Word, plead with God for it. It’s only natural for a baby to cry out for the only thing that will satisfy them. Peter says in the same way babies desire milk, you must desire the Word.” Right while I was writing this part of my notes this week Jaime handed me a visual illustration of this as I got to feed our newborn son. We’re supposed to continually long for the Word with the same intensity that a baby longs for his milk.
You’re supposed to go to the Bible like a baby goes to the bottle. The verb “long for” is a powerful desire, the strongest possible craving. In the Greek OT that Peter and his readers would have used, this is the same word translated in Ps 42:1 “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God!” This is a breathless, panting, a passionate earnest hunger and desire. We need to read, heed (obey), and plead for more longing for God and His Word.
“My dear Lord, I can but tell Thee that Thou knowest I long for nothing but Thyself, nothing but holiness, nothing but union with Thy will. Thou hast given me these desires, and thou alone canst give me the thing desired. My soul longs for communion with Thee, for mortification of indwelling corruption, especially spiritual pride. How precious it is to have a tender sense and clear apprehension of the mystery of godliness, of true holiness! What a blessedness to be like Thee as much as it is possible for a creature to be like its creator! Lord, give me more of Thy likeness; enlarge my soul to contain fullness of holiness; engage me to live more for Thee. Help me to be less pleased with my spiritual experiences, and when I feel at ease after sweet communings, teach me it is far too little I know and do. Blessed Lord, let me climb up near to Thee, and love, and long, and plead, and wrestle with Thee, and pant for deliverance from the body of sin, for my heart is wandering and lifeless, and my soul mourns to think it should ever lose sight of its beloved. Wrap my life in divine love, and keep me ever desiring Thee, always humble and resigned to Thy will, more fixed on Thyself, that I may be more fitted for doing and-suffering. In Jesus’ name Amen!”
[The above is a condensation from a sermon by brother Philip G. Layton titled – “Increasing Your Hunger and Longing for God’s Word”]