Two disciples are walking down the dusty road to the village of Emmaus. Their talk concerns the crucified Jesus. Their words come slowly, trudging in cadence with the dirge-like pace of their feet.
“I can hardly believe it. He’s gone.”
“What do we do now?”
“It’s Peter’s fault, he shouldn’t have … ”
Just then a stranger comes up from behind and says, “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help overhearing you. Who are you discussing?”
They stop and turn. Other travelers make their way around them as the three stand in silence. Finally one of them asks, “Where have you been the last few days? Haven’t you heard about Jesus of Nazareth?” And he continues to tell what has happened. (Luke 24:13-24)
This scene fascinates me—two sincere disciples telling how the last nail has been driven in Israel’s coffin. God, in disguise, listens patiently, his wounded hands buried deeply in his robe. He must have been touched at the faithfulness of this pair. Yet he also must have been a bit chagrined. He had just gone to hell and back to give heaven to earth, and these two were worried about the political situation of Israel.
“But we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.”
But we had hoped … How often have you heard a phrase like that?
“We were hoping the doctor would release him.”
“I had hoped to pass the exam.”
“We had hoped the surgery would get all the tumour.”
“I thought the job was in the bag.”
Words painted gray with disappointment. What we wanted didn’t come. What came, we didn’t want. The result? Shattered hope. The foundation of our world trembles.
We trudge up the road to Emmaus dragging our sandals in the dust, wondering what we did to deserve such a plight. “What kind of God would let me down like this?”
And yet, so tear-filled are our eyes and so limited is our perspective that God could be the fellow walking next to us and we wouldn’t know it.
You see, the problem with our two heavy-hearted friends was not a lack of faith, but a lack of vision. Their petitions were limited to what they could imagine—an earthly kingdom. Had God answered their prayer, had he granted their hope, the Seven-Day War would have started two thousand years earlier and Jesus would have spent the next forty years training his apostles to be cabinet members. You have to wonder if God’s most merciful act is his refusal to answer some of our prayers.
We are not much different than burdened travellers, are we? We roll in the mud of self-pity in the very shadow of the cross. We piously ask for his will and then have the audacity to pout if everything doesn’t go our way. If we would just remember the heavenly body that awaits us, we’d stop complaining that he hasn’t healed this earthly one.
Our problem is not so much that God doesn’t give us what we hope for as it is that we don’t know the right thing for which to hope. (You may want to read that sentence again.)
Hope is not what you expect; it is what you would never dream. It is a wild, improbable tale with a pinch-me-I’m-dreaming ending. It’s Abraham adjusting his bifocals so he can see not his grandson, but his son. It’s Moses standing in the promised land not with Aaron or Miriam at his side, but with Elijah and the transfigured Christ. It’s Zechariah left speechless at the sight of his wife Elizabeth, gray-headed and pregnant. And it is the two Emmaus-bound pilgrims reaching out to take a piece of bread only to see that the hands from which it is offered are pierced.
Hope is not a granted wish or a favor performed; no, it is far greater than that. It is a zany, unpredictable dependence on a God who loves to surprise us out of our socks and be there in the flesh to see our reaction.
The first attitude is heartfelt abandonment. This is the result of having found the Lord’s Presence in a new unfolding of His glory. Heartfelt abandonment will always be accompanied by transcendent awe, unspeakable joy and irrepressible love. All of these are the result of having laid hold of the Lord; they are the consequences of His presence.
The second core attitude we must possess comes in the seeming absence of God’s presence. It is a relentless longing, an unquenchable thirst, to find Him whom your soul loves. Abandonment and longing are the two tracks that lead us into our destiny in God and guides into true spiritual fulfillment.
The deception we battle about seeking God is rooted in the fact that, like ancient Israel in Babylon, we have lived too long in exile from our inheritance. In our apostatized condition we have legitimized superficiality and allowed shallowness to become our acceptable norm. Thus, the call is issued from heaven: Return to your dwelling place in God! For the Promised Land of the church is the dwelling place of God’s Living Presence.
You say, according to 2 Chronicles 7:14, “But we have humbled ourselves and prayed; we are turning from our wicked ways. Why has He not healed our land?” He has not heard our prayer because we desire our healing more than we desire our God. You see, there is yet one more imperative 2 Chronicles calls us to fulfill. In the context of repentance and prayer, He said, “…and seek My face.”
Beloved, when the Lord called David to seek His face, David responded, “Thy face, O God, I shall seek” (Psalms 27). This is the essence of one who has “a heart after God.” We seek God for His heart, not merely His hand. We have asked Him to extend His hand, to touch and heal us. But the Lord, in His great love for us, desires we seek His face.
Thus, the Holy Spirit bids us to draw near to God. His word promises that, as we draw near to Him, He will Himself draw near to us. It is the nearness of His Spirit which descends upon us and, through us, heals our land.
Again the Lord speaks, “I will go away and return to My place until they acknowledge their guilt and seek My face; in their affliction they will earnestly seek Me” (Hosea 5:15).
Together, using the very words provided us by Hosea as our template, the Lord even gives us words with which we respond, “Come, let us return to the Lord. For He has torn us, but he will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day that we may live before Him” (Hosea 5:16).
Yes, even the prophet Hosea encourages us with his words as well, “So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth” (Hosea 5:15-6:4).
Is this not the very cry of your heart, that the living presence of God would saturate the dryness of your soul? Come to us, O Lord, like the rain watering the earth!
Therefore we conclude, it is time to seek God. We urge every pastor to guide their church and every parent to lead their family into an attitude of seeking God. Consecrate a room in your church or home and call it the “tent of meeting.” It is right, beloved, and timely, to seek after God.
“Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside the camp, a good distance from the camp, and he called it the tent of meeting. And it came about that everyone who sought the Lord would go out to the tent of meeting which was outside the camp“(Exodus 33:7). Everyone who sought the Lord entered the tent of meeting. Dear friends, the Holy Spirit shall help us. For the mission of the Spirit is, summarily, to lead us into the presence of Jesus. And this He will do until Christ is as real to us as the world was when we were sinners.
THE PROMISE OF GOD
Is it possible that we can be delivered of a superficial life? Yes. For the Spirit He has given us, dwells within us and He “searches all things, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10).
If you are weary of a life without God’s fullness, then seeking the Lord may be a turning point in your walk with Him. Our hope rests in the integrity of His immutable word: “Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found by you” (Jeremiah 29:12-14a).
Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, my soul yearns and even longs for Your courts. Guide me into Your holy Presence, dear Lord. Let me find You again in a new way. I cannot live without Your constant love. I am desperate for You Jesus. Restore my longing for You until I find You, and in finding You, abandon myself totally into Your love. Amen.
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