Thirsting for God
James Smith, 1858
"O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water!" Psalm 63:1
The earth being so long without rain, seems to look up and long for refreshing showers. The light soil is dust, and the heavy soil is dry and chapped. This would be much more strikingly the case in the east, where rain falls only twice in the year, and David makes use of this to represent the state of his soul, when deprived of the presence, and debarred from communion with God. All within appeared to be dry, lifeless, and barren; and as nothing would satisfy thirsty nature but rain — so nothing would satisfy David but his God. However the sun may shine, or the winds blow, or even the dew fall — it was not enough without rain. And just so, though the thirsty soul may have some warm rays, some cooling breezes, and even some sweet and Heavenly dew — yet it is not satisfied without the presence of God, and fellowship with him.
The object of David's thirst was the Lord, not merely the tabernacle, or its services, or even devotion; but the Lord himself. Just so it is with every real Christian — his God is the object of his desire. He has revealed himself as the source of love — and love is the solace and delight of the soul. He is altogether lovely in his nature and perfections, which makes him infinitely desirable; but in addition to this, he communicates his own sweet love to the believer. Hence the Apostle says, "The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us." Having tasted of this sweet love and felt its power, we cannot be satisfied without it, and therefore, when deprived of fellowship with him — the soul thirsts for God.
But he is not only the source of love, he is the rest of the soul. As the building rests on the foundation, and being united to it, is supported and kept steady by it; so the soul of man requires to rest on God, and to be united to God, in order to its being kept steady and enjoying rest. We cannot rest in religious services, or sacraments, or anything outside of God; it was never intended that we should.
Our blessed Lord, in the days of his flesh, saw all around him restless and uneasy, and therefore he said, "Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." This repose is what the soul needs, and what it finds only in God as revealed in Christ; and having once found and enjoyed it, if it loses it — it will thirst for God, as the thirsty land for the refreshing rain.
He is not only the rest of the soul, he is the fountain of happiness. Infinitely happy in himself, he makes all happy who are united to him and live in fellowship with him. This the believer knows and enjoys in the season of his first love — but when his foolish heart wanders from God, and is taken up with creatures instead of God — he finds to his cost, that solid happiness is his no longer. Nor can all creation make a true believer happy without God, therefore he so passionately cries, "My soul thirsts for God, for the living God, when shall I come and appear before God?"
God intends himself to be the portion of the soul — and this being the case nothing else will satisfy it. No matter what we possess, or what sources of enjoyment are opened to us — if the grace of God is in our hearts, we cannot be satisfied with anything short of God.
Nor will a mere persuasion of our interest in God do — we must enjoy him. For as in nature, a man would not be satisfied to know that he was entitled to an estate — but would wish to possess and enjoy it; so in grace, we cannot be satisfied with the persuasion that God in Christ is ours — we must possess him and enjoy him. O what a privilege to have God for our portion, and what soul-satisfying happiness to enjoy God as our portion!
If then, God has revealed himself to us in his Son, and by the teaching of his Holy Spirit, as the source of love — as the rest and repose of the soul — as the fountain of true happiness — and the portion of his people — we can never be satisfied but as we enjoy him as such; and when we do not, if grace is at all in exercise, we shall be prepared to cry out, "O God, you are my God, earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you, in a dry and weary land where there is no water."
Let us now look at the desire itself — it is compared to one of the most painful physical exercises, THIRST. The sense of hunger is bad enough — but the sense of thirst is worse. And what painful longings, what distressing aspirations we experience — when left for any length of time, without the presence of God.
The author of this thirst is the Holy Spirit, and the experience of it — is the proof that the Spirit of God dwells in us. Depraved human nature never thirsts for God of itself, nor can anyone, or anything produce this thirst — but the Holy Spirit.
The nature of the thirst is spiritual, it therefore fixes on a spiritual object, and can only be satisfied by spiritual perceptions of God's glory, and communion with him in grace.
The source of this thirst is the divine life in the soul: that divine communication which is made to us in regeneration; that new nature which the Spirit imparted, when we passed from death unto life, and from the kingdom of Satan, into the kingdom of God's dear Son.
The actings of this thirst are powerful, it will not let us rest, nor allow us to be satisfied with anything but experimental communications from God. Like the thirst in nature, it will produce such painful longings, that it must, if possible, be quenched, by the enjoyment of that which it thirsts for.
The end of this thirst, is finding satisfaction in God, and in God alone. Sweet thoughts of God, sweet views of God, and sweet communications from God satisfy it; as David says, "My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth shall praise you with joyful lips; when I remember you upon my bed and meditate on you in the night watches."
The living soul cannot be satisfied without the presence of God, and communion with him; and this constitutes the essential difference between true Christians, and mere professors; the mere professor is satisfied with forms, ceremonies, and services; the true Christian, when he has them all, attends to them all, and even enjoys them all — still thirsts for God. He can be satisfied with God, in the absence of ordinances; but no ordinances can satisfy him without God.
The nature and object of our desires, prove the state of the soul. If our desires are spiritual, and can only be satisfied with the enjoyment of God in Christ — then we are spiritual. But if, notwithstanding our profession of religion, our desires are habitually carnal, and can be satisfied without union to and fellowship with God — then we are carnal.
If our desires for spiritual things are vigorous and strong — then we are in a healthy state; but if our desires after spiritual things are languid or merely fitful, or occasional — then we are in an unhealthy state. If the heart beats high for holiness, for Heaven, and for God — then all is right, for we are not only alive to God — but lively in the exercises of grace.
Genuine desires, such as are produced by the Holy Spirit, and flow from divine life in the soul — prompt to effort, and stimulate us to seek until we enjoy the desired blessing. There is the desire of the slothful, which kills him; and there is the desire of the righteous, which shall be granted.
Genuine spiritual thirst, always leads us to prayer; nor will it let us rest in prayer — but it sends us to God's Word; nor will it let us rest in reading the Word — but it prompts us to attend all the ordinances of the gospel; nor will it let us rest in the ordinances — but it urges us to pass through the whole, until we find, and enjoy God himself.
Should these lines be read by one who deems himself unconverted, and concludes that he has no part nor lot in the matter, I would ask such a one: have you a thirsting in your soul for something you have not got, or something you cannot produce yourself? If so, there is a precious portion for your encouragement: Jesus, who was commissioned by the Father, to open the resources of Heaven to supply the needs of sinners on earth — Jesus who has all things given into his hands, says, "If any man thirsts — let him come unto me and drink." If any man is uneasy and dissatisfied in his soul, if any man feels an inward craving, which he cannot satisfy, let him come unto me, and I will give him that which will satisfy him fully and forever. Hear his own sweet words, "He who drinks of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of living water, springing up into everlasting life."
Come — then, poor thirsty soul, come with your craving dissatisfied spirit to Jesus, and he will satisfy you. You cannot say that you are not interested in the invitation, for it is, "If any man thirsts." Every thirsty man, woman, and child — is invited, and you among the rest. Come then and drink, receive from Jesus, that which cost him his life to procure for you, come and receive it freely.
If a backslider reads these lines, to him I would say: My poor backsliding brother, you are very dissatisfied with your past conduct, and with your present state; you cannot help at times crying out, "O that it were with me, as in times past!" Come, poor backslider, come afresh to Jesus. He calls you, you are also included in the invitation, "If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink." Jesus will welcome you back to his flock, to his fold, to his arms, and to his heart. Come, for he will heal your backslidings, he will love you freely, fie will satisfy you early with his mercy — then you may rejoice and be glad all your days.
"Whoever will, let him come, and take of the water of life freely." Reader, whoever you may be, and whatever you may be — if you are only willing to come to Jesus, and freely receive the richest blessings — you are invited. You may come — for no one has any right to forbid you. You should come — for you can obtain satisfaction and salvation no where else. You ought to come — since Jesus has thrown open his fullness to you, and has been at the trouble to invite and press you to come.
O think of an eternal thirst, with not one drop of water to quench it! Think of that thirst being eternally increased by the tormenting flames of Hell! Think of yourself being doomed to suffer this, just because you would not come unto Jesus and drink! How will you endure to see those whom you knew on earth, drinking of the river of God's pleasures, abundantly satisfied with the provisions of their Heavenly Father's house — and you yourself forever excluded. Excluded, not by any decree of God! Excluded, not by the lack of room in that blessed place! Excluded, not because Jesus was not willing to receive and admit you! But excluded, just because you would not come unto him, that you might have life! Excluded, and excluded forever from all comfort, joy, and hope as your own deliberate act and deed — because you rejected Christ and his salvation!