No one actually seeks God; we mainly go our own way. But, when the knowledge of God reaches down from intellectual assent into the intimate inner sanctum, a heart is either wooed or threatened by the revealing of his presence.
Our heart always will be wooed by something, for it was made to worship. If the object of heart-love is worshipped more than God, the heart will recoil in losing its ultimate comfort and counterfeit lover. Sometimes, there are subtle softenings that contaminate the well-spring of the soul. I am reminded of an ancient story…
Travel in ancient days was slow and burdensome, so it was as dusty travelers approached the camp. Their sandals flopped, visibly patched, and so worn they were barely strapped to their dirt-encrusted feet. There was a stench, warm and offensive, coming from their garments. Representing their countrymen, the men declared their purpose for peaceful relations. Finding Joshua, the men came right to the point, “We have come from a distant country, so now make a covenant with us.” It was an act of self-preservation based on the intelligence they had garnered about Israel’s encroachment. “From a very distant country your servants have come, because of the name of the Lord your God. For we have heard a report of him, and all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon the king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, who lived in Ashtaroth.” This was their response to the revelation of Yahweh–self-preservation that meant a strong-willed deception. They did not desire to know Yahweh, but their focus was to manipulate around the obstacles presented by the very one that made them tremble.
Joshua heard their story, but remained suspicious, prompting the envoy to show evidence of their long journey. They pulled out the remaining supplies from off their
donkeys and said, “Here is our bread. It was still warm when we took it from our houses as our food for the journey on the day we set out to come to you, but now, behold, it is dry and crumbly. These wineskins were new when we filled them, and behold, they have burst. And these garments and sandals of ours are worn out from the very long journey.” Joshua surveyed the evidence apparent to the senses and acted based on things judged with the eyes. Joshua and Israel’s leader did not ask counsel from the Lord but took action to enact peace with the Gibeonite men in covenantal agreement. It only took three days to discover the ruse, to discover the faked travel time which in reality had only been three days journey by donkey. But the oath was sworn.
Subtle softenings contaminate so that we do not seek God.
O Prince of Glory, who dost bring
Thy sons to glory through the Cross
Let us not shrink from suffering
Reproach or loss.
From prayer that asks that I may be
Sheltered from winds that beat on Thee,
From fearing when I should aspire,
From faltering when I should climb higher,
From silken self, O Captain, free
Thy soldier who would follow Thee.
From subtle love of softening things,
From easy choices, weakening,
Not thus are spirits fortified,
Not this way went the Crucified.
From all that dims Thy Calvary,
O Lamb of God, deliver me.
Give me the love that leads the way,
The faith that nothing can dismay,
The hope no disappointments tire,
The passion that will burn like fire,
Let me not sink to be a clod:
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.
*The ancient story is factual and found in Joshua 9.
“The Gibeonites deceived Joshua”, 1728 engraving, Abraham de Blois.
Shadow art “God-Ego” by Fred Eerdekens