During out time together, in recent weeks we have been studying the Tabernacle of God; it’s furnishings and rituals that point us to the person and work of Jesus Christ. And as we continue in our study of the Tabernacle of God and we have just crossed the veil that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies and have come into the holy place, where the Ark of the Covenant lies and where the presence of God was (Exodus 25:22). It is a place that is fragrant; a place that is beautiful; a place that is sacred. And it is a place of prayer; a place where man (in a very deep and profound way) connects with God. Now as we have been talking in recent weeks about the work of Christ and just what it means that the veil has been torn and mankind allowed access to this most sacred of places in and through prayer I feel that God is challenging me with this question: Are we as a people (myself included); are we taking advantage of this access to God? How faithful are we being to come into the presence of God every day? This past week has been one of the busiest I can remember in a long time. Between striving to meet a number of deadlines, to keeping on top of my kids’ schedules and the pastoral work I have to accomplish, this week has been almost non-stop. It has been breathless. Now I’m not complaining. I am blessed to be doing so many things that I love. But it difficult at times for me (and what I am finding for others as well) to be as faithful to make sure that the appointment I do not cut short is my daily appointment with God. And yet He is the one (the only one) who can give the breath of life; who can give and abiding joy; and peace. He is the anchor in the midst of all the confusion and if we neglect to keep hold of that anchor, we can get overwhelmed by the storm. And I have spoken with people who (honestly) have allowed ourselves to be separated from His presence for so long that they sometimes don’t know how to find their way back. If that is you today, I want to tell you that I know how you feel; I have been there. But there’s hope; and it begins not with trying to work harder to be religious and do all the right things. It begins with coming into his presence and simply allowing Him to (in that time with Him) to create (or re-create) in you a hunger for him. And as we begin a brief sojourn into the life and ministry of Daniel, we will see this hunger for God and what a difference it made in his life. Now you know that in the story of Daniel we find that many of God’s people had been carried off into captivity in Babylon. And they were cut off therefore from Jerusalem and the Temple. And Daniel is taken into the kings palace to learn Babylonian culture. And yet in the midst of all his chaos, he is able to maintain a relationship with God as an example to God’s people. And he seeks to be a model for God’s people of the repentance they must exhibit in order for God to restore them. He says….
Daniel 9:17-19 (ESV)– 17 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,[b] make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. 19 O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.”
But before we get into the passage itself, I’d like you to think for a minute. I want you to remember a time in your life when you were thirsty? And I don't mean just mildly thirsty. I mean, SO thirsty to where your throat was parched and you could hardly think of anything else except getting a icy...cold...drink. Maybe you came in after a long period of physical labor and drank a cool glass of lemonade.
When I was very very young I remember my parents taking my sister and I to China. And I mean the humidity was scorching and we had been walking a long time and I still remember to this day how absolutely thirsty I was. I don't think I have ever been so thirsty in my life before or since. And I remember my parents finally found a place where we could get a drink and they brought back a large cup of Coca Cola. Now before Coca Cola had seemed like a normal; almost an everyday thing. But not that day. That day that Coca Cola looked like drops of heaven. I am telling you, it looked just like it does in the commercials, with the drops of moisture on the side and the people drinking it in slow motion with looks of absolute satisfaction on their faces. I mean that day I had a tremendous thirst and within a few moments that thirst was quenched in the most satisfying way.
Now looking through scripture I see time and time again that those who received an unusual measure of God's blessing were those who had an unusual hunger and thirst for God. They had an appetite; a longing for God's presence in their lives. Abraham thirsted for God so much that he was willing to leave everything he knew follow God to a strange place. Moses would not lead God’s people without the presence of God and fearlessly yearned and pleaded to even see God's face (even though he knew that might bring him death), and the scriptures talk about the illumination of his face because God allowed to come into the presence of the Lord and speak with him (the scriptures say) “face to face” (the Hebrew is actually “mouth to mouth”; breath to breath). David, whom God calls "a man after His own heart" always sought the Lord in and through prayers and psalms, longing for God as one longs for a best friend. And it was that intimacy with God that caused him to be so zealous when he heard Goliath profane the name of the Lord. All of these men (as well as others in scripture) had a hunger and thirst for God.
And I had to ask myself this week, "Do we hunger and thirst for God like that?" And I have come to realize a very important truth: that the mark of true follower and servant of God is a heart that is hungry for Him.
Now how do we become hungry? One scholar I read said the most amazing thing about this hunger for God. He said that hunger for God does not come from anything we do. It is something God gives us, usually in small measure. Now what happens is that if we feed that hunger in and through a strong devotional life and prayer, that hunger will develop; it will grow. And we develop through those spiritual disciplines an appetite; a yearning for God. We desire Him more and more and He reveals Himself to us in greater and greater measure.
But what happens to people who don't satisfy that hunger when God gives it to them? That person is not quite as hungry for God the next time. And after several times that hunger begins to slowly fizzle out until eventually that hunger; that appetite disappears entirely. Now a person like this may still go to Church, but all their religious activities become empty rituals because they are no longer hungry for God. And these kinds of people actually tend to cause the most trouble to the Body of Christ; even more than those who are enemies of the Gospel of Christ. Because they have no hunger for God and therefore have no hunger for the things of God. Church has become a social gathering for them rather than that place where they meet with that very God who can give them living water; the bread of life and quench their starving hearts with Himself.
I mean the very first thing that Jesus does in his ministry, is to go out into the desert and suffer hunger for 40 days. And he does this to show his future disciples; to show those He would be ministering to how much your hunger for God should be like (and even surpass) your hunger for food. He even says later in John's Gospel: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. (John 4:34) I mean Jesus wants to show us that there is no greater thing you can develop than a strong appetite for God.
Now ask anybody who has gone any significant length of time without food. When you begin eating food again, the capacity to eat that food is greatly reduced. You may have a desire to eat a lot, but find that you are able to take only a few bites. And there is actually a medical reason for this. If you do not eat for an extended period of time, your stomach actually begins to shrink. And the longer you go without eating, the smaller your stomach will shrink. Even though the desire to eat may be there, you are no longer able to take in the portions you want to and think you can.
And you see that is exactly what can happen in our relationship with God. We can ask Him to make us hungry for Him, but often when He gives us that hunger, we don't satisfy it. And as we continually deny God our time, our stomachs (our capacity to consume His spiritual blessings) shrink. We have other responsibilities; other activities that we allow to take His place and eventually we find ourselves exhausted with life; we are tired and worn out; unable even to cope with everyday things because we have...no...fuel; we are spiritually starving. And if we are to become strong again, we must turn to God. This is why the Psalmist writes…
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
And I mean this idea of hungering and thirsting for God permeates all throughout scripture. You never find happiness and fulfillment without God. And you never find God until you first have a hunger; a desire for Him (whether you realize it or not).
Jeremiah 15:16a (ESV)
16 Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart,
Psalm 34:8 (ESV)
8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!
Psalm 42:1-2 (ESV)
1 As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
Psalm 119:103 (ESV)
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Psalm 143:6 (ESV)
6 I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
John 6:35 (ESV)
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.
Are you beginning to see it? Those who develop a hunger and thirst for God are those who most richly receive Him.
Now in our passage this morning Daniel has been taken into captivity and has resolved in and throughout his captivity to keep hungry for God and for God alone. And because he has developed a healthy appetite for God, God has showered him with blessings even in the midst of difficult circumstances. And God can do that in you life and in my life as well. Let us come into his presence so that we will find grace and mercy to help us in our hour of need. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.