It seems to me that we live (or at least I live) not in a dry and parched land, but in a swamp, a swamp near a sewage treatment facility where filthy water leaks into the soil. There is water, but it is not drinkable, so people choose to slake their thirst with other liquids (particularly alcohol, aptly called “spirits” because of its accompanying surrogate spiritual feeling).
Many, like me, just don’t feel the need to drink much water at all. I’m satisfied with coffee. This is why I get headaches, I think. I’m depriving my brain of needed water and electrolytes. Now, applying this to our spiritual condition I’d say that if the water is Your written Word, then it is brackish and polluted because of how it has been handled by today’s Scribes. There is too much built-in interpretation, beginning with the more contemporary translations and continuing with the way it is taught in books and sermons. Celebrity Pastors write books to their audience. These works may contain truth but may also be perverted by the motive behind their writing: to sell books. The Word is politicized, both by Conservatives and Progressives, who find their viewpoint authenticated by carefully choosing verses that appear to do that.
The Word is also prepackaged by teachers with a particular doctrinal or theological viewpoint, such as Calvinism or Dispensationalism. Who reads it with an honest heart, a desire like that spoken in the Psalm above? The trouble is a double mind. There is an apparent desire to learn from the Bible, perhaps even a stated intention to seek You, but the heart is deceitful, even wicked. So, duplicity dictates the rationale and the outcome of reading the Bible, and Your Spirit is ignored or absent because of active sin in the heart of the putative seeker. We’re looking for something for ourselves, instead of seeking You like the Psalmist.
However, the most common reason for the swamp where we live is the proliferation of alternate ideologies with their competing messages. Some would appeal to the Bible as another religious work that has something so say. Increasing numbers are forsaking the Bible and its God altogether, espousing atheism and evolution, humanism and postmodernism. Polluted water floods the plain and creates the swamp. This is a bog where hideous plants grow and nothing is healthy, not even the stinking air we must breath.
“The Word is living and active,” so we aren’t merely dealing with the Bible, but the very Word of God, which is the written word incarnated in the Son of God and continued in His body the church. The church is without power because it is without Your Spirit. The church is deceived because it is self-seeking, rather than God-seeking. In the verse above the Psalmist seeks you in a dry and weary land where there is no water. We are not seeking You because we believe we have You, but what we may possess is a surrogate, an image of You in our minds. Rather than seeking You in the Bible, we seek helpful tips on living our selfish little lives. We seek our own glory, to build our own kingdoms, to prosper and be in health, to extend our territory, to build our brand. Self has replaced You and that’s just exactly what Your enemy planned.
I must begin by denying myself and forsaking self-love. I receive Your love for me, and choose to take up my cross and follow Jesus.”Know thyself” is not the solution but the problem. Cease self-seeking altogether. Know the Lord. Help me to escape the Slough of Despond, this bog of postmodern story. Wash me with clean water. Put me on the narrow path, the highway of holiness, and lead me to higher ground, apart from the filth of the world. Give me pure water to drink, Your Spirit and Your Word.