Part One: The power of ‘baqash’
Wherever we have gone recently, we have come across people who are crying out to God in considerable confusion: “What are you doing, Lord?” What has been so striking is that it has not primarily been young believers who are saying this, but rather many of those who have been right at the spearhead of Kingdom work for many years. Obviously not everyone or every fellowship will be experiencing this, but having heard this cry from so many people it convinces me that this is a topic worth exploring in detail – and to do so with a particular emphasis on the importance of heeding David’s urging the nation in 1 Chronicles 16:11 to ‘seek the Lord and His strength, and to be constantly seeking His face.’
It was Brian Mills, an intercessory leader, who first pointed out that the Hebrew word used in that verse is baqash. There are well over 200 other occasions where it occurs in the Scriptures, and it means to ‘seek, search or enquire’ – both in the ordinary way of looking for anything from missing people (or donkeys!) right up to the whole concept of seeking the Lord Himself. Since the vast majority of you who are listening or reading this are eager to seek the Lord as to what He is saying and doing in any given situation, it is all the more important to make this concept of seeking God the bedrock of our lives at this time when the Lord is allowing so many people’s sense of direction to be deeply so unsettled, and which is causing so much insecurity in so many people’s lives.
We seek because He first sought us, (Rom. 5:5) and now, having found Him, we say with the psalmist, ‘One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek and desire (baqash) that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalm 27:4) And just think who it is that we are approaching. The thought is taken from the concept of someone seeking admission to a royal personage to ask for something. Whatever we do we must be seekers of the Lord God Almighty, who welcomes us into His courts.
The more grounded we are in the word of the Lord the easier it should be to adopt the tried and tested response of simply committing our way to the Lord, and trusting Him to work things out. Isn’t that what Scriptures such as Proverbs 16:3 and Psalm 37:3-5 encourage us to do? Others, more phlegmatically take refuge in the thought that we can never hope to fully grasp God purposes so we shouldn’t be surprised when our feelings dip and dive when enough uncertainties come our way.
After all, in all probability we will come across the prophetic word that the Lord God is sifting and shaking His people at this time. In other words that he is allowing us to be unsettled by shaking all that can be shaken. But given that that this shaking has brought many lives to what would appear to be a premature conclusion, it is no surprise that some of us struggle to see precisely how such shaking can possibly be preparing us to inherit a kingdom that cannot be shaken.
I heard the Lord add an additional word to that theme recently: that He is ‘shaking, sifting and settling His people.’ The shaking, testing and ‘examining’ is not so much an end in itself so much as a step on the way to the Lord settling us more deeply into a more secure relationship with Himself, and into the places and callings He has in mind for us.
‘When we feel as though we are fading away, and are being tossed about like someone sweeping aside a bug.’ (Ps 109:23 ERV) – Now there’s a verse you may not have noticed before, not in those words anhyway! There is a real risk though of giving in to satan’s gloom-laden assessments of matters. All the more important to hold on to the promises we find in Psalm 12:6 and Isaiah 54:10 which reassure us that, ‘The righteous will never be shaken but will be remembered forever . . . Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.’ (Ps. 112:6)
Very much as David put it when he declared, “I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken,” (Ps. 16:8-11 in the Septuagint) the whole power of the teaching about shaking in Hebrews 12 is that it points us to eternal realities, to the fact that we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken. This in turn requires us to hold a very specific attitude uppermost in our hearts, to be thankful, and to continue to worship God with reverence and awe. (see esp. Heb. 12:27-28) In other words, if God is be sifting, shaking and unsettling us, it is only so that we may have the joy of being more profoundly settled in His eternal kingdom.
In practice, some of us find it easier to ask the Lord for specific things rather than to truly seek in this way because baqash requires love and devotion as well as having particular goals as our focus – not to mention considerable courage and fortitude in the face of delays and even apparent rebuffs.
How wonderfully that determined seeker the Canaanite woman demonstrated those vital qualities. As we read in Matthew 15:23 even when her utterly serious request was met with the apparent rebuff of Jesus answering her not a word, her response was not to give up and to go away but to continue to seek Him – spunkily and robustly – until He granted her the desire of her heart to see her daughter delivered of her affliction.
Jesus’ silence was not the silence of indifference – but it may have been the subject of a conflict. As the powers of darkness pressing in on the demon-possessed daughter, Jesus would have been checking out with His Father that He had the authority to extend the blessings of faith in this way beyond his original remit to minister to the Jewish people. So much came about because this woman, whose name is not even recorded, had the courage to press in and seek the Lord so earnestly.