DESPERATELY CRYING OUT FOR GOD
By Curtis Pugh
By Curtis Pugh
The Psalmist wrote of his personal crying out for God, saying: “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God,” (Psalm 42:1). The picture presented by the King James Translators in the text is that of a deer in the desert: a deer gasping in thirst for one thing – one necessary thing: life sustaining water. Without water the deer will soon perish. The Hebrew word is found only three times in the Bible: the Old Testament of course. While it is twice in the verse just quoted it also appears in Joel 1:20 also speaking of wildlife longing after that necessary thing: water. To their thirst in this text is added the need of pasture. Joel wrote: “The beasts of the field cry also unto thee: for the rivers of waters are dried up, and the fire hath devoured the pastures of the wilderness.” It should also be pointed out that the King James Translators in their marginal note informed us that “panteth” can also be translated as “cry.” So what we have is two verses where the same word in Hebrew appears, but in which the translators chose to render in two different ways. Why they did this is not clear, but they informed us of this practice in their introductory materials – which few of us have even read, let alone made ourselves familiar.
So we have tried to capture the essence of this word by titling this article “Desperately Crying Out For God.” Surely the truly regenerated individual indwelt as he or she is by the Spirit of God, sorrowing to the point of continual repentance, experiences this desperate cry: this panting in thirst – desperate thirst for God.
Dissatisfaction with self and this world is the experience of all those who have tasted and found the LORD to be good (see Psalm 34:8). Again we quote the Psalmist who understood this dissatisfaction with things and self. He wrote: “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness,” (Psalm 17:15). The confident expectation that we shall one day be like Him whom we love – and more importantly the One who loved us and gave Himself for us “which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast...” (Hebrews 6:19) keeps us from drifting and being lost in the sea of unbelief. But at the same time the Psalmist's experience was that of all the regenerate. He would never be satisfied until he resurrected with God's likeness – i.e. apart from both the effects of sin and from sin itself. Think of it! One day the curse – the consequences of both the sin nature and our acts of sins will have been removed: or perhaps better we should understand that we shall be removed from this awful thing. And then, completely free from not only the penalty of sin and sins we shall be totally and forever free from the power of sin as well as the very presence of that awful thing that is the cause of our suffering and ruin.
In our desperate dissatisfaction no doubt we all have fallen into the sin of God's Old Testament people. Jeremiah said their sins were two in number, saying “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,” (Jeremiah 2:13). Coldness and that awful lukewarmness that precedes it and fosters it is one thing, but as awful as that is, we join to that the sin of seeking satisfaction from the things of the world. We hew our for ourselves “cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.”
Water from a living, clear flowing spring, cold and clear is one thing. In my youth I had occasion to drink water in Western Oklahoma: water that was stored in a cistern: no comparison. Good cold spring water is delightful while cistern water is merely wet if I may say it that way. In drinking water from a cistern I experienced an unpleasant taste with a lingering aftertaste although it was pure rainwater caught from the clean shingles of a house and piped directly into the cistern. What is worse is that the cisterns we hew out for ourselves really are like those Jeremiah mentioned: they are broken: they are cracked: they leak out water and allow impurities and vermin from the soil to enter the water. Is there any wonder that Hebrews 3:13 speaks of “...the deceitfulness of sin”? Satan and the world and our stinking flesh lies to us. This water from the broken cisterns of the world they say will be pleasant and satisfying, but to those who have tasted the living water it is only in the end distasteful.
Now these worldly cisterns are of various sorts. Each sort appeals to individuals of various tastes and preferences. Whether sports, illicit sex, drugs, alcohol, music, religious ritual, religious enthusiasm, seeking after signs and wonders, fast cars, comforts, prosperity, popularity, or whatever – and we could go on and on – none of these things satisfy the regenerate. They are broken cisterns and their polluted waters are foul-tasting and unsatisfying.
The worldling – those whose total realm of experience is fleshly things – those spiritually dead individuals who have never experienced life: never tasted the water of life – these seem often quite content with their cistern-water. It is all they have known or are capable of knowing. They have never heard with the hearing ear either the voice of Christ or even one sound sermon. The Word of God, called “the things of the Spirit of God” in 1 Corinthians 2:14 are things they have never “heard” or received. Why? Because “...they are foolishness unto him [the unregenerate]: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” In the estimation of the unregenerate the Word of God is foolishness and so he scorns its sayings. But behind his rejection of God's Word lies something deeper: such individuals lack the Holy Spirit who is the One whose presence and work enables them to be “spiritually discerned.” They lack the “needed equipment” - life – and cannot know the truths of God's Word in a spiritually profitable way. A dead and dry head knowledge is all that is possible to him who exists only in physical life while being spiritually dead.
Is it any wonder that this matter of calling on the name of the Lord is shown by the Scriptures to be not a once-upon-a-time thing (as the decisional regenerationists often teach), but that it is an ongoing thing. Oh yes, there was a first time that the regenerate called upon the Lord, but is there ever a last time: a time when crying out to Him ceases? In Heaven? Perhaps but then there will be no need and most certainly no dissatisfaction! What saith the Scripture? “Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours,” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Paul wrote that there are “sanctified” (set apart) folk, called with a call that makes them “saints,” and that they like “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ.” He did not say that they “called” once-upon-a-time for fire insurance, if you please, but that theirs is a life of continual calling.
Why the continual calling? Is it not because the regenerate have been shown their sin and like the patriarch cry out, “Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes,” (Job 4:6). Or are we better than this ancient one who walked with God? The prophet cried, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts, (Isaiah 65). Micah the prophet wrote of his continual dissatisfaction in the following graphic simile: “Woe is me! for I am as when they have gathered the summer fruits, as the grapegleanings of the vintage: there is no cluster to eat: my soul desired the firstripe fruit” (Micah 7:1). Compounding his dissatisfaction with self, Micah saw the corruption of all those around them, saying, “That they may do evil with both hands earnestly...” (Micah 7:3). What a picture of this world's unregenerate population!
At no time shall the regenerate cease their desperate crying out to God. Are there not times of refreshment from the Lord? Are there not joys along the way? Do we not partake of the good things of God: the brief foretastes of that glory which shall be ours? Certainly! God's children are sustained by both His presence and His blessings! Praise the Lord for these! But as is recorded in Acts 7:59, even until death faithful Stephen was found to be calling upon God for we read: “And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And so it seems clear to me that as long as the children of God in this life remain of sound mind they shall be found “calling upon God” for God has fixed us that way. The Word of God has established the facts: the regenerate are those, “...which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh,” (Philippians 3:3). How shall such a people live and not continually call upon the Lord? Is not such calling along with other things shown by the Book of God to be evidences of spiritual life? Should we not be distressed if we never find ourselves crying out to God just as if we find ourselves to be lacking godly sorrow, repentance, faith and a changed life? If we lack conversion – that outward fruit of regeneration – how shall we dare think that we possess spiritual life which is the cause of conversion?
Reader, have you not been made to see yourself? Have you not been caused to abhor that which you have seen? Do not such views of self prompt cries of “woe is me” and a constant reliance upon Christ and Him alone: a constantly renewed dependence upon His finished work on behalf of His sheep? Are you satisfied with self and with the pleasures of this world? If in such a condition dare you think that you are anything but a pleasure-seeking unregenerate devoted to self-gratification? Oh, be reconciled to God! “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God,” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
Grace Bible Baptist Church
26080 Wax Road
Denham Springs, LA 70726