We start this week with the words of the psalmist, attributed in this case to David:
O God, you are my God, I seek you, my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; I will lift up my hands and call on your name. My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast, and my mouth praises you with joyful lips when I think of you on my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me. But those who seek to destroy my life shall go down into the depths of the earth; they shall be given over to the power of the sword, they shall be prey for jackals. But the king shall rejoice in God; all who swear by him shall exult, for the mouths of liars will be stopped. –Psalm 63 NRSV
Now let’s add to it the powerful and beautiful words from the prophet known as the Second Isaiah:
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. See, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. See, you shall call nations that you do not know, and nations that do not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. –Isaiah 55:1-9 NRSV
It is no wonder that the Bible is often studied purely for its magnificent poetic imagery. For those, like David and Isaiah, who find themselves in one kind of desert or another (in the latter case, Babylonian exile, far from Israel’s promised land of milk and honey), it is God who slakes thirst and satisfies hunger. It is God who is the source and fountain of nourishment and sustenance. It is God for whom our souls thirst. It is God who says to those “without money” to come to the waters, come buy and eat, come and buy wine and milk.
We humans have a tendency to desire all the wrong things: wrong food, wrong drink, wrong activities, wrong friends and associates, wrong everything, it seems. “Seek the Lord while he may be found,” this Lord who will abundantly pardon. Yes, God’s thoughts and ways are not like human thoughts and ways. That’s not so much a statement on difference as it is a call and challenge to seek after God, to unite with God in helping bring to pass divine purposes on earth, just as they are in heaven. Bring your questions and doubts and uncertainties. Bring your whole self–body, mind, spirit, soul. God wants all of you to come.
These words, this remarkable poetic imagery, is worth our time and attention, particularly during Lent. They help us realign our life and purpose and vision with God’s desires. Lent is something of a desert, in which we wander for a time. David knew the extent of his sinfulness and separation from God. Exiled Israel found it excruciating to try to sing the songs of Zion by the waters of Babylon.
Where and what is our desert? What and for whom do we thirst and hunger?