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Following Close Behind

Follow the Leader

by Dennis Pollock

When it comes to God, people generally hold attitudes that fall into one of four categories. Some are openly hostile to God. They do not want to talk about Him, hear about Him or think about Him. Their contempt for all things related to God shows clearly on their faces the moment the subject is brought up. Another group are those who are simply indifferent. If you try to talk to them about God and Christ, they are not likely to get angry – they’re more likely to yawn or exhibit that glassy stare that shouts loudly of boredom. They will admit to the possibility and even probability of God, but in their minds He is essentially irrelevant and unnecessary. They are getting along quite nicely on their own, thank you very much!

A third group is comprised of those who strongly believe in God and show a definite respect for Him. They are not likely to take His name in vain, they may attend church, and they wouldn’t think of standing in open opposition to the fundamental truths of the Scriptures. They make an effort to live morally and try to avoid the big sins. They don’t pray or read the Bible much, and if the truth be told, they really find very little pleasure in church or sermons or worship, but they are not about to admit that. The fourth and final category are those who simply find God fascinating. And not only God, but His word, His ways, His Son Jesus Christ, the church, sermons, and nearly everything related to God are objects of interest and delight to these people. And they pray! They actually talk to God throughout the day, not because that is what they are supposed to do but because somehow praying has become as natural to them as eating and drinking. In their minds it would be unthinkable not to pray.

Of these four categories, only one is acceptable and pleasing to God. As you might guess, it is the fourth one, made up of those who find God and His Son powerfully attractive and entirely captivating. One might suppose that the third group, those who show respect for God and live essentially upright lives, might be accepted as well, but in truth it is not so. There are many people who we respect but we do not know. We have read about them; we have seen them interviewed on television; we admire their courage or their accomplishments or their abilities. Chances are we will go through our lives never even seeing them in person or having any conversation with them at all. We respect them, we admire them, we esteem them, we appreciate them. But we do not know them.

Religion without Relationship

Many people are this way toward their Creator. They may have religion, but they have no relationship. There is no warm fellowship, there are no gushing feelings, they never experience powerful urges to pray or worship God. They can go weeks on end without ever touching a Bible and never feel that dryness or emptiness that should be the case, because they have never known anything different. For them, dryness and spiritual emptiness are normal – so normal that they do not even realize how dry and empty they are, and they just assume that everybody feels the same way that they do.

As you read the Old Testament, it is clear that this was the case for most of the Israelites, apart from the prophets, certain kings, and a few specially chosen instruments of God. But God was determined to change this and declared that the day would come when He would make a New Covenant with His people. Jeremiah prophesied:

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. (Jeremiah 31:33, 34)

God declares, “For all shall know Me…” Not just a few select prophets like Moses, Samuel, and Isaiah, but every single individual that makes up a part of this blessed New Covenant family. All will be “Category Four” people. All will find God irresistible, all will pray, all will love His word, all will be mysteriously drawn to fellowship with their Creator, not as though they were performing some distasteful duty, but who will count their walk with God the greatest privilege of their lives.

David, God-Seeker

Of all the Old Testament prophets and kings, David appears to be ultimate prototype of this joyful, warm, rich walk with God. He not only sought to please God, but he found God incredibly appealing. In reading the beautiful psalms he composed, we find that this man never seemed to get enough of God. The words that came from his pen and from his heart went far beyond anything we ever read from Moses or any of the prophets. In one Psalm David declares:

One thing I have desired of the LORD, that will I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in His temple. (Psalm 27:4)

These are not the words of a religious man; these are the words of a passionate lover, one consumed with the object of his love. In David’s case, this was God. No wonder God told Samuel, “I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will” (Acts 13:22).

One of David’s psalms which so beautifully expresses this longing for God is Psalm 63. In this short psalm David lays bare his heart’s desire to experience God and walk in fellowship with Him. David wastes no time in getting to the heart of the matter, declaring: “O GOD, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1).

This is the language of love, this is the language of passion, this is the language of a God-seeker and a God-lover. Clearly this is not the natural attitude of men and women toward God. We come into this world with many passions and appetites. We hunger for acceptance; we hunger for food; we hunger for love; we hunger for sex; we hunger for power. But people do not normally and naturally hunger for God this way. God is too distant; God is too big, too demanding, too scary, so unlike we sinning, sweating, impatient, easily-irritated mortals that we hardly know how to relate to him at all – at least not until our hearts have been transformed by grace.

From That Day Forward…

David anointedDavid was not a New Testament Christian. He had not been born again. He knew nothing about Jesus and had never read the epistles of Paul, since Paul would not be born for hundreds of years. But somehow the presence of God had given this unusual man a heart that longed for interaction with God. In another psalm he would write, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1). What was it that made David so different, so far beyond the average man of his day in spiritual passion?

If we study his life carefully we find a clue in his early days. It was that dramatic day when the prophet Samuel visited his family and had all of Jesse’s sons pass before him. God had told the old prophet that the next king of Israel would be found among these brothers. David was a bit late in arriving, but when he finally showed up the Lord showed the prophet that here was indeed the next king of Israel. Samuel responded by pouring oil on the young man’s head and the Bible tells us, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward” (1 Samuel 16:13).  Wow! Despite the fact that Jesus had not yet appeared, despite David’s Old Testament status, despite the fact that he had no New Testament to read, no church to attend, and no home Bible studies on weeknights, still David experienced a heavy and thorough anointing of the Holy Spirit, and that anointing was with him all the days of his life.

It was the Spirit of God that produced this longing for God. It was not that David was naturally religious or had some religious gene in his DNA. David was a man filled with the Holy Spirit, and had been given that priceless gift which is given to every person today who truly puts their faith in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord – a heart that delighted in God. In Psalm 63 David goes on to say, “Because Your lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise You. Thus I will I bless You while I live; I will lift up my hands in Your name… and my mouth shall praise You with joyful lips.”

Following Closely

People who have never tasted this white-hot spiritual passion might assume that this is nothing more than a bit of religious hyperbole – David is writing these things using a significant measure of literary license, but he surely doesn’t really feel this way. But this was no hyperbole – this was a man whom the Holy Spirit came upon abundantly and often. He was a worshiper. He talked to God, he pleaded with God, he praised God, he thanked God. Communicating with his Creator was a normal part of his life. He danced before God, he talked to God with his hands extended toward the heavens, he wrote songs to God. He was, in a sense, incurably obsessed with God. If things went badly for him, he talked to God about it, wondering what he had done to displease Him. If things were going well, he praised God and wrote poems and songs about it.

Perhaps the heart of his attitude is expressed in his declaration: “My soul follows close behind You” (Psalm 63:8). It was unthinkable to David to allow God to get too far out of his field of vision. Wherever God was going, David wanted to go. Whatever speed God was traveling, David adjusted his speed to match God’s. This was for his safety, of course, but it was also a reflection of his love for God. He wanted to be where God was: “My soul follows close behind You.”

Considering David’s love for God, if we didn’t know any better, we might assume he was some king of a monk, who spent his days praying, meditating, lighting candles, and chanting. Nothing could be further from the truth. David was a king and a warrior who faced down giants and annihilated enemy armies. As a shepherd he had defended his sheep by killing lions and bears. When King Saul asked for 100 dead Philistines as dowry for his daughter Michael, David went out and killed 200. Anyone who assumes that masculinity and a love for God are incompatible knows little about either manliness or God.

Circumcised Hearts

David was surely an exceptional man, but his love for God should not be considered unusual among those who have tasted the grace of Jesus Christ. This love for God and the love of God are free gifts given to every man, woman, youth, or child who receives Jesus Christ by faith. The Bible tells us, “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Romans 5:5). Long before the New Testament era, Moses had prophesied of a heart surgery that was to come, saying, “And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live” (Deuteronomy 30:6). This is what Jesus offers to all through His sacrificial death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

Like David of old, we too can love God and delight ourselves in Him, not by making grim vows to feel a certain emotion, but by putting our faith in God’s only begotten Son. Through faith in Jesus we receive, not only eternal life, but also the indwelling Spirit, who pours out the love of God and a love for God in our hearts. And we shall say of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd, “My soul follows close behind You.”


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