2017-3-26 Long for the Word

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          March 26, 2017

“Long for the Word”
Text: 1 Peter 2:1-3

Have you ever longed for anything?  I don’t mean mere fleeting wish or whim, but I mean ardent, long yearning for a thing to come—or to come to pass.  Perhaps you have longed in this way for something—and perhaps either it did not come or you are yet waiting for it to come.  These, to be sure, are griefs to be borne, but—oh—what joy fills our souls with the longed-for event comes.  It is exactly as the Lord says through Solomon, “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

Today we continue hearing from God how we shall now live, and—as we continue hearing—we gain another of His commands for right living before Him: Long for His Word.  Let us hear Him in the reading of His Word—and may He, by this reading, make us increasingly hungry for Him.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

The Apostle Peter, led by the Holy Spirit, in commanding longing for the Word of God—for the pure spiritual milk—alludes to the off-putting of certain things.  The list here includes malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.  These sins were at least possible, perhaps even prevalent, in Peter’s first readers—and they are no less possible in us.  This exhortation—this command—to put off such things is a valuable corrective for the present and a timely warning against future temptation along this line.  This first verse in today’s passage is a further excellent application of 1 Peter 1:16, et al. (esp. Leviticus 11:44): Be holy, for He is holy.

In view of our ongoing off-putting of these and other sins, our controlling command now comes into clearer view.  Long for the Word of God—the pure spiritual milk.  The phrase pure spiritual milk is euphemistic for God’s Word, particularly in view of how we should long for it like infants long for their age-appropriate nourishment.  Peter wrote to us via the Spirit about the living, abiding Word of God in 1 Peter 1:23-25.  Here he urges us to long for it.  Let’s investigate this longing a bit more.

The Holy Spirit leads Peter to use the Greek epipotheo (epipoqew) to denote this longing for God’s Word.  The Greek word carries two definitions.  First, it means deep desire for something, as here for God’s Word.  Second, it means great affection—and in honoring God’s Word, we display our great affection for Him.  Our case is not that of the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, who honored God with their lips while their hearts were far from Him.  In yearning for His Word, we yearn for Him.

We do this like newborn infants yearn for their customary food.  Their desire is focused.  When hungry (and I have seen this firsthand), the child will not be dissuaded from food by the presentation of toy, or television program, or anything else.  They focus, even without conscious awareness, on the alleviation of their hunger.  More than this, their desire for their food overcomes any hardship, resistance, or reticent on the part of parent or caregiver.  In due season, they get their food.  Hence, their desire is an overcoming desire.  The same is to be true of us.  We are to long for God’s Word, the Bible, with focused, overcoming desire—a desire that God surely shall meet, for He is please in this desire.

This longing on our part for God’s Word is to a happy end, namely, that is grow up into salvation.  As God, by His Spirit, quickens His Word to our souls, we mature in our walks with Christ.  We mature into increasing likeness to Jesus.  Make no mistake; we are saved the hour we first believe.  Yet we grow and advance toward the fullness of all God has for us in Jesus.  This is true if indeed we have tasted that the Lord is good, but the if in the preceding clause is rhetorical.  Of course, we who are in Christ have tasted and seen that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).  Therefore, we become increasingly like Christ as we engage the Lord in His Word.

Are you hungry for His Word now?  Have you been for a while?  Then take up thy Book and read—as Augustine confesses he was led to do the hour he first believed (in his Confessions).  I ask the rest of us, “Do you struggle with this?” or, “Are you not hungry (or not very hungry) for God’s Word even now?  Then cry out to God, that He may give you longing for His Word.  I have been on both sides of this—and, moreover, I cannot create hunger for God’s Word, either in myself or in others.  Hence, we do well to cry out to God—that He would give us longing for His Word, in concert with today’s text.

Here are a few practical helps in this matter.  Read a little bit every day, and read through an entire Biblical book or other large portion of His Word.  While reading, and after reading, pray for understanding of what you have read.  The Spirit of God alone illumines the sacred text; we do well to plead for His aid.  Also, persevere through dry periods.  Times comes when our souls are fat and spiritual disciplines, such as Bible intake, are relatively easy.  Then there are the other times, when our souls are lean and spiritual exercise is much harder—with apparently less profit than formerly.  Press on, dear Christian.  As you persevere in your reading and studying of God’s Word, He will by His Spirit send the season of refreshing to your soul in due time.

Indeed, we need God’s Word to take increasingly strong root in our souls in these times—as we tread the pilgrim pathway that leads Home.  May He give you, and us, a longing for His Word—a longing that He surely shall fulfill.

AMEN.

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