“Let me seek Thee in longing, let me long for Thee in seeking; let me find Thee in love, and love Thee in finding.” – Anselm
Do not let your heart envy sinners, But be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day; (Prov. 23:17)
Fearing God is not only humbled and awed. It is also zealous. Reverent love pursues God vigorously. The fear of the Lord is irrepressibly zealous. Life, when unencumbered by the weakness that sin and the Fall have brought, pursues its holy desires, and is further enlivened thereby.
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. (Pro 13:12)
Life freed from the corruption of sin and death pursues the highest good as its chief desire. It pursues the profit and pleasure of beauty. It is the mark of sin that it does not intensify our desires, but weakens them; it does not focus our desires, but dissipates them. Our waters run abroad in the streets instead of healthily gathered and focused (Prov 5:16-19).
Reverent love includes the earnest pursuit of God’s beauty, vigorously pursuing the sweetness of communion with God. Wholehearted seeking longs for God, and it enjoys both the longing and the finding, which increases the longing. Bernard of Clairvaux’s translated hymn captures this:
We taste Thee, O Thou living Bread,
And long to feast upon Thee still;
We drink of Thee, the Fountainhead,
And thirst our souls from Thee to fill.
We think of the prophet Isaiah’s experience: first humbled, then open about his sin, then submissive, but once cleansed, what springs up is zealous seeking of God:
Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: “Whom shall I send, And who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I! Send me.” (Isa 6:8)
Many a Christian has some habit of private devotions, attends church, and perhaps tries to connect the mundaneness of life to his walk with God, but often sees little of God’s beauty. Why is this? Jonathan Edwards said “true religion consists in a great measure, in vigorous and lively actings of the inclination and will of the soul, or the fervent exercises of the heart?”
If a true walk with God consists in a vigorous, lively, fervent, pursuit of God, it is safe to say that a lethargic, slothful, sluggish pursuit of communion with God will hardly give us a sight of the God in whose presence we live. Edwards tells us why this is so unfitting:
“If we be not in good earnest in religion, and our wills and inclinations be not strongly exercised, we are nothing. The things of religion are so great, that there can be no suitableness in the exercises of our hearts, to their nature and importance, unless they be lively and powerful. In nothing is vigor in the actings of our inclinations so requisite, as in religion; and in nothing is lukewarmness so odious.”
God told the Israelites that even in exile, he could be found by them, on one condition:
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
A.W. Tozer wrote much on the need for diligently seeking God, with his book The Pursuit of God being an apologetic for an earnest, singleminded pursuit of God. Elsewhere, Tozer wrote of four laws regarding seeking God:
- You will get nothing unless you go after it.
- You may have as much as you insist upon having.
- You will have as little as you are satisfied with.
- You now have as much as you really want.
Scripture makes plain that God’s people experience as much of God as they truly desire and go after, and their lack is their own fault. Our spiritual state represents our spiritual desire, for God does not withhold himself from the one who refuses to let go until God bless him.
These six components make up the fear of the Lord. His greatness awes us into postures of humble otherness, and honest openness, and obedient submissivness, and his goodness awes us into profound gratefulness, simple childlikeness, and zealous wholeheartedness.
Otherness, openness, submissiveness, gratefulness, childlikeness and wholeheartedness make up what the Bible calls the fear of the Lord. Why? Because this is responding to the God who truly exists: the God who is infinitely great, and infinitely good. The fear of the Lord is the kind of love we give God: a holy love.