Not long ago I read of a well-known actress who said that when she wasn’t acting, she really had no purpose in life. She said she just about went crazy because she nothing to do, and she said, “Thank God for … the New York Times crossword puzzle and American Idol.” You know, I feel sorry for someone who doesn’t have more than the daily crossword puzzle and television to live for every day. What real meaning is there in a life like that? But even if we shake our heads at that, if the truth be known, many of us here are not living for much more than that — living for a paycheck, or to play video games, or for some hobby or activity that won’t make a difference in eternity. The good news is, God DID make you for something more than that — something that will both challenge you, and satisfy you, forever without end. And we see a glimpse of that here in our verse for this morning:
“So let us know, let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”
I. The Encouragement We Give Each Other
As we begin to look at this verse this morning, I don’t want us to miss something very important here — and some of us really need to hear this — and that is the encouragement we can give each other to seek the Lord. This verse begins, “So let US know … Let US press on to know the Lord.” TWO times there we have this emphasis on “us”; “let us”. This is not just one person saying, “I am going to seek the Lord.” No, it is a GROUP of people, who are encouraging each other, by saying to each other, “Let US seek the Lord!”
There is strength to be found in encouraging each other in godliness. Throughout the Bible we find example of how God’s people encouraged each other in their walk with God:
One of my favorite examples is found in I Samuel 14, when Israel was at war with the Philistines, and the battle lines were drawn up facing each other, and you had to cross a pass to get over to the other side. Verse 6 says: “Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, ‘Come and let us cross over to the garrison of those uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not constrained to save by many or by few.” I LOVE that verse, especially the courage of Jonathan, and how he believed that God could do something impactful with just two men. A lot of times we think we have to get a big crowd together to do something impactful for the Kingdom. But here he says: “God is not constrained to save by many or by few” — in other words God can use a small group — even 2 or 3 — like Jonathan and his armor bearer – or like a few of us who decide to pray and seek the Lord and do something! I love that; remember it: “God is not constrained to save by many or by few.” It’s not the number; it’s the heart!
But the main point here is that when Jonathan said, “Come and let us cross over”, he was stepping up to a challenge of something he felt God was asking him to do. Notice the response of his armor bearer in :7, “Do all that is in your heart; turn yourself, and here I am with you according to all your desire.” In other words, “I’m with you; let’s go!” It was just like Proverbs says: “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” They encouraged each other to do something great for the Lord — and as the story unfolds, they DID!
This is just one example in scripture of how we can encourage each other. And that is why God repeatedly commands us in His word to be faithful in fellowship with each other, so we can encourage each other. Hebrews 10:24-25 says: “Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, NOT forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” This verse is often quoted about the importance of being faithful in church attendance, but it also specifically says WHY we shouldn’t miss fellowship: because of the importance of the ENCOURAGEMENT that we can get from one another in the church.
I love Ted Wacaster’s heart. He is an encouragement to me in many ways. Hearing his testimony today has encouraged us ALL to be obedient to the Lord in His word. But he is also an encouragement to me personally. Virtually every week he will tell me how the message I shared spoke to his heart in some way. In deacons meeting the other night he said something about how the Lord has been using my messages to challenge us to pray. I am grateful for Ted’s ministry of encouragement. God is using him to encourage me to be faithful and strong in my preaching & teaching.
And I think of David Morgan last week, who came forward at the invitation to encourage everyone to pray for our country. After his exhortation, probably half our church came forward to pray. Most of us know we probably should have done that anyway — but God used David to challenge many of us to do the right thing, and we did. I think it was one of the sweetest times we have experienced as a church, as we all responded to the Lord and filled this altar with prayer.
The other day I was reading the testimony of a Christian person who said that they had been involved in a particular sin, and they were keeping it secret from everyone, and it had a strong hold on them. But once they confessed it, and shared it with some other Christians who prayed for them and held them accountable, they said it was like the “chains were broken”. There is power in getting prayer and encouragement from other believers.
These are the kinds of things that God wants to happen in the church: He wants us to encourage each other in His ways. We each NEED that encouragement. That is why God said “DO NOT FORSAKE your assembling together.” Basically that means: “Don’t miss church!” You need it! You need the encouragement — and others need YOUR encouragement!
It’s one of the reasons why our Sunday School small groups are important. Listen, we have focused on discipleship, and prayer, and the new members class, and some other very important things over my first year here, and I am glad that we have done that; I think those things have been needed. But as a result we have not focused as much attention on something that I usually emphasize, and that is our Sunday School class/small group ministry. Folks, being in a small group should not be considered an option. Coming to worship services is important, but it is in the small group where you really get to know people, share your needs, learn how you can pray for others; be accountable, and share your heart.
We are going to be emphasizing our small group/Sunday School classes more in the days ahead, and I encourage each of you to get in one if you are not already. And if you are enrolled in one, but are not faithful — it is time to get back in! You need that encouragement and accountability, and the people in your class need that from YOU!
This is why some of us here today need to make the commitment to join a church … you need the encouragement and accountability that you can only get from a personal commitment to a local church.
All of this to say, that we need to pick up on the spirit of this verse, which says, “LET US know .. LET US press on …” — there is a power in our relationship with others in the church that we need to be sure that we do not neglect. Join a church; be faithful in services; get involved in a small group. Be encouraged by God’s people — and BE an encourager of others to press on in the things of God! “LET US PRESS ON” this verse challenges us!
II. The Goal You Were Created For
So what are we to use this mutual encouragement to do? What is our goal? This verse tells us: “Let us press in TO KNOW THE LORD.” That is our goal. The goal of the life of every person God has created is to KNOW HIM.
You know, whenever you are in any endeavor, you need to know what the goal is. Our family has been playing a great board game, called “Settlers of Catan”. We need to have some of y’all over to play it soon. We learned it from my sister Erin, who told us that a lot of our missionaries play it. I like to say it is like a mix of Risk & Monopoly; you get wood and bricks and other resources, and you can use them or trade them to build settlements, and cities, and ports and roads. The goal of the game is to get 10 points to win. But if don’t watch out, you can focus on trading, or keeping the longest road, or whatever — and forget that NONE of the those things is really the point of the game: getting 10 points is.
Now I say all that to say that LIFE is much the same way. God has told us in His word what the point of life is: the goal we were created for is to KNOW HIM:
— Scripture says right here: “Let us press to TO KNOW THE LORD.” That is the goal.
— Jesus said in John 17:3, “This is eternal life, that they may KNOW THEE, the only true God.”
— Paul said in Philippians 3: “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of KNOWING Christ Jesus my Lord.”
The Bible says repeatedly that THIS is the goal; THIS is what we were created for: to KNOW GOD. God made us to know Him and walk with Him in fellowship, just like Adam & Eve did in the Garden of Eden. They walked with Him the cool of the day in perfect fellowship. But they turned from God, and disobeyed Him, wanting something else — the forbidden fruit — more than they wanted Him. Their sin separated them from God, and they were cast away from His presence that they were made to enjoy and be fulfilled by. And this is what every one of us has done since then: we have ALL sinned and turned away from God, and our sin keeps us from knowing Him. Sin always puts a dark cloud between you and God. But God still loved us, and came to earth in the Person of Jesus Christ, who died on the cross and paid for our sins — NOT just so that we could be “forgiven”; NOT just so that we could “go to heaven” — but so that we could repent of our sins and come back to Him and KNOW HIM! That is what it is all about.
But just like someone playing a board game, we forget what the “game of life” is really all about. We think life is about getting a good job; or making a lot of money; or finding the “right” person we think is going to make us happy; or “getting to the top of the ladder” at the corporation; or becoming famous and “leaving our mark” — or all kinds of other things. But what we need to realize is that NONE of these things is really the goal of life. Life is about KNOWING GOD!
Jeremiah the prophet stressed this in Jeremiah 9:23-24: “Thus says the LORD: ‘Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this: that he understands and KNOWS ME …”!
THIS is the goal of life: knowing God! Even as Christians we need to remember this, and keep our eyes fixed on the goal. Don’t get distracted by other things:
— the goal of the Christian life is not just to be in church every week
— the goal of the Christian life is not just to “read your Bible”
— the goal of the Christian life is not to see how much theology you can learn
— the goal of the Christian life is not even to see how many people you can baptize, how many buildings you can build, or to “change America”!
All of these things are GOOD, and they can be a part of the goal, but we need to remember what the goal is: the goal is to KNOW HIM!
In light of that goal, would you ask yourself: “How successful am I really in my life?” Some of you here today have been pretty happy with your life, because you think you’ve done pretty good — but at the wrong things! Someone said “I don’t fear failure as much I fear succeeding at the wrong things”. That is exactly where some of you are. You are succeeding at the wrong things. You’re great at your job; you’ve got money; you’re popular; you’re in good physical condition — but the truth is, you are not succeeding at the one thing that really matters: you don’t really know God. I don’t mean that you don’t “go to church”; I don’t mean that you are not “religious”; I mean you don’t really KNOW GOD.
The cry of every one of us when we get up every morning should be this: “God, I want to KNOW YOU more today.” That is what you were made for: to KNOW HIM. How successful can you say you really are, at what you were created to do in this world?
III. The Effort It Requires
But how is this going to happen? The truth is, knowing God will not “just happen.” It takes some effort of your part, as we see in the part of the verse that says, “LET US PRESS ON to know the Lord.” “Press on” is a Hebrew word which means “to pursue” or “to chase.” The great Hebrew scholar C.F. Keil translated it “hunt after” or “strive zealously.” What this means is that if you are going to reach the goal of knowing God, it is going to require some EFFORT on your part — and in fact, it is going to require GREAT effort. You are going to have to “press on”; you are going to have to “hunt after” it; you are going to have to “strive zealously” for it!
This is almost exactly what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 3:12, “I PRESS ON (The same words we find here!) that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus (he said earlier that goal was “that I may know Him”). He goes on to say, “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I PRESS ON toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ.” TWO times here Paul says just what Hosea says here: “I PRESS ON … I PRESS ON” to the goal — and the goal is to know the Lord.
Both Hosea and Paul wrote about how it is going to take great effort, to “press on”, if we are going to know the Lord. I think it is also very revealing that the same Hebrew word used here in Hosea 6:3 is also used in Judges 8:4, where Gideon and his men, who had routed their enemies, were still pursuing them. It says they crossed over the river — “weary, yet pursuing”! I love that expression, because there are times in life when we are like Gideon & his men, “weary” — whether it is physical weariness, or mentally or emotionally spent — but despite that, you know that you’ve got your goal in sight, so you just keep pursuing — you just keep putting one foot in front of the other, “weary, yet pursuing.” It is important that THAT is the word the Bible uses here to tell us how we are to be in our pursuit of the knowledge of the Lord. We are to “press on” — even sometimes when we are “weary, yet pursuing”!
It just reminds us of the cost of really getting to know God. We are not to be content to say, “Well, I ‘made a decision’ and I got baptized, and now I know I am going to heaven; now I’ll just go live my life.” NO, that is not what God made us for. When we are saved, then the barrier is taken down between us and God, and now we have the possibility of knowing Him, so now we are to spend our lives “pressing on” and making the effort it takes to get to know Him. That effort involves:
— purifying our lives from sin, which always puts a cloud between us and God
— it involves getting up early, when we don’t always feel like it, to spend time with God in His word & prayer.
— it can involve making commitments, and taking discipleship classes like our MasterLife classes, which help you learn how to seek God. We have had dozens of our church members come through MasterLife I so far, who have given testimony that it has helped them to learn the basics of seeking Him in His word & prayer every day. We will have another MasterLife I this September when we start our new Discipleship semester — and when have finished that I am planning on doing MasterLife II for all the graduates. I hope if you have not yet had MasterLife that you would pray about making that commitment to learn some of these basics that will help you get to know the Lord.
— And beyond these kinds of things, seeking God can involve the real life effort of obeying Him by giving up things that are costly to us for the sake of knowing Him; of making sacrifices of things that are dear to us, in order to draw closer to Him.
— It can involve becoming like Him in life experiences. I just finished reading a book this week by an author who said that the Christian life involves “vulnerability and betrayal” — we leave our selves open to that, because Jesus Himself faced those things. He left Himself open; He was betrayed. God’s goal for our lives is to know Him, and sometimes that involves letting ourselves into life situations where we learn what Paul called “the fellowship of His sufferings” so that we could KNOW Him better as a result of all these experiences.
But we must “press on” — it will not be without great time and effort that we come to know the Lord. Listen to this quote by A.W. Tozer, a powerful American preacher from the 1950’s:
“In my creature impatience I am often caused to wish that there were some way to bring modern Christians into a deeper spiritual life painlessly, by short, easy lessons — but such wishes are vain. No shortcut exists. God has not bowed to our nervous haste nor embraced the methods of our machine age. It is well that we accept the hard truth now: the man who would know God must give time to Him. He must count no time wasted which is spent in the cultivation of His acquaintance. He must give himself to meditation and prayer hours on end. So did the saints of old, the glorious company of the apostles, the goodly fellowship of the prophets, and the believing members of the holy church in all generations. And so must we if we would follow in their train.” (A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of Man)
What Tozer is saying is exactly what Hosea is saying here: if we are going to make progress in our goal of knowing the Lord, we are going to have to work, we are going to have to strive, we are going to have to pursue God; we are going to have to give Him the time that it takes to know Him. There is no substitute for it. It will not “just happen” accidentally. You will never lazily and effortlessly “fall into” a greater personal knowledge of God. You will either get it by pursuing it relentlessly every day — or you will not have it at all. Hosea says here it will require effort: we must “PRESS ON to know the Lord.”
IV. The Certainty of Success
But if we will do that, God promises the certainty of success in our goal. The second part of this verse turns from the encouragement to pursue this goal of knowing God, to the promise it holds if you will do it: “His going forth is as the dawn; and He will come to us as the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” Here God gives us two illustrations in one verse, of the certainty of our success if we seek Him:
The first illustration is that it is as certain as that the morning will dawn. Now, I have noticed here in North Carolina that the weather forecasts are … let’s call them “inconsistent”? Since we’ve been here I’ve seen days where it said there was a 0% chance of rain — and it poured later in the day. And I have also seen multiple days where there was a 90% chance of rain — and we ended up with NOTHING! Now, I don’t blame the weathermen — that’s a hard thing, I would think especially with the mountains and all in play. We just don’t really know what the weather is going to do tomorrow. But one thing we DO know: if the world doesn’t end tonight; if there is a tomorrow, then one thing we know: the sun is going to come up, right? We may not know if it will be sunny, or rainy, but if there is a day, then the sun will come up. There WILL be a dawn.
And God says, that is how certain you can be, that you will find Me if you seek Me.
Then the second illustration is that of the spring rain. He says: “He will come to us as the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.” Every spring, it is going to rain. Again, we may or may not be able to prognosticate exactly when that rain is going to come, but in springtime, the rains WILL come. God promised in Genesis 8:22 after the flood, that, “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” God promised that as the long as the earth would last, we would have seasons; and we know that when spring season is here, we WILL get rain.
In the same way, then, God says if you will dedicate yourself to seeking Me, you do not have to wonder if I will meet you. He says, I WILL! You may not know exactly when, or how, but as certain as the spring rains, as certain as the sun will rise tomorrow, if you seek God you WILL find Him! He reinforces this throughout His word:
— He says in Psalm 9:10 “You O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.”
— He says in Deuteronomy 4:29, “You will seek the LORD your God, and YOU WILL FIND HIM, if you search for Him with all your heart and all your mind.”
— He says in II Chronicles 7:14 “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways — then I WILL hear from heaven; I WILL forgive their sin; I WILL heal their land.” It is not that He MIGHT, He says He WILL! It is a promise.
You can know this: if you will really seek God with your whole heart, as Hosea challenges us to do here, you are not wasting your time:
— You are not wasting your time when you get up early in the morning to seek Him in His word & prayer.
— You are not wasting your Sunday afternoon when you take that discipleship class at church in order to learn how to seek God better.
— You are not wasting your efforts when you fast to seek Him in a special way.
— You are not wasting your obedience when you purify your life from sin so that you can see Him more clearly.
— You are not wasting your sacrifice when obey God in what is to you a costly way personally
— You are not wasting your experience when you suffer to know Him in His suffering and persecution
Whatever you do to seek the Lord, you are not wasting that, because He promises here HE WILL BE FOUND BY YOU! He WILL bless you! As certainly as the sun will shine tomorrow, HE WILL COME TO YOU!
So with that promise: let us determine to DO what this verse says. Let’s take ahold of this personally, and encourage others to take hold of it with us — and invest our lives in something immeasurably more than crossword puzzles, tv, or video games:
“Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth”!