The Deep: Thirsty

We are in the fourth part of a sermon series, called “The Deep”.  It’s not anything mysterious.  What we are doing is spending five weeks talking about God, and the most used earthly image of God in the bible is water.  We talked about God as a vast ocean that we cannot even comprehend.  Yes, we know a little bit about the ocean.  We’ve been. Some of us have been to a beach, some of us have been on a cruise, some of us have even been deep sea scuba diving; we’ve been down with the air tanks and been certified.  We’ve seen glimpses of the ocean, but we have no idea how big and vast the ocean is.  And when we compare that to God’s love, we know that we ourselves have seen only slivers of who God is.  Moses asked, “God, I want to know everything about you.”  But God said, “No, you can’t handle this.” So he only showed him a little bit, but the scripture says that Moses’ knees buckled, with simply just a glimpse of who God is.  So there is so much more to knowing God.  So, we need to explore this; not that we’ll ever know it all until the hereafter.

So, when Jesus was trying to communicate and help people understand about who God is, he talked about who God is right where they are. To the shepherds, he talked about us being sheep, or some of us goats.  He talked to the farmers about trees, roots, the Root of Jesse, and he gave images to people of how God is, right where they are.  I would think that if Jesus lived today and was here on earth, he’d tell an illustration and then he’d say God is kind of like that.  I think he’d end every story with, “and he’s, God’s kind of like that.”  He’d tell incredible stories like that.

In week one, we talked about the love of God like an ocean.  (Looks around for his water bottle/ocean) Our people are good; they throw away my water bottle every week. I leave it up here.  It’s my ocean.  (He takes a bottle from member) this is not the ocean, Larry is drinking here, but we talked about knowing the ocean.  I brought back my souvenir bottle of the ocean, which keeps disappearing.  This may be all that we know about God, but the love of God is so vast and so incredible.  It may be that some of us love to hang out by the water.  We soak in God’s love and God’s knowledge.  And some of us love to be seaside or lakeside to see that vastness of this.  And some of us delve into God a little bit more, but the truth honestly is that we just don’t know all about God.

In week two, we talked about how maybe God’s awesomeness has overwhelmed us. Maybe we feel insignificant.  Maybe our problems are not as big as others’, so we can’t bother God with it.  We said several times, and I’ll just read it, “You matter because you matter to God!”  So, in all of God’s awesomeness, and even if we feel insignificant, God cares for each and every one of us. So, can you say it with me?  You matter, because you matter to God!  All of creation was made for you. Everyone you meet is in the image of God.  Last week, we began talking about God’s love, and how God’s love is for everyone. But there is a balance.  There is a balance between love and justice. Every time someone spoke in the bible, whether it was Jesus or the disciples, the prophets, the apostles, they always talked about the balance between love and justice; and this love and justice is like a river.  So, last week we compared it to a river. We talked about still waters; in Psalms 23 it says , ‘I leadeth you beside still waters’, meaning that we need patience; we need love.   We talked about justice being a rolling river.  We look at the Grand Canyon and we looked at the picture of Brown’s Canyon, in Colorado last week, and we say, man look how that river just follows that canyon.  Isn’t that great?  Then we get the reminder that it was the water that cut the canyon.  It is the love of God that can cut through any heart of stone, any rock, any obstacle that’s in our way.  It‘s not that the river follows the canyon; it’s the river that cuts the canyon. God can cut through any heart of stone, to make his love known.

Today I want to talk to you more about the third image we talked about last week. It’s these deep pockets.  Every once in a while you’ll find these deep pockets in the river; God’s like a river.  And usually when you find those, you find fish, right?  You know, when Dan takes me down to Bennett Springs, we find those deep pockets.  We just wait for the line to come down the stream and go into that deep pocket, and then, boom.  Dinner is served, right?  But also, settlers knew that it was in those deep pockets that you find the coolest and the most nourishing drinking water.

Those deep pockets in the rivers are there to let us know that we are thirsty.  That’s why the city of Osage Beach can support three Starbucks on one corner. Did you ever notice we’ve got three on one corner? There is one stand-alone, one in Target and one in HyVee.  HyVee and Target are right next to each other.  We are a thirsty people.  But, let me ask you a serious question.  Have you ever been thirsty? Have you ever been so thirsty that you thought you couldn’t live? Think about the movies. I was preparing this sermon today, and I’ll probably reference it later, but I was thinking about that Tom Hanks movie, Cast Away.  And knowing he had to create a friend that was a volley ball, because he was all alone.  But have you ever been so thirsty?  To know, and I’m sure some of you have.  You know, you read those things on the internet about the differences between the generations in years past and the generations now.  I laugh because the one that always cracks me up is, when I was really thirsty in central Texas, when in the hill country it got to about 109 degrees, do you know where the best water in the world was?  Right out of the hose.  “Oh goodness, he drank right out of the hose?”  Now you know; now you know I drank right out of the hose. You know, in my neighborhood it didn’t matter which hose or whose house, just as long as you turned it off.  You know what it is like to quench your thirst.  So how many of you know what it is like to be thirsty; thirsty enough to drink out of the hose? That kind of thirst?

How many of you like to watch, what’s his name, Bear Grylls, and Man versus Wild? Every time he sets out on a survival mission, what’s the first thing he either looks for or gets?  Water. Was it last week he got water out of elephant dung?  Oh, yeah.  That hose isn’t looking so bad now, is it?  That’s right.  When Bear goes on Man versus Wild, the first thing he does is he sets out and tries to find the water; why? It is because the human body cannot go more than three days without water.  I know we’ve heard stories and read articles, but honestly, three days without water.  The human body cannot go three days without water, and it would not be exaggerating to say that water equals life.  And in the images of the bible, water equals life. That’s why there are studies, and why when we do space exploration, what’s the first thing we look for when we find new planets?  We try to find if the planet can have water.  Why?  It is because we know it is necessary if it can sustain life, or if life can be sustained. That is the reason for all those studies.  Water sustains life.  Water is just not important, I’m willing to say, and yes I’m on this side of the stage after the sermon if you disagree with me, if you want to say good job, or you have something to tell me, but I’m willing to say that water is vital!  Oh, controversy?  Not really.  You agree with me. Water is vital. So, it is not so surprising when we find God compared to water in the bible.

So that brings us to today. We are going to talk about this thing, this thirst that people in the bible talk about; their love for God, or their wanting to know more about God.  The best place to look is probably in Psalms. It is the worship book of the Hebrew church, of the early church. We attribute a lot of the Psalms to King David who wrote this one, but in verse 42, Ashlee you’ll like this, it is ‘the Director of Music’. This psalm was written by a worship leader; someone who leads their congregation in worship, those who project the image of a wonderful, emotion and worshipful experience.  For the Director of Music he writes this, and some of us have heard this, it is a song or a poem written by a worship leader.  It’s from a worship leader who finds him or herself a little empty, a little tired, a little dry, and thirsting for God.  In verse one is says, ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.’ You see I think the first thing we set our image to maybe when we hear the psalm, we see a beautiful picture painted by Thomas Kincaid, an image of a deer by a stream, but you know this isn’t the image I have. When we are talking about a thirst, when we are talking about a hunger for God, what I picture are some of those deer that live in Four Seasons, that live in my back yard, that are about this big around (thin), that are in the winter looking for any nugget, because there are way too many deer in my neighborhood.  I picture a deer that is struggling, until he finds the stream. It looks, it pants, not a Bambi, not a beautiful image deer, but a deer that is panting, that is looking for water; a deer that is maybe near death. The biblical image of pant and the Hebrew is to intensely long for, or be desperately in need.  Have you ever been desperately in need of God?  You see, sometimes in our lives, it doesn’t go as we expected or as we wish.  We just want God to show up. You know?  When we are in our deepest, darkest times, and we just look up and say, “I just need you.”  That’s the deer that pants for the water. That’s us when we want God to just show up. And so, this worship leader writes, ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God.’ He’s saying I want a living God and God, I really feel like you’re not providing.  I’m in such a dark place; I’d like you to show up because I don’t feel your presence.  In verse two it says, ‘My soul thirsts for God,’ and what kind of God?  For a living God, that’s right. ‘…for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?’  I want a God to show up.  I want a God compared to living water.  Here over again, living means capable, quality of life. When we have those end of life discussions, you know the health care workers, the social workers, the pastor, the hospice, the chaplain, they always talk about what?  They talk about the quality of life.  The writer of this feels at this point that his life has no quality, that God is absent.

That we want a loving, powerful, living God, that means being able.  You know this is a worship leader.  Maybe I shouldn’t ask this question, but have you ever been in worship and didn’t feel that God was present?  Oh, be careful.  No.  I have to tell you, I’ve been there. It hasn’t been here and I have to be careful, I can no longer speak of past churches that I’ve been at.  Apparently, some of them are watching us on the internet.  I love them all!  But there has been a place when I sat in the pulpit and thought, if I lived in this town, I wouldn’t attend this church.  So, why is it sometimes we feel vacated by God? Why is it that even one called to serve God can feel that God is not present?  That God is not here.  Even in his or her worship leading here, not feeling God’s presence.  That it is dull and not honoring to God.

Verse three says, ‘My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, “Where is your God”?’  You see, the only thing on this guys mind is pain and suffering. But you know have you ever been told by people who know you go to church, people who know you go to church here, “Where is your church in all this? Where’s God in all of this?  I know you are a Christ follower.  I know that you go over there on 42 Highway. I know that you go here.  I know that when you are out of town, you even go to church.  So why would God allow you, if you’re a follower, to suffer? Why are these things happening to you?  Does anybody ever ask you?  Where is your God?  People ask this.  Where is your God?  People mock us and shame us when things don’t go right for Christians.  People don’t understand.  How do you worship when you feel that God has left you wanting more?  How do you go through life as a Christ follower when you feel that God has left you? Or God is absent?  Or God is just there in the distance?  Sometimes, some of us feel that God is just laughing. That’s not comforting at all. You see if anything we need to learn, it is that we cannot tie our circumstances to our faith, because life is life.  Life will go up and life will come down.  But our faith must stay strong through all of it.  Our faith must understand that everything can’t be perfect.  And so we must not tie our circumstances to our faith.

In verse four it says, These things I remember’.  He is now going down memory lane.  ‘…as I pour out my soul’.  I poured out my soul.  I remember that I poured it out to you before, and now I still feel abandoned. ‘… how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One’.  How I felt comfortable being a worship leader.  How I felt comfortable in being a Christ follower.  I’ve had that mountain top experience.  I felt your presence even last week, God.  I’ve been there.  I go to worship and still nothing.  I bend under your protection.  It says, ‘with shouts of joy and praise’.  People are worshiping around him.  People know your presence and they are right beside me, ‘among the festive throng.’ Verse five, ‘Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ He starts to talk to himself here.  We’ve never talked to ourselves before, have we, when we get in our deepest, darkest spots?  Maybe that is the Tom Hanks movie.  He had to invent a volley ball to talk to; he was talking to himself. But when we get deeply discouraged, and when we feel that we are in the darkest place, we get self centered. And when we get self centered, we talk to ourselves. We say things like, ‘My soul is downcast within me.’  Why are you feeling this way? Why so disturbed within me?  We tell ourselves, “Straighten up.”   “Get over this.”  Sometimes it doesn’t work, though, does it?  There is one time, early on in my seminary, maybe my first semester, when someone came to class in the loudest, polka dot, pink and purple, and this is a man, spandex, with florescent shorts over the spandex, Hawaiian shirt, and a big floppy hat.  This is how he came to class.  Professor Craven was teaching in Hebrew scripture, when she looked out and stopped.  And she said, “Cary, what made you wear that today?”  He goes, “I woke up in a bad mood and I thought this would make me feel better.” I think she said something about him making his neighbors feel bad.  Anyway, we try to cheer ourselves, up; we talk to ourselves.  We ask things like, “My soul, why are you downcast?”  We try to get over it but just can’t.  In verse six it says, ‘My soul is downcast within me, therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.’ You see, he goes back.  He remembers his heritage. He goes back to when Moses led the slaves out of Egypt.  He’s talking about the River Jordan; he’s talking about the source of life.  In a very deserted land, set between two seas; a fertile area that gives life.  He goes to the River Jordan.  He remembers that it was through that river that the Egyptians or the slaves, the Hebrew people were on their way to the Promised Land.  He does it again.  He says, ‘The deep calls to deep, and the roar of your waterfalls.  All your waves and breakers have swept me over.’

One of my favorite scenes is in the movie, The Chronicles of Narnia. When you can cast the cutest girls in the world, except your own, as being the youngest in the set and she’s talking in the Chronicles of Narnia.  She’s talking to somebody about Aslan, the god figure in the movie.  She’s trying to inquire about God; she’s trying to inquire about Aslan and as she talks to this soldier she asks, “Is he nice?”, because he is portrayed as a lion.  She goes, “Is he tame?”  Do you remember the answer?  “He’s not safe.”  He’s good but he’s not safe. That’s the God we worship; a good, but not safe God.  We worship a God that invented life.  ‘The deep calls to deep, and the roar of your waterfalls.  All your waves and breakers have swept me over.’ Then we find another reference to leading out of the slaves from Egypt.  ‘By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song his with me, a prayer to the God of my life.’  Do you remember?  God led them through the day with directions and at night he led by fire, and that’s how they led the Hebrew people out of Egypt. By day and by night they were singing and celebrating, and chanting and loving and worshiping God.  ‘A prayer to the God of my life.’

Verse nine, ‘I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”’ 
Have you ever felt that there is nowhere else to turn? That it seems that maybe you’re not desperate, but with faithful knowledge that God is the provider, when God doesn’t provide then we get into that mind twisting game wondering if God is even around. The last verse in Psalms 42 says this, ‘Why, my soul, are you downcast?  Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’ 
You see when you examine chapter 42, this man, this worship leader, this person, started in a desperate situation.  And this chapter ends the same way.  It doesn’t end as a happy ending; he’s still desperate, he’s still downcast, but he’s says to ‘Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.’  Nothing as I could see changes the circumstances of this worship leader, except that he doesn’t let his circumstances get tied to his faith. He puts his hope in God; that eventually God will deliver.

You see in Psalms 36, verse 5 it says, ‘Your love, LORD, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies.  Your righteousness is like the highest mountains, your justice like the great deep.  You, Lord, preserve both people and animals.  How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.  They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights.’ Here’s another image. ‘For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.’  So what does it mean?  Most of what God does, we can’t understand.  Moses asked at the burning bush, once again, these people want to know who you are God.  I’ve got to take a message back to the Pharaoh, and you’ve asked me to set these people free, but someone had to send me. You sent me.  Who do I say sent me?  I think God said it first, but Popeye picked it up later, “I am who I am”.  Of course, Popeye added, “I can’t stands no more.”   God said, I Am who I Am; tell them “I Am” sent me, God.  Let them figure it out on their own.  If they want to know who sent you so badly, let them start figuring out who I am.  God is God.

That’s what the culmination of all this is; when God says, “I Am who I Am”.  I just have to say, God is God. He’s not just throwing it up there like Rip Taylor.  I know, half of you don’t know who Rip Taylor is, but I have to trust that God has a purpose for whatever my circumstances are, even when I don’t know the outcome.  Have you ever sat on the other side of the outcome and thought, oh wow, I wish I’d known that when I was going through that.  Oh my gosh, do you think that is why God did that?  Oh, because I met that person and that person helped me.  When we sit on the other side of the outcomes it is just hard for us, because we have to just trust God.  God has a purpose in all these circumstances, even when we don’t know the outcome. So we trust God.  God is called the River of Delight and the Fountain of Life.

Here’s the problem.  We get impatient.  We get tired of the lack of knowledge, and to be honest we start to drink elsewhere, don’t we?  We start to look elsewhere for our thirst; we quench our thirst in other ways.  Jeremiah says it like this in chapter two, ‘My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns,
broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’
  You see, Jesus encountered many people in the bible, many people trying to find their own satisfaction.  Trying to quench their own thirst.  He found men who tried to find satisfaction in money.  He found people who tried to find satisfaction in their rituals, by keeping the days busy so they don’t have to think about other things.  He found people trying to find satisfaction in their own power.  Usually those Jesus encountered were soldiers, military people trying to find satisfaction in their own power.  He found parents trying to find satisfaction in their children. He found politicians trying to find satisfaction in their own status. He found women who were trying to satisfy their needs through men.  So, he goes to the well and there is a woman there in mid-day.  No one goes to the well in mid-day, but she’s trying to avoid people because she has, well, she has been known. So in John, chapter four, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’  He goes on to say, ‘Everyone who drinks this water’, he is probably pointing at the well, ‘will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ You see, he sees the need, and goes on to say to the woman, “I know you have been with five men, and the man you are with now is not your husband, but now that you know how to quench your thirst in the living fountain of God, go and sin no more.”

John in Revelation, in chapter seven tells us he has this dream of what heaven is going to be like and he says, ‘For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; ‘he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’  Later on in Revelation 21 he says ‘Then I saw’, this is what he saw, ‘a new heaven and a new earth,  for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.’  What does that mean, the sea is God.  The water is the image of God.  He says, ‘I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them.’  It’s no longer a mystery; no longer a vastness. It’s no longer a love that we just cannot understand.  ‘They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will dwell with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down”.  You know when someone says to write something down, you know it must be important. ‘…for these words are trustworthy and true.  He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.’   You see, to have this hope that our thirst will be quenched, we must trust and understand that the source that quenches our thirst is our Heavenly Father, that the living water, that the thirst we have for the hunger of God, that even in our deepest, even in Psalms 42, to say, “This is how I am”, I am down, I’m depressed, God will have a greater explanation than I even know.  One day I’ll look back on this and I’ll laugh, because all these things will eventually make sense.  God I’ve been there.  I’ve even been in this position.  I’ve said, “How can I work for God, when I don’t even know who my boss is?”  But we have to have this hope.  We have to stay thirsty. It’s vital.  Remember?  Water is vital, so thirst is a need for us to want.  And what do we want?  We want to know about God.


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