MUSINGS CONCERNING THE COMPLETE DEPENDENCE ON GOD
The Faithful Prayer of Dependence
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end. Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law; yea, I shall observe it with my whole heart. Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight. Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness. Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way. Stablish thy word unto thy servant, who is devoted to thy fear. Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good. Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.” (Psalms 119:33-40)
There are many that will confess of a desire to be taught of the Lord, without understanding that that desire is from the Lord. If one concludes that a dependence on God is the consequence of his own volition he is immensely deluded. The Psalmist grasped the full force of his impotence, and by grace was enabled to see that without the complete and continual governing of Jehovah, he was at the very best destined to failure. These revelations are gained by experience — experience that is derived from numerous turns into self-confidence. It is a faulty assessment of one’s own ability to forge a faithful path in spiritual duties without the sustaining power and grace of the Almighty Godhead. After a number of crushing disappointments in his own strength, David learned that in and of himself, he was the servant of his natural fleshly desires, even in spiritual pursuits. Therefore, he now pleads as one taught of God not to lean on the arm of his own understanding, nor to trust in his own wisdom and strength. It is after divine teaching that true wisdom takes the upper hand and implores the Lord for His strict superintendence and divine oversight of every facet of life. Teach me, give me, make me, and incline my heart to do good and be turned from evil. Turn away my eyes (for I often do not) from vanity, quicken me, establish your word in me, and turn away my reproach. Quicken me again in thy precepts and make me lively in righteousness. This was the outline and prescription the Psalmist desired to follow in a total and faithful dependence upon Jehovah his God. This is how we can judge our own standing with Jesus Christ the righteous. Do we rely on God at all times and in all situations? Is this what we in our day would consider the only correct position of faith, and the proper attitude of the redeemed?
“Most of the verses of this part of the Psalm clearly show that salvation, except by divine grace, is impossible. Man must be taught; an understanding must be given him; God must cause him to go with delight in the right way. The will must be rightly inclined; the purpose must be strengthened, as well as the eyes opened. All this is the work of the Spirit, through Jesus Christ: ‘We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true,’ 1 John 5: 20. The teaching and aid of divine grace are necessary not only at the beginning, but through the entire progress of the spiritual life.” (Psalms 119: 33-40 by William S. Plumer).
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes;” See also (verse 12) of this same Psalm. The Psalmist knew the divine perfections of God’s holy oracles. Genuine faith which is authored by Jehovah never argues with the Lord’s impeccable judgments. It does however, long for a greater and more decisive definition of the will of the Father. (verse 40). The powerless believer may very well as a result of his natural tendencies find his soul cleaving to worldly enticements and clutching to the dust (verse 25) but, the renewed inner man desires the law of God. (Romans 7: 21-25). His knowledge of hollowed statutes is limited, and he is aware that there is an ocean of holy and precious precepts to which he has only a vague and partial understanding. (1 Corinthians 13:9-12). Yet, true faith gives birth to a hunger that must be satisfied. So while his knowledge may be deemed very small and incomplete in his own estimation, it is nonetheless powerful enough to ignite a desire that honors and seeks the Lord. This is the prerequisite principle to a faithful dependence upon God. God-wrought faith will adhere to the testimonies of the Lord like an insect sticks to an adhesive piece of fly paper. The difference being that faithful trust delights in clinging to the strip of divine sovereignty, while our flesh and strong natural bend is repulsed by being held of something so infinitely glorious and holy. Grace had led the Psalmist to the infallible testimonies, and then holy mercies installed a faithful thirst for deeper and more exact understanding. “I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame. I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” (Verses 31-32).
“Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statute…” “Light will not show an object, except the faculty of sight be given. A blind man cannot see at noonday. We know nothing spiritually, except as we are taught of God. The more we are taught, the more we feel our need of teaching, and the more pressing will be our cries for this invaluable blessing.” (Psalms 119 by Charles Bridges)
There is a teaching that is essentially conviction by association. It is a manner of life that is derived by communications and surroundings. Some of these associational conforming are very attractive and humanly praiseworthy. The religious element of the Jews in the days of Christ appeared quite sacrosanct, but spiritually their religion was vain and full of hypocrisy. Regardless of their sacred appearance not all religious actions and laws are spiritual. Jesus identified this façade and condemned the wicked and heavy burdens their form of godliness laid upon struggling mankind. The Lord observed that their religious acts and motions did look good and impressive; yes, even righteous, but all this legalism was in fact rank excess and filthiness. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23:27-28) Read all of Matthew 23 for a good definition of associational convictions. This is more common and pronounced today than most are aware of, or willing to concede.
It was the religious company of strict zealots that Jesus called serpents, and a generation of vipers. (Matthew 23:23) This religious league of varmints that made new laws of pretended righteousness, and totally misused and misapplied the real and Godly spiritual ones, strapping their followers with rules that were rigorous and subjective, but were in truth nothing more than destructive convictions by association. It was a form of godliness from which true saints are commanded to turn away. (2 Timothy 3:5)
Being taught of men will give sometimes great knowledge, but when one is taught of God he receives a saving knowledge and a good understanding of that knowledge. Believers must be doers of the word and not hearers only. (Romans 2:13, James 1:22-23, 25) It is in this doing that the redeemed are convinced of their total dependence upon God. We neither have the natural inclination or ability to be followers and doers of the will of the Lord. For this reason the Psalmist declared unto the Lord that his knowledge was exceedingly defective and that he desired convictions by revelation which called for the absolute governing instructions of Jehovah. Faith will seek to abandon all confidence in the worldly knowledge and understanding, and desire to be taught solely of the Lord. None teach like the Lord teaches. We may learn many things by reading, hearing, and seeing, but unless there is Spirit-wrought convictions there will be no doing. Man can possess much of this associational and worldly wisdom, but if there is no spiritual grace with it, we have not so learned Christ. (Ephesians 4:20)
Elihu explained to Job that God is exalted by His power. Who teacheth like Him was Elihu’s rhetorical question. (Job 36:22) Isaiah proclaimed the same position when he said God will teach us His ways. The result of this teaching would be that believers would walk in His paths. (Isaiah 2:3) Jesus Christ reiterated the same teaching as the Prophets and glorified God the Father as the effectual teacher. “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” (John 6:45) The Apostle Paul said that all true teaching was learned only when one was taught by God, as the truth is in Jesus. (Ephesians 4:21) “Teach me to do thy will.” “We are to pray that God would teach us to know, and then teach us to do, His will. Knowledge without obedience is lame, obedience without knowledge is blind; and we must never hope for acceptance if we offer the blind and the lame to God.” (Vincent Alsop)
Verse 1. “..and I shall keep it unto the end.” The “I shall keep it” is contingent upon the “teach me, O LORD.” A reflection no doubt upon his earlier supplication, “O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” The enlightened servant knows that if God does not keep him in every aspect of life he will surely fall. (Jude 24) There is an evident and real trembling in the soul of those who are acquainted with their own frailty. We all have a tendency to wander, and will wander if the Lord does not deal bountifully in mercies so that we may live, and keep His word. (Psalms 119:7, 10, 17) True and honorable dependence on God depends on nothing but God. There is no self-confidence concerning one’s ability to stand firm or alone. Those servants who are taught of the Master know by spiritual revelation and personal experience that they are kept by the power of God. “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5)
All will admit that being completely dependent on someone else is a grating annoyance to the flesh, and a pride crushing humiliation to our arrogant human nature. Our natural constitution hankers and lusts to be considered somebody great by those round about us. Free from all impediments and totally independent to do just as we see fit is the longing passion of us all when left to our own blind and natural ambition. Believing faith, however, ascertains this independence is a contradiction to all things holy and good, and would flee with greater haste if not impeded by worldly aspirations. Believers cannot over emphasize or exaggerate their constant need and dependence upon God to direct their path and keep them from the pitfalls of their own earthly vehemence for independence.
If saints are taught of the Lord they will not depart from His judgments. “I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me.” (Psalms 119:102) However, we need this teaching each day least we become infatuated with our instructions, rather than influenced by our instructor. Teach me thy way O Lord, hedge me in and compass me about so that I will not give vent to the natural enmity that is still ever active within me. This was the sum of the Psalmist thinking. He knew, as all believers should, that left to ourselves, we will bring God only dishonor.
Verse 34. “Give me understanding, and I shall keep thy law.” An understanding that is from God, coupled with the Lord’s teaching is the most desirable of all conditions. It is then that the child of grace is fortified with spiritual endowments that enable him to keep God’s laws, statutes, commandments, testimonies, judgments, and precepts with his whole heart. A heart that by abundant mercy and grace has sought a haven of complete dependence upon its holy and glorious benefactor.
The ever faithful admonition, “lean not unto thine own understanding,” (Proverbs 3:5) is necessary for a truly obedient and prosperous spiritual life. This is the quintessential demand if believers are to be delivered from temptations and daily failures. Our own understanding is too friendly with the ever-present allurements and worldly charms which can easily entice our natural man and drain away the strength and beauty of spiritual resolve and desires. When believers seek to function as independent soldiers in this spiritual warfare we will be overwhelmed by the enemies’ cunning. If we do not surrender to temptation completely, there will still be enough spiritual casualties and losses to cause a great halting and impotence. This debilitating fall will remain until the child of God is once again restored by His merciful and forgiving Father. The instance of returning to one’s own understanding is a malignancy that should be recognized as incurable. Only a fool trusts in his own heart. (Proverbs 28:26) The wisest and safest course, and to be sure, the only Biblical one is to view our own understanding as a hostile and bitter enemy of that understanding that the Lord gives those who truly desire such. Let my remembrance of thee, O Lord be nurtured by thy Spirit daily, and let my own understanding be seen by me as it is by the very God, polluted, self-seeking, proud, and wretchedly bad.
In verse 34 the Psalmist said, “Give me understanding.” In verse 27 he used a stronger and seemingly more urgent behest, “Make me to understand the way of thy precepts.” Then in verse 73 he asked again that the Lord would give him an understanding that would open even greater channels of learning God’s commandments. All of these verses in effect describe a righteous posture. They show that without God’s instructive mercies the believer would be in a frightful and desperate situation. They also uncover the great need for God to grant a speedy answer to this most necessary request. These illuminating mercies are imperative if the ransomed are to live a honorable and serviceable life toward the Lord.
“The fear (reverential trust) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Proverbs 9:10) and a man of understanding has this wisdom. (Proverbs 10:23) “Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding,” (Proverbs 14:33) and this merciful gift of wisdom is always before him that has the God wrought understanding. (Proverbs 17:24) Solomon’s instructions to the redeemed are that the Lord is the giver of wisdom. This truth should be understood, that apart from God there is no real or acceptable wisdom, instruction, understanding, justice, judgment, equity, stability, discretion, learning, or counsels. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all these precious benefits. (Proverbs 1:1-7) The proverbs, however, have also additional elements that are geared to cause believers to disdain their personal human reasoning, wisdom, and understanding. They teach that to depart from the way of the Lord is foolishness. It is a turning away from, and the conscious and deliberate forsaking of mercy and truth. “Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes.” (Proverbs 3:3-7) The conclusion of the whole matter is that in correct understanding, we should hear God the Father speak, and His children should listen. “For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” (Proverbs 2:6) May God be pleased to give His people this understanding.
Verse 34. “..I shall observe it with my whole heart.” Half-hearted and lukewarm faithfulness in the service of God will never do. “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” (Revelations 3:15-16) The command of the Lord is “My son give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” (Proverbs 23:26) In order to achieve this type of observance in the laws of God, the saints surely perceive that they must beseech the Lord for that effectual teaching and understanding that will kindle the flames of affection within their heart. A teaching so powerful that it will nullify the double-hearted position we by natural inclination labor to maintain. Man, by himself, just cannot let go of his Adamic and alien desires without a thorough work of divine grace within the whole man. Our resolve to stand, all too often is quickly disappointed. For this reason, believers must understand that their natural disposition is to cleave to the world. The instability of half-hearted resolve is infectious, and the spread of it will permeate all that a man does. To know our own inability and fear personal independence is the witness of divine teaching and understanding. “A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (Proverbs 1:8) See also James 4:8.
It is the conviction of some, and rightfully so, that the commands of the Lord are not given to show forth what man can by his own efforts achieve if he does such with all his strength. For it is a daily fact that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Rom 3:23) The laws and commandments of the Lord are therefore set before the elect as admonitions and directions to seek God’s intervention and power so as to perform for them in Christ the will of the Father. There will be a crying unto God for forgiveness and redemption, but such remorse in the believer is the result of divine teaching and spiritual understanding imparted by the sovereign grace of God. “I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me.” (Psalms 57:2) Note also the dependence David placed in the Lord with regard to the power necessary to bring spiritual directives to fruition. “Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.” (Psalms 68:28)
The laws, commandments, statutes, judgments, and precepts of the Lord are most importantly revealed to show man his inability to conform to, or perform the perfect will of God. Their function is to show man his sinfulness, (Romans 3:20, 5:20, 7:9, 12-13; Galatians 1:19 & 22) then to bring him unto Christ, (Galatians 3:24) as the end of the law for righteousness, and the fulfillment of that law to everyone that believes (Romans10:4). In these verses is seen the first and second purpose of the law, and thirdly the fulfillment of that law. The first purpose of the perfect law of God, to expose sin. “…for by the law is the knowledge of sin. Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions. But the scripture hath concluded all under sin. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died…But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” (Romans 7:9-13)
The second purpose of God’s law is to bring man unto Christ. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” Thirdly, man is taught that Jesus Christ is the perfect satisfaction of the law of God. “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” (Romans 10:4)
Anyone taught of the Lord will clearly understand that if God does not supply the spiritual impetus and strength, man will miserably fail in the least of the commandments. What the holy law requires man cannot perform. This should be received as an invitation to the elect to seek God’s attributes through Christ Jesus to work in and for His people, for without him they can neither do or receive anything effectually. When, however, the elect are seen by God in Christ, all things are possible to them. “And he said, The things which are impossible with man are possible with God.” (Lk. 18:27) See also Matt. 17:10, 19:26; Mk. 10:27; Lk. 1:37. When man is in Christ and depends upon His finished work and constant leadership, the believer will do the will of God from and with his whole heart. The redeemed must first acknowledge that they are powerless, and be decisively convinced that their own understanding is of no value. Then they can be taught that there is no understanding, counsel, or power that God will withhold from them when they are completely resigned to be totally dependent on Him. O Lord, teach me thy way, give me understanding, and I shall keep it into the end, and I shall observe it with my whole heart is the teaching of Scripture.