July 23, 2023. Sermon Title: A Different Kind of Hunting.

First Mennonite Church

July 23, 2023

A Different Kind of Hunting: Hunting for God

Psalm 63:1-8

My dad was an avid hunter; he still hunts but not much as he used to do. He is 83 now. He told me that he started at the age of fourteen. In those days, he said, you did not have to go far away from home to hunt. Often times in his early days of hunting, he had to ask his father or one of his closest friends, Mr. Murillos, who happened to be Lilian’s maternal grandfather, to help him bring home his kill. So, in my late teenage years, my dad and I would go hunting. I learned the importance of walking stealthily and silently under the woods, especially in the summertime when there are lots of dry leaves on the ground. Hunters develop keen eyesight and hearing. I was amazed at my dad’s ability to see his prey among the trees or shrubs and to hear the slightest noise from the movement of birds or animals. In my early 20s, I used to go hunting by myself, both during the day and at night. Before you go hunting you prepare yourself; you go with anticipation of success. When you go hunting, you look for signs or tracks indicating the presence of what you are hunting for. You stop to listen for sounds that might indicate the presence of the bird or animal you are hunting. You take time to evaluate your success or failure.

Please take notice that Psalm 63 tells of how and where the psalmist has been looking for God, namely in the sanctuary of God and in the intimacy of his home. David seems like a desperate hunter for God. The psalmist knows exactly who he is seeking. Thus, he declares:

You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

David knows God. He has a personal relationship with God. David’s familiarity and experience with God are evident by the names he uses to address God. David’s experience with God has led him to call God a Fortress, a Shepherd, a Refuge, Deliverer, Shield, Rock, Helper, Etc. In this psalm, David uses two names for God: You, Elohim, you are my El! In plain English, David says, “You, the Mighty One, you are my God!”

You see, familiarity with God gives the worshipper theological fluency. By this, I mean, worship and praise draw from how we have experienced the power, beauty, love, and care of God. Therefore, these experiences broaden the language we use when we pray or worship God. So, we when we pray or praise God, we might refer to the Lord as the Giver of life or the Living fountain where we are refreshed or cleansed. We might refer to God as the intimate Friend to whom we confide or the King to whom we surrender our lives. Elohim, you are my El, says David.

In the classic book, The Pursuit of God, A. W. Tozer, writes:

To most people, God is an inference, not a reality. . . To many others, God is but an ideal, another name for goodness, or beauty, or truth, or life, or the creative impulse back of the phenomena of existence . . . but they do not know God in personal experience.[1]

When you are praying or praising, how do you address God? What have been your experiences with God that provide you with tender and complementary terms to refer to God?

Fundamental to true worship and for the task of pursuing after God, is having a relationship with God. But oftentimes, Christians become complacent with the experience of having “received Jesus as their Lord and Savior.” This experience, although crucial for the life of faith, is not everything there is to be a follower of Christ and a believer in God. Just as it is in our personal experience, no one-time encounter allows us to fully know a person. Knowledge of a person takes time. Relationships take time to grow and be made strong. Out of this flow of constant interaction with another person grows deep friendship, loving care, and genuine openness. In the case of a relationship with God, the gains are more than temporal in consequence. Jesus said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Knowing God leads to eternal life, Jesus says.

The psalmist moves forward as to how he relates to the God he calls his own: “Earnestly I seek you! With serious intent, I seek you!” Says David.

The idea of seeking God might sound contradictory to what we often hear or say about God: that he is everywhere. Why should we seek God if he is here and wherever we go? Is our encounter with God the result of our seeking him or of God seeking us? Or is it the result of both?

To most of us, seeking God might sound redundant. Even some of our songs seem to suggest that. There is a song, “God Is Here.” And in part it goes, “He is as close to me as the air I breathe.”[2] Many of us would think that God is just a prayer away, that is, we only need to close our eyes and pray and God will be right there. But even when these experiences are true for many of us, it is not the kind of intense searching for God as David is talking about here. And, neither is it as easy for everybody to feel the presence of God.

People who struggle with depression or those who have experienced emotional trauma in life when going through bouts of depression or anxiety attacks, feel as if even God has moved far away from them or is not available to them. Down in their lonely hearts, they sometimes ask, “Where is God?” “Where is he that I cannot find him or sense his comforting and reassuring presence?”

It is easy for us who are not in those situations to tell the person who suffers from depression or anxiety disorder, “Just have faith that God is there with you.” Such words only increase their sense of failure and guilt because it can make them feel that their condition is the result of not having enough faith at all. They need understanding and a reassuring presence. They need our solidarity and support.

But let us go again to hear from David and his earnest quest for God.

David says,

I thirst for you,
    my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
    where there is no water.

David compares his earnest search for God to that of famish person dying of thirst in the desert. He is desperately longing for water to quench his thirst.

There is a kind of longing, commercials want to arouse in us. It is a longing for things that only satisfy for a moment. It is a kind of longing for something that raises our sense of pride if we were to get it. It is a longing that if fulfilled would give us a new experience, even if brief. But that is not the kind of longing for God the psalmist is talking about.

There is a kind of deep longing for something or someone that comes to the heart because of a shared experience, love, and mutual care between the one longing and the object being desired. People who lost their homes to a fire or natural disaster, long for it because of the memories, events, and people who have lived within it. People experience a deep longing for a loved one, who might be far away out of need, or for a deceased parent, spouse, or child. This kind of longing becomes acute because of the bond of love, care, and time shared together.

That is the kind of longing the psalmist speaks about. It is a kind of intense longing derived from our relationship with God in Christ Jesus. A relationship of love and surrender that reciprocates Jesus’ own love and sacrificial surrender for our salvation. It is a longing to express gratitude and adoration based on our knowledge of Jesus as Lord and Savior, who gives us a place in his heart and a promise of an eternal dwelling place with him. 

The place where David goes to meet with God is in the Tabernacle, which David calls “sanctuary.” He also seeks God at night in the intimacy of his home.

Where do you seek God? Do you expect to find him? What signs do you find that indicate to you God’s presence? As I said at the beginning, hunting requires preparation, expectation, and awareness of the signs.

There is an old hymn titled: “Jesus, My all, to Heaven Is Gone” and in the first stanza says:

Jesus, my all, to heav’n is gone,
He whom I fix my hopes upon;
His track I see, and I’ll pursue
The narrow way till Him I view.[3]

I want to encourage you as you go your way during the day at work, to look around for things or people that somehow remind you of God. Pause for a moment to look at the flowers in your yard or the pot by your door. Remember the words of Jesus about the lilies. Listen to a song that evokes a meaningful event in your life and pray about it, whether to give thanks or to ask for God’s grace. As a good hunter for God, pause to listen and to observe.   

Today, I want to invite you to come to the Lord’s Holy Table. As you participate, allow his words to find room in your heart. He offers you, life, forgiveness of sins, and a place by his side.

Let us tell the Lord, “You, God, are my God,
    earnestly I seek you.” Amen!

Pastor Romero

[1] A. W. Tozer. The Pursuit of God (Silver Anniversary Edition). Christian Publications Inc. Harrisburg. P.49-50

[2] Spanish worship song: Dios Esta Aqui (God is here)

[3] www.hymnary.org Jesus, My All, to Heaven Is Gone by John Cennick (1740?)