God's Pursuit Of Man
On my life journey into the endless depths of the heart of God it's easy for me to get preoccupied with my pursuit of God and lose sight of that which fuels my love for Him: His love for me. While being preoccupied with our pursuit of Him isn't bad but a glorious reality, facing the weakness of our pursuit of Him can be a source for discouragement if we lose sight of the other side of the coin: that He is also in pursuit of us.
While I give myself to seeking the face of God and learning to love Him more, I find myself in constant need to remind myself that He is also seeking for me. I love Him because He first loved me (1 John 4:19). I pursue Him because He is constantly pursuing me. My heart burns for Him because His heart burns for me.
God Is On A Quest
- Throughout Scripture, God reveals Himself as a seeker. We find Him on a continual pursuit for something. We find the Father seeking (John 4:23), scanning the earth from heaven (Ps 14:2), His eyes running to and fro throughout the planet to find something (2 Chr 16:9). We find Jesus telling us that He has come to seek (Luke 19:10). We find Him giving us a deeper glimpse into His heart by comparing Himself with a shepherd who leaves 99 sheep to seek the one lost (Luke 15:4-7), with a woman combing through her entire house on the search for a lost coin (Luke 15:8-10), with a father who incessantly scans the horizon for the return of the prodigal son (Luke 15:20), and with a merchant seeking fine pearls (Mt 13:45-46).
- Throughout Scripture we encounter a God who is on a quest, a seeking God, chasing and pursuing. The pages of the Bible are permeated with the seeking of God. God has been a seeker all along. It's within His nature, it's who He is and something He enjoys about Himself. Yet it should startle us that the completely omniscient, self-sufficient God that owns everything and needs nothing would seek for something, and that this something would be us.
We Are The Pearl Of Great Price
- The parable of the merchant seeking fine pearls is often understood incorrectly. While in verse 44 the kingdom of heaven is the treasure, in this parable it's the one seeking. The breathtaking message of this parable is that WE are the pearl He seeks, WE are the pearl He gave everything for. At the very core of Scripture lays the truth that God is not only seeking for something, He is seeking for someone: He is seeking for us.45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Mt 13:45-46)
- Right from the beginning of creation God reveals Himself as One who is seeking communion with human beings. In the garden of Eden we find God walking beneath the trees searching for Adam. God knew where Adam was and already knew what happened, still He came searching and calling for Adam. In the first pages of the Bible God wanted to point out one thing: Right at the root of this Book, the entirety of creation and all of history we find God in search for man.8 They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day … 9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, 'Where are you?' (Gen 3:8-9)
- Job knew that God was pursuing him and longing for communion with him. Amidst the most terrible hardships, forsaken and doomed even by his closest friends, in severe pain and despair and about to give up, wondering why God wouldn't break in and save him, he recalled that there was more than His reaching out to God: it's God reaching out to him. Job's last resort was reminding God of His pursuit of him. He was crying: "Lord, I know You are seeking communion with me. When You let me die, I won't be there to give it to You anymore. Your reaching out to me will be unanswered." Job found hope in God's pursuit of him in the midst of troubles.21 Why then do You not pardon my transgression and take away my iniquity? For now I will lie down in the dust; and You will seek me, but I will not be. (Job 7:21)
- In His Word, God made it clear for all eternity that He is not a stoic god who waits impatiently at a far distance, tapping His feet until we draw near to Him. He is the One reaching out for us, He is the One going on a quest for the human heart. He didn't just create us and now we live on earth trying to make the best of it. He created us to be pursued by Him forever.11 For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I Myself will search for My sheep and seek them out. (Ez 34:11)
- The cry within Jesus' heart in the garden of Gethsemane before His crucifixion was the nearness of the ones He loved. His sacrifice was driven and His obedience motivated by His longing for the human heart. In one of the hardest and most challenging moments of Jesus' earthly life, His heart was consumed with the desire that we would be close to Him forever. That was the cry of the Man of Nazareth that pierced through the dark night of Gethsemane: "Father, I desire them!"24 Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am … (John 17:24)
The Mystery That God Desires Us
- The Bible tells us of a mystery that exceeds understanding, that logic can't explain and minds will never fully grasp. Something that can be experienced but never adequately put into words without robbing it of its very essence and impact on the human heart. It's the mystery that God desires human beings.
- How is it possible that at the core of the completely self-sufficient, eternally happy and completely satisfied God we find the all-consuming flames of desire for His creation? How is it possible that the God of all creation that is left unimpressed by the immense powers at work in the galaxies and the entire universe could be moved by a single human being – something so insignificantly small in comparison to the entirety of creation? How is it possible that His heart is moved by us and He finds pleasure in something like us (Ps 149:4; Isa 65:19; Zeph 3:17)?
- And how is it possible that He would choose something so weak, broken and imperfect as the object of His pleasure? No other book in all of history has given a clearer account on the utter depravity of man. Yet it's the same Book that tells us we are the delight of the Holiest being of all. We are told that we are dark, yet lovely (Song 1:5), we are told that we are sinful and gone astray (Rom 3:23), yet we are called the pearl of great price (Mt 13:45).
- As the One who enjoys the infinite abundance of heaven and perfect satisfaction within Himself, why would He even care about me? Why would He put so much effort into my heart? Why does He desire me, so totally insignificant in comparison to His endless glory and infinite worthiness? Eternity is too short to fully grasp this mystery.
- It's completely incomprehensible to me that I am found precious in His eyes (Isa 43:4), that He is concerned about me (Job 7:17), that the Omniscient searches me and knows me (Ps 139:1) and is intimately acquainted with all my ways (Ps 139:3). The more I ponder it, the more unfathomable it seems to become that I'm to Him the apple of His eye (Zech 2:8) and that His desire is for me (John 17:24; Song 7:10). Yet it fills me with awe and my heart with love. Oh Lord, what is man that You are mindful of him? (Ps 8:4)
- We have yet to grasp the intensity of God's desire for us. In the eyes of God we are the precious pearl and somehow worth enough to sell everything for in order to get it, worth so much to Him that He would give all, even His life, to obtain it, so precious that the Everlasting would embark on such a vehement pursuit for the hearts of the ones He created.
Jesus, The Wooing Bridegroom
- As if this were not enough, God goes on to reveal Himself as a loving, wooing and jealous Bridegroom and compares us to a cherished Bride throughout Scripture (e. g. Hos 1-3; Isa 54,5-10; 62:4-5; Jer 2-3; 31:31-34; Ez 16:8-14; Mt 9:15; 22:1-14; 25:1-13; John 3:29; 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-32; Rev 19:7,9; 21:9; 22:17). He doesn't only pursue us, He pursues us as a bridegroom pursues his bride that has completely captivated his heart. He doesn't only desire us, He desires us as passionately as a bridegroom desires his bride. Jesus compared Himself with a bridegroom because life has no better picture to offer to express this deep and passionate longing He has for us and this most intimate relationship He is after.5 For your husband is your Maker … (Isa 54:5)5 … as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so your God will rejoice over you. (Isa 62:5)
- That God pursues us means that He is actively reaching out for us, that He is pulling the strings in our lives and hearts to win us over, that He is doing things in and around us to get our attention and make us fall in love with Him. God doesn't just answer when we call. He is taking the initiative. He is not only seeking, hoping to somehow get the love of His creation – He Himself is working for it, actively pursuing and drawing us to win the hearts of man.14 Therefore, behold, I will allure her, bring her into the wilderness and speak kindly to her. … 16 It will come about in that day, declares the Lord, that you will call Me 'my husband' … 20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord. (Hos 2:14,16,20)
- There are countless examples in Scripture where we find God reaching out to people, wooing their hearts, making them His: be it Abraham, be it Moses, be it Elijah, the whole nation of Israel (Deut 7:7) or the disciples to which a simple “follow Me” from the lips of Jesus was so enticing that they instantaneously left behind everything to become one of His. In all these occurrences, He took the initiative. It was God's desire at work, His wooing that drew people to Him.8 Then I passed by you and saw you, and behold, you were at the time for love; so I spread My skirt over you and covered your nakedness. I also swore to you and entered into a covenant with you so that you became Mine, declares the Lord. (Ez 16:8)
- God has taken upon Himself the task to woo us into a love relationship with Him, win our hearts and make us His forever. He doesn't only receive those who come to Him, He even is actively reaching out for them. One of the beautiful truths of the Bible is that it's always been God reaching out to man, not man reaching out to God. Our reaching back is just a response to His pursuit. Following Jesus is actually nothing else than being drawn by Him.3 … I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness. (Jer 31:3)32 And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself. (John 12:32)16 You did not choose Me but I chose you … (John 15:16)44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him … (John 6:44)19 We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
- God draws and woos us because He is jealous for our love (Ex 20:5; 34:14; Deut 4:24; Song 8:6). That is a huge biblical statement. You only get jealous over things that really mean a lot to you. As a husband wants the unshared commitment of his bride, so does God.3 You shall have no other gods before Me. … 5 You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God … (Ex 20:3,5)
- The parables of Jesus mentioned above don't just show that God is seeking, they also stress the immense effort He puts into the quest, His persistence and readiness to sacrifice extravagantly for what He is looking. In His jealousy He is a fierce warrior fighting over our hearts and He won't stop until they are wholly His. We find God as a jealous Bridegroom who will go to great lengths to win the love of the ones He desires.
- In the incarnation and crucifixion of Jesus we see how relentless He is in His pursuit for the human heart. Jesus willingly died through the hands of His creation to show us how far His love would go. Once and for all He proclaimed that He'll stop at nothing, that no effort and no price is too high to win our hearts. In all of history, man has never seen a pursuit more tenacious than this.
- Too little have we thought of His love, too little of His commitment to us, too little of His pursuit. His desire for us is not a neat theological concept. It's a raging torrent, an eternal, unquenchable infernal within the heart of God, more demanding than the grave (Song 8:6-7). It's His ardent desire and affection for His creation. His wooing isn't just a neat idea, it's a fierce and demanding reality. He is an all-consuming fire (Hebr 12:29) burning with holy jealousy and going to great lengths for the love of His creation. We have yet to grasp the measure, depth and intensity of the love that gave all for us.
God's Desire: Man's Pursuit Of God
- God is pursuing us. He is actively, patiently and passionately wooing our hearts. And He is driven by this one desire: to find people who would respond to His pursuit and seek Him back. The eyes of the Lord are attentively and incessantly scanning the earth to find these men and women who understand that He longs for intimacy with human beings and who would long for intimacy with Him. The divine Husband is seeking a like-minded bride who would care as much about His heart as He cares about hers.2 The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. (Ps 14:2)
- The interplay of these two pursuits – His and ours – is beautifully illustrated in the two parables of Mt 13:44-46. He is the treasure, we are the pearl of great price. He gave everything to acquire the pearl. Now He is looking for people who would give everything for God, the most precious treasure.
- Seeking God means letting my yearning heart meet His yearning heart. It's a beautiful interaction between two lovers. I don't reach out to get His attention or win His affection. I reach out to meet His loving gaze. I don't seek Him to stir His heart, I seek Him to encounter His passion for me that's already burning in His heart.
- It's stunning how approachable God makes Himself. He is not hiding somewhere, concealing Himself from mankind. He hasn't made it difficult or complicated to find Him. It's not a special privilege reserved for only a few select. He wants to be found, He wants to be known.6 Therefore My people shall know My name; therefore in that day I am the one who is speaking, 'Here I am.' (Isa 52:6)13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, declares the Lord … (Jer 29:13-14)
- Responding to God's pursuit of us by pursuing Him back is the purpose of life. This is what He created us for. This is the reason for our existence. Every detail of our lives He designed with the sole intention that we would seek Him, reach out for Him, and find Him. Meaning, fulfillment and highest exhilaration in life are found in this.26 And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, 27 that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)3 This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
- God is love (1 John 4:16). Before the foundation of the earth, God has longed for a passionate, holy and eternal love story with human beings. We were designed for love and love alone. This is why we exist. This is what everything comes down to (Mt 22:37,39). A passionate love response to His pursuit is the beauty that He desires (Ps 45:10-11), something He can't take His eyes off (Ps 14:2; 34:15; Song 6:5). He wanted a bride that would leave everything for love and utterly cling to her Beloved (Ps 45:10-11; Eph 5:31-32; Song 8:5).
- God is reaching out for us, yet so few respond to His wooing. He is calling for us, yet so few answer. God's heart aches over the neglect of His creation. When David became aware of God's pursuit of him, he made it his resolve to respond to it wholeheartedly. In Ps 27:8 we see two longing hearts meet. Even today God's heart cry echoes throughout the earth: 'Seek My face!' I just can't imagine the longing behind those words. Who will respond to them as David did?2 Why was there no man when I came? When I called, why was there none to answer? … (Isa 50:2)8 When You said, 'Seek My face,' my heart said to You, 'Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.' (Ps 27:8)
Finding Comfort When Our Pursuit Weakens
- At the core of all of creation lays God's dream of a mutual pursuit between God and man. At the very core of every born-again believer is the desire to be loved by God and to love Him back (Deut 30:6; Ez 36:26). This is why He created us, why He saved us and why we exist. The eyes of the Lord are seeking for people who are fully committed to Him, and many of us really want to be this kind of person in His eyes. We want to be wholehearted lovers of God, pursue Him with all that we are and have. Yet so often we find ourselves lacking behind right here.
- There are times in which I become painfully aware of the weakness of my pursuit of God. Times when I realize that my love for God and the intensity with which I reach out for His heart aren't what they used to be. Most of us do from time to time. Pursuing God is a lifelong journey and there are ups and downs in the process. The human heart is frail and it's so easy to get distracted, grow dull and get too caught up in other things that we lose sight of what we are here for. We have to continually and consciously realign ourselves to the pursuit of God. That's what the journey is about, and the realigning itself He counts as love. Being deeply troubled with our dullness is actually an indicator that we love – because we actually care about how much we want Him. There are many people who don't bother at all, many Christians who don't even realize their lack of love.
- God sees our heart (1 Sam 16:7), He sees the hidden feelings and movements of our hearts that aren't evident yet in the way we live. God knows who we are, He knows our frame (Ps 103:14). He is aware of our weaknesses and limitations and the frailty of our heart. He knew it all along. Jesus isn't shocked by our weaknesses. He knew them before He created us, He was completely aware of all future shortcomings when He called us and still made us His own.14 For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust. (Ps 103:14)
- He was pursuing us before we ever responded to Him, when we lived in rebellion to Him (Rom 5:8). He has been the jealous, wooing Bridegroom all along. In His jealousy, He won't relent, even in times when our response feels weak because He never gave up before. He still pursues us even when we fail to adequately seek Him back.
- Our pursuit of Him will sensitize and tenderize our hearts to feel and experience more of His pursuit (Jer 29:13-14). Therefore it's really important. But the strength, measure and persistence in our seeking don't change anything about His seeking for us. Yes, it is about our love, but not because of it.
- It's actually in the midst of barrenness that He declared Himself our Husband. When we feel unworthy, He even more declares His love and desire for intimacy with us. Every single time God revealed Himself as a Bridegroom or Husband in the Old Testament, the nation of Israel lived in ongoing rebellion and idolatry. How much more will He be true to these words when spoken to people who desire to love Him back even though they fail at times!1 Shout for joy, O barren one … 4 Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced … 5 For your husband is your Maker, whose name is the Lord of hosts … 10 For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake, but My lovingkindness will not be removed from you, and My covenant of peace will not be shaken, says the Lord who has compassion on you. (Isa 54:1,4-5,10)
- One of the glorious truths is that even our weak pursuit of Him actually moves His heart. Love offered, no matter how small, really touches Him. A single glance of our eyes, a short whispered prayer, weak response to His calling, a short "I still love You" actually ravishes His heart. Even in times when we are troubled about the smallness of our response to Him, God delights in our weak reaching out for Him.9 You have made My heart beat faster, My sister, My bride; you have made My heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes … (Song 4:9)
- We can find comfort in the fact that the divine love story always started with God's pursuit of man. He has been the wooing Bridegroom all along. My love originated in His. My heart was stirred because His heart went out to me in love first. His pursuit of me is the foundation for my pursuit of Him. His love for me awakened love in my heart for Him, and it will do the same today. For affection to grow in my heart, all I have to do is to return to His love for me and let Him pursue me even now. God wants us to have confidence in His love for us because He knows it will stir the same in us as we set our hearts to seek Him back with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.19 We love, because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)
- He has betrothed Himself to us in faithfulness. He is the author and perfecter of faith (Hebr 12:2), the jealous Bridegroom, the faithful Friend. He is after our hearts in faithfulness and with utter tenacity. God actually prophesied that this faithfulness would break our hearts and cause us to intimately know Him. Eventually, encountering His utter commitment to us will inspire, motivate and fuel our commitment to Him.19 I will betroth you to Me forever … 20 And I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness. Then you will know the Lord. (Hos 2:19-20)
- Pursuing us isn't something He unfortunately has to do. It's something He chose to do. It's something He loves to do. He wasn't like 'Well, they sinned, now I gotta play the bridegroom-role, I guess.' It's how He designed the storyline of creation, it's how He wanted it. We are not a pain to God, we are a glorious conquest. Jesus is confident in His ability to woo our hearts. He takes delight in the power of His love that is capable of conquering even the hardest of hearts. And He is glorified by displaying the utter pervasiveness of His love in our lives. Our weakness is His chance to show off, our growing love for Him His reward.
- When our pursuit weakens, when we fail and grow weary, we can find hope in this: that He is greater than our heart (1 John 3:20), that the flame of affection in His heart is as strong as death and as demanding as the grave (Song 8:6), that the intensity of His love is independent from ours (Rom 5:8). When we're confronted with the weakness of our pursuit, we can find comfort in the tenacity of His. In desire He is reaching out for us, in jealousy He is fighting for all of our heart, in faithfulness He doesn't relent when we fail to respond. He will go to great lengths to win our heart. He is the wooing Bridegroom, we are the wooed bride.
- "When your strength fails, when you're painfully confronted with the weakness of your pursuit, lean on Me (Song 8:5), let Me carry you. I'm in pursuit of You, even now. Find comfort and strength in my pursuit. I know how to woo your heart. I know how to awaken love again."
- "I'll let You have me. Do whatever You have to do to awaken love in me, to make me Yours completely. Claim my heart, win my love, conquer all of me, it's Yours anyway. Be my jealous, relentless, tenacious, passionate, wooing, pursuing Bridegroom – every step of the way."