This is the 2nd part of a 2 part series. The 1st part was this Sunday a year ago. I told a joke then that some didn’t get. This is your last chance: Two hunters were driving through the country to go bear hunting. They came upon a fork in the road where a sign read "BEAR LEFT" so they went home.
There was a man in the Old Testament who was pursuing God. In fact if he had read a sign that said “God left”, he wouldn’t have believed it, but would have kept on pursuing Him. In the book named after him God Himself says “there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.” In fact, this man routinely “would send and consecrate (his children), and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For (he) said, “It may be that my children have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus (he) did continually.” (Job 1) Consecrating our children is a sermon in itself!
But did you know that Job could never have pursued God unless God was pursuing him? God hunted Job, and hounded him in order to perfect him. What did it look like to have God pursue Job?
In Job 19:5-12,21-22, Job tells his friends, “If indeed you magnify yourselves against me and make my disgrace an argument against me, know then that God has put me in the wrong and closed his net about me. Behold, I cry out, ‘Violence!’ but I am not answered; I call for help, but there is no justice. He has walled up my way, so that I cannot pass, and he has set darkness upon my paths. He has stripped from me my glory and taken the crown from my head. He breaks me down on every side, and I am gone, and my hope has he pulled up like a tree. He has kindled his wrath against me and counts me as his adversary. His troops come on together; they have cast up their siege ramp against me and encamp around my tent. Have mercy on me, have mercy on me, O you my friends, for the hand of God has touched me! Why do you, like God, pursue me? Why are you not satisfied with my flesh?”
We don’t like this picture of Job, especially the picture of God treating him this way. But it’s a picture of God in control, even as Job can’t understand what God is doing in his life. Job had lost everything. His children, produce, livestock and health were gone. The only one left was wife, whose advice was, “Curse God and die.” Job’s friends thought they had the answers. They were so inflated with their knowledge that they couldn’t see the truth. They were like these two guys:
Two men were out hunting when one of them saw a rabbit. "Quick," said the first, "shoot it." "I can't," said the second. "My gun isn't loaded." "Well," said the first," you know that, and I know that, but the rabbit doesn't."
Sometimes the battle isn’t between ignorance and knowledge. Sometimes we can believe that our knowledge trumps everything. Like the rabbit, sometimes isn’t what you know or don’t know, but what the truth really is.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not downplaying the importance of knowledge & understanding. Without it we are like two guys out hunting, but they weren't getting any ducks. "What do you think the problem is?" one man asked his companion. "I don’t know," came the reply, "Maybe we aren't throwing the dog up high enough."
The problem happens when get to the point in our knowledge that we think we have all the answers, our theology can’t be questioned, and we stop hunting for the truth. That was problem of the Pharisees. They chose to live in their knowledge and rules rather than to pursue the difficult Truth of God sacrificing His Son to take away their sins.
Psalm 32:7 says, “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance. “
God pursues us, but He doesn’t stop there. He also provides us with protection from the enemy. These shouts of deliverance give us a picture of the battle being won, and prisoners liberated. It is an image of being freed from sin & death.
Psalm 23 is so familiar that we can miss its meaning. We become like the janitor walking into same museum day after day to empty trash & clean bathrooms. We can go past the same masterpieces and miracles in the Bible time after time until they are so familiar to us that we don’t realize how wonderful they are, and in fact hardly notice them anymore. We read the passage and say, “Oh, yeah, I already know that story.” So we miss the beauty and truth as we walk by one more time. In Psalm 23:5-6, David wrote, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Now think about it. Who goes into the enemy camp and spreads a banquet? One who is unafraid, One who will not let a little thing like being surrounded by enemies stop Him from doing what He has set out to do. One who is pursuing us no matter the cost.
Then He anoints our heads, showing our enemies that we are His. He overflows our lives with Himself. Then He makes an incredible statement. But we Need to understand it the way David wrote it. We need to hear it as the first readers would hear it. Here it is: It is a sure thing that God in His goodness and mercy will PURSUE me all the days of my life, and I will live in His house forever…starting right now. “Shall follow me” is better translated “shall pursue me”. The One who prepared the banquet is the One who is good and merciful. And He will never stop pursuing you and me.
God has been pursuing His people since He went into the Garden of Eden to look for Adam and Eve. He made a covenant with them, promising that He would be their God. But a covenant is by nature is a two-way agreement. God would promise to never forsake His people, but His people must also agree to never forsake God. Jeremiah 31:31-34 states, “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
God’s new covenant would go beyond a simple commitment to each other. It would be a declaration deeper than knowledge, a new experience of knowing God, “for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord.”
Jesus is the embodiment of this new covenant. His disciples knew Him face to face, but we too can know Him. He pursues us with His love. His desire is that we turn, embrace Him, and start pursuing Him, too.
1 John 4:10,19 talks about our ability to pursue Jesus beginning with Jesus pursuing us. “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. We love because he first loved us.” We can only love Him because He first loved us, and gave Himself for us as the only sacrifice that saves us from sin He is our ransom. We can only pursue Him and His righteousness because He first pursued us!
We see that God pursues us. But do we pursue God? Oh, sure, we know Matthew 6:33, which talks about seeking first (in other words pursuing) God’s kingdom and righteousness, but do we really pursue God? There seems to be so many other important things to consider. Family, work, money, and our personal time all call themselves priorities, but too often they are simply the things that get ahead of pursuing God. Too often we are like a man named Sam. Some men went on a hunting trip and separated into pairs. That evening one hunter, Sam, returned to camp alone with a 12 point buck. "Where's Bill?" one of the men asked. "He's about 6 miles back. He tripped and broke his ankle. I left him there 'cause I figured ain't nobody 'bout to steal him."
A 12 point buck is a good thing. But it wasn’t the most important thing. Do you leave God behind when something good is in front of you? Or is He the Good that you are pursuing? Walking away from God is no joke. Pursuing your own desires is no joke. Pursue the One who first pursued you.
What was Job’s response? Did He walk away from God in the middle of his trouble? Or did He choose to hunt for God, to pursue Him no matter what? Job was still deep in middle of disaster. He would still go through times of frustration and deep discouragement, but he knew Who he could trust.
Listen to what Job said right in the middle of his trouble. (Job 19:23-27) “Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! Oh that with an iron pen and lead they were engraved in the rock forever! For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!
Job wanted his testimony to be a lasting memorial for all to read. What about you?
If your testimony was written in stone for people to read for the next 2000 years, what would it say? I was a good person? I was nice to others? I lived for my priorities? Or maybe it would say, Even though I suffered, I still thought good things about God.
Or would it be, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And even though my skin may be destroyed, I still know that I shall see God with my own eyes.”
Because He lives. Because He is faithful. Because I will not stop pursuing the One who first pursued me.