A Season Of Yearning
Last week, the Toronto Argonauts won the Grey Cup. It was a good game, but in the post game interviews, it became clear that from early in the season, Toronto had been hungry for the cup. They really wanted it and they made a deliberate and concerted drive for it, and succeeded in getting it. Their hunger, their drive contributed to making it a reality.
Recently there was an item in the news about the homeless in Winnipeg. One picture showed a person jumping into a dumpster to look for food. When I saw that, it made me think that a person would have to be really hungry and desperate to jump into a dumpster to get their meals there. Although I have been hungry, I have never been that hungry.
What are we hungry for? What do we really want, really yearn for? Whatever we are hungry for, will consume us, it will move us to strive for that thing whether it is food, a sports win, achieving good marks in school, getting a contract or anything else.
If we are not hungry, our drive diminishes significantly. If you ask my children, they will tell you that I like Dairy Queen ice cream. They even had a time of mourning for me the other day when they told me that the Dairy Queen near their house had closed for the season. But if I have had a good meal at The Keg, I have no desire to go to Dairy Queen. I am full and my drive for more to eat is gone.
Today is the first Sunday in Advent. Advent means coming. It is a season when we prepare for the coming of Christmas. We are hungry for Christmas. We desire the gifts, the celebrations, the programs, the family, and we will expend significant energy in the next few weeks preparing for these things, but are we hungry for Christ?
I. Longing For Messiah
A. Israel’s Desire
In ancient Israel, life was sometimes pretty desperate. God’s people did not experience blessing all the time. There were times when enemies attacked them and when they were under the thumb of a foreign nation. There were times when they were not walking in faithfulness to God and the moral fibre of the nation was compromised and the lifestyle of righteousness and peace was absent.
We get a sense of these conditions in many of the Old Testament prophets. The entire fourth chapter of Hosea 4 speaks of some of the terrible conditions of the people. Some of the words in this chapter are: “no faithfulness…no love…no acknowledgement of God… cursing… lying… murder… stealing… adultery… bloodshed… a spirit of prostitution…. The consequences of such a world are also mentioned, “They will eat but not have enough…they will engage in prostitution but not increase…a people without understanding will come to ruin…a whirlwind will sweep them away…”
Jeremiah 31 expresses some of the ways in which people were feeling because of this desperate state. Jeremiah 31:15 speaks about “mourning and great weeping…” Jeremiah 31:19 expresses “I was ashamed and humiliated because I bore the disgrace of my youth.”
The nation was in a desperate condition and Ezekiel describes it as a situation of death. Ezekiel 37:2 describes Israel as a “valley of dry bones.” Further in that chapter in 37:11 we have an expression of the people’s situation when it says, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off…”
These are all expressions of the desperation of the nation, a desperation which demonstrates the hunger in the nation for something different. A hunger for God to act.
B. When He Came…
However, also in these Old Testament passages, there are other words which promise that this hunger would be satisfied. God made promises that He would send a Messiah to the people and that through this Messiah, He would answer their need, He would satisfy their hunger for something better. He promised in Jeremiah 31:33,34, “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbour, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
Following the vision of the dry bones coming to life again, God comments in Ezekiel 37:14, “I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land.’”
The hunger was brought about by the desperate situation of their sin and God’s judgement. God’s promise assured them that there was a time coming when their hunger would be satisfied. They longed for the coming of Messiah. They waited for the fulfillment of God’s promises.
When Jesus came and fulfilled these promises, there was great joy. What they had hungered for had arrived and they were satisfied. In Luke 1:68, 69, Zechariah recognized in the birth of John the Baptist the beginning of the fulfillment of these promises and rejoiced saying, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David…” When Jesus had called his disciples and had begun to show them who he was and what he had come for, they recognized the satisfaction of their hunger. On one occasion, Peter said to Jesus, in John 6:68, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
They hungered for the coming of Messiah and, when He came, they were satisfied.
II. Hunger For Jesus
In this season of Advent, we are reminded about this story, this longing. The question is, now that Jesus has come, do we still long for Him?
A. Yearning For Jesus
This is not the only story of longing we have in the Bible. There are many passages in both the Old and New Testament which speak about the longing of our hearts for a deeper walk with God, the coming of God into our lives.
At one of the times in his life when David was in a physical desert, he must have found himself also in a spiritual desert. In Psalm 63:1we read, “A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah. O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
Does that verse strike a responsive chord in your heart? Do you feel as if you are in a dry and weary land? Are you hungry and thirsty for God?
What is it that gives you a yearning for Jesus? Paul expresses the hunger of his heart in Romans 7:24 when he says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” This passage is in the section in which he recognizes the power of sin in his life and the difficulty of being free from that sin. With deep desire, he longs for freedom from that bondage. He longs to have such a relationship with God that he will no longer be caught in sin and death. Do we hunger for this freedom?
Zacchaeus was wealthy and lived comfortably, but was clearly not satisfied. When Jesus came to his town, he demonstrated the longing that must have been in his heart. He had a longing for more than just having everything he needed. Do you continue to hunger for wealth and the satisfaction of goods, or are you hungry for a relationship with God that will satisfy much more deeply?
The woman at the well, was desperately hungry for deep and meaningful relationships. She had sought for satisfaction for this hunger through relationships with men. It is evident that these relationships did not satisfy, for she was married more than once but continued alone and hungry. Are you seeking in all the wrong places to fully satisfy the hunger for relationships?
What joy we get when we pursue a purchase. We do research and compare products and prices and finally make that much desired purchase. We are hungry for it and long for it and look forward to the satisfaction it will bring. But after we have made it, are we still satisfied? What is it we are really looking for? What hunger are we trying to satisfy with our endless drive to buy something?
How wonderful to hear the words of the Psalmist which we read before - “O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, my body longs for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Are we hunger for God, for a relationship with Jesus?
A. W. Tozer councils, “If we yearned after God even as much as a cow yearns for her calf, we would be the worshiping and effective believers God wants us to be. If we longed for God as a bride looks forward to the return of her husband, we would be a far greater force for God than we are now.”
B. When He Comes…
If it is Jesus we are longing for, we will discover that we will be satisfied in Him. To the longing for freedom, we are promised in Romans 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” Regarding the drive to live well, Jesus promised in Matthew 5:6 - “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they will be filled.” Our longing for rest is fulfilled in Jesus promise in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Our search for enough is answered in Matthew 6:26 where Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
Marva Dawn writes, “You cannot help but be disillusioned if only Santa Claus comes to your house. But if the one you yearn for is the Christ Child, you will never be disappointed, for he always comes!”
III. Thirst For His Return
A. Desire For His Return
Advent speaks of the coming of Christ, a season of longing and preparation. In this season we look at the promises in the Old Testament and then at Christmas we rejoice at their fulfillment. We do not look at things from the Old Testament perspective because we know the message of fulfillment. It is hard for us to really focus on longing and waiting because we are able to quickly recognize fulfillment. We have the promised new heart, we have been raised from the dead, we know the Christ who has come. But in another way, we are very much like the people of the Old Testament, for we are waiting for the second coming of Christ. We are waiting not only for His coming into our lives in a greater fullness, but also for his coming to bring all things to completeness. To what extent do we long for Jesus to return? How desperately are we waiting for his second coming to fulfill all things?
This longing is expressed in Scripture in Revelation 22:17 which says, “The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” And in verse 20 which says, “ Come, Lord Jesus…”
Where is our heart in regards to this longing? Do we truly desire it?
B. When He Comes…
When Jesus comes, all the promises will be fulfilled and will satisfy us fully. Just as there was joy when the hopes of the people were fulfilled at the first coming of Jesus, just as there is joy and peace when Jesus comes deeply into our lives; there will also be great joy when Jesus comes again. Revelation 7:16 declares, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.”
Are you hungry for Jesus or are you satisfied with your life the way it is? Earlier, I suggested that on a stomach full of steak, Dairy Queen is not very appealing. Is our life full of all kinds of things so that we don’t really need Jesus? In Revelation 3:17, Jesus confronted the church in Laodicea when he said to them, “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked?” Are we in the same boat? Are we so satisfied with all that we have that we don’t need Jesus? If we are satisfied with another toy, or gift or program or gathering are we missing out on God’s blessing because we are full of things without God? Does the accusation “you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, naked apply to us?
Christmas is a season of fulfillment of longing. It is the fulfillment of the promise of the coming Messiah. It can be a time to rejoice over Jesus coming into our lives and in it we can be reminded of the promise of Christ’s return. But if we are full, what do these things really mean? Are we coming to the “Christmas banquet” satiated and consequently not finding satisfaction.
Advent is a season of preparation. Can we make it a true season of preparation by examining our hearts and lives to discover our need for God?
One of the ways of increasing appetite is to do some exercise. What kind of exercises will increase our appetite for God?
What if, during the next month, we would read all the Old Testament promises of the need for the coming of Messiah and ask ourselves if we share such a hunger for the coming of Jesus?
What if, during the next four weeks, we would read the Psalms and compare our passion for the Lord with the passion of the Psalmist?
What if, during these days, we would become aware of our sin and our need of forgiveness by opening our hearts to the Spirit’s search light.
Christmas is a season of symbols. We put up decorations and lights to symbolize the fulfillment of promise. What if we held off putting up some decorations until just before Christmas and allow it to be a picture of waiting and longing for Christ’s coming?
If we allow advent to be a season of yearning, how wonderful the celebration will be! Then we will truly rejoice that Jesus has come. Then we will be fill with joy that Jesus is present with us now. Then we will look forward to his coming again. Perhaps we will discover that our desire for gifts, which is a desire to be loved, can be filled by Jesus, even if we receive no gift. Perhaps we will find that the need for family to be around, which expresses our need to belong, can be met in Jesus, even if the family doesn’t come home. Perhaps we will know that our desire for another party, which meets our need for joy can be fully met in the joy we have in Jesus.
Are you hungry for Jesus? How will you increase your appetite for Him during this season of Advent?