What Does It Mean to "Seek the Lord"?
- John Piper Desiring God
- 2014 3 Dec
Seeking the Lord means seeking his presence. “Presence” is a common translation of the Hebrew word “face.” Literally, we are to seek his “face.” But this is the Hebraic way of having access to God. To be before his face is to be in his presence.
But aren't his children always in his presence? Yes and no. Yes in two senses: First, in the sense that God is omnipresent and therefore always near everything and everyone. He holds everything in being. His power is ever-present in sustaining and governing all things.
And second, yes, he is always present with his children in the sense of his covenant commitment to always stand by us and work for us and turn everything for our good. “Behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
But there is a sense in which God’s presence is not with us always. For this reason, the Bible repeatedly calls us to “seek the Lord... seek his presence continually.” God’s manifest, conscious, trusted presence is not our constant experience. There are seasons when we become neglectful of the Lord and give him no thought and do not put trust in him and we find him “unmanifested”—that is, unperceived as great and beautiful and valuable by the eyes of our hearts.
His face—the brightness of his personal character—is hidden behind the curtain of our carnal desires. This condition is always ready to overtake us. That is why we are told to “seek his presence continually.” God calls us to enjoy continual consciousness of his supreme greatness and beauty and worth.
This happens through “seeking.” Continual seeking. But what does that mean practically? Both the Old and New Testaments say it is a “setting of the mind and heart” on God. It is the conscious fixing or focusing of our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on God.
“Now set your mind and heart to seek the Lord your God.” (1 Chronicles 22:19)
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-2)
This setting of the mind is the opposite of mental coasting. It is a conscious choice to direct the heart toward God. This is what Paul prays for the church: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5). It is a conscious effort on our part. But that effort to seek God is a gift from God.
We do not make this mental and emotional effort to seek God because he is lost. That’s why we would seek a coin or a sheep. But God is not lost. Nevertheless, there is always something through which or around which we must go to meet him consciously. This going through or around is what seeking is. He is often hidden. Veiled. We must go through mediators and around obstacles.
The heavens are telling the glory of God. So we can seek him through that. He reveals himself in his word. So we can seek him through that. He shows himself to us in the evidences of grace in other people. So we can seek him through that. The seeking is the conscious effort to get through the natural means to God himself—to constantly set our minds toward God in all our experiences, to direct our minds and hearts toward him through the means of his revelation. This is what seeking God means.
And there are endless obstacles that we must get around in order to see him clearly, and so that we can be in the light of his presence. We must flee every spiritually dulling activity. We must run from it and get around it. It is blocking our way.
We know what makes us vitally sensitive to God’s appearances in the world and in the word. And we know what dulls us and blinds us and makes us not even want to seek him. These things we must move away from and go around if we would see God. That is what seeking God involves.
And as we direct our minds and hearts Godward in all our experiences, we cry out to him. This too is what seeking him means.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6)
“If you will seek God and plead with the Almighty for mercy...” (Job 8:5)
Seeking involves calling and pleading. O Lord, open my eyes. O Lord, pull back the curtain of my own blindness. Lord, have mercy and reveal yourself. I long to see your face.
The great obstacle to seeking the Lord is pride. “In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him” (Psalms 10:4). Therefore, humility is essential to seeking the Lord.
The great promise to those who seek the Lord is that he will be found. “If you seek him, he will be found by you” (1 Chronicles 28:9). And when he is found, there is great reward. “Whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). God himself is our greatest reward. And when we have him, we have everything. Therefore, “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!”
By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org