MUSINGS WHILE IN THE HOLD
The Faithful Prayer of Dependence (Continued)
“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.” Psalm 119:33-40)
It was the purpose and fixed conviction of the Psalmist to crucify his natural desires –desires which manifest themselves in longings for human independence. That these lustful surges were powerfully present in the author of these verses is evident by the content of his prayers and supplications. He had been taught by the Lord through the word and by his own personal experience the depth of his own instability, and inability to perform that which is good. The more believers learn from God the greater will be their abhorrence of human reasoning and ingenuity. To forsake all of one’s thoughts, wisdom, learning, and ways will be a life-long warfare. A warfare that David found needed to be fought daily. Faithful service to the Lord must begin with a total and constant surrender of our own aspirations, and a confident assurance that what God does through Christ Jesus is eternally perfect. Saints need to continually battle against the flesh and be made faithfully dependent upon their Almighty God and Father. This prayer in Psalm 119 convincingly illustrates the extreme dominance of the flesh that must be put to death daily. Our natural man has a powerful claim and ever returning passion for complete independence. This relentless depraved instinct seeks independent supremacy in every facet of life, even the spiritual.
We should consider the bleeding force of the supplications advanced so far. The first in verse 33 was “teach me.” This request has the definition of “to cast as in a mold,” to fill, show, impart, to command and prescribe the boundaries. The insertion of divine teaching will reveal the harmful and shallow color of what we posses by nature. The teachings of God’s word define with exactness the destroying insufficiency of man’s teachings. The “teach me” in verse 33 is a heart-felt consciousness of gross ignorance and natural inability to comply with the divine standard. This same request is seen in Psalm 143:10. “Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God…” This disposition is the correct one for all who desire and delight to be dependent upon Jehovah in all things.
In verse 34 the prayer is “give me.” To give simply means to bestow something not present, and not possible of being received without supernatural intervention. To grant, to furnish, or provide by undeserved favor is the emphasis of this supplication. It carries with it the strongest awareness that when understanding is received, God must also perform throughout and never leave the recipient to use this understanding at his own discretion, or as personal independent knowledge. Profitable understanding is God wrought from beginning to end and is continuously dependent upon its author for fruitful exercise and benefit.
In verse 35 the petition seems to intensify as if the writer was anxious with respect to the urgency he felt should God withhold or delay in granting speedy and complete control of his existence. “Make me” has a pleading foundation which begs of the Lord, “to bring into being, to create, or to cause to appear elements of spiritual comprehension that do not even exist in the Psalmist’s natural frame. To “make me” is to put the believer in the proper position or condition. To form in the mind, install with spiritual powers as to faithful judgment as that which can only be imparted from another, from God. To receive what David prayed for the molding and conforming purpose of the benevolent and faithful potter must reveal itself. This part of the prayer is no different than the “Cause me to hear…,”and “cause me to know the way wherein I should walk…”, as is recorded in Psalm 143:8.
“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments; for therein do I delight.” Wise is the person who has been taught the necessity of divine guidance. Wiser still is he who has knowledge concerning the natural propensity of his own heart to do that which is contrary and at enmity to God. Our natural man is truly the servant of sin. To deny this teaching is to argue with the word of God. It is either a witness that we do not know, or are not willing to accept the depth of our own fallen vile depravity. “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Romans 7:25; Galatians 5:16-17)
In verse 35 David prayed that God would “MAKE ME TO GO…” In verse 43 it was “GIVE ME UNDERSTANDING”, and in verse 27 his prayer was that the Lord would “MAKE ME TO UNDERSTAND . . .” all of which must be understood as continuous needs. The petitions demand habitual repetition and constant nurturing. Too often we allow present victories to relax our watchfulness and we become passive and distorted concerning approaching temptations and afflictions. What once seemed to be mastered is soon challenged and with swift and devious cunning, revives sinful pride and self-assurance which ultimately lead to a miserable fall. “Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)
John Gill said with regard to verse 35 the following. “Lead, guide, direct me in the path, and use me to it; work in me both to will and to do; give me both an ability and a willing mind to walk therein; by granting fresh supplies of grace, and more spiritual strength . . .” Mr. Gill’s reference was to Philippians 2:13 where Paul wrote, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” In the book of Hebrews the author was most concerned that this embattled group of believers would understand that God must make them profitable in service to do His will. “Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21) The Apostle’s obvious teaching to the Hebrews, and to all saints, is that without the Lord’s superintendence, believers will fail in every spiritual function . . .for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments” requires a strength and spirit that believers cannot operate without. We must be strengthened with the strength of Jesus Christ, and be led by the Holy Spirit. “Give thy strength unto thy servant…”(Psalm 86:16) is asked only by believers who disdain their own powers. The promise of redemption is that God the Father, through Jesus Christ His Son will put His Spirit in the ransomed ones, and they shall be willing in the day of His power (Psalm 110:30) and God will cause (MAKE) them walk in His ways. “And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” (Ezekiel 36:27)
It is the believer’s sins and rebellions that grieve and quench the Holy Spirit and scorn divine strength. (Ephesians 4:30; 1 Thessalonians 5:19) The admonitions to keep the heart with all diligence, and the necessity to be frightfully aware of walking in the lusts of the flesh are not merely casual injunctions for the weaker brethren. (Proverbs 4:23; Galatians 5:16) The Scriptures reveal our total impotence in spiritual matters and consistency without the faithful attributes of the Godhead ever present and active in our behalf. “For since the natural inclination ‘is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be’ (Romans 8:7), Almighty power must introduce a new and active bias – “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned.” (Jeremiah 31:18) –“Make me to go in the path of thy commandments.” (Charles Bridges, Psalm 119)
Verse 35 – “for therein do I delight.” If a person truly has a delight for the commandments of God, that is the evidence that the Lord has wrought mercy and grace in his heart. For as stated before, man by nature cares not for the things of God, but rather deems them as foolishness. He is not subject to God’s laws, neither can he be, but is altogether infested with a hostile enmity — enmity that manifests itself with greater contempt when the laws of God are brought to bear upon the mind and make their righteous claims and holy demands. The natural man may acknowledge that God is, but that God should rule over him is a spark which causes his flesh to recoil with damning destruction. He finds nothing that is delightful or compatible in the laws of God or in His word. The contradistinction between delight in the word of God and a flagrant disgust for it is all too obvious. When there is a delight for the Lord and His precepts, a marvelous change has been created and a new man brought to life by the effectual working of the glorious Godhead. (2 Corinthians 5:17-19)
As it was in the creation of the world, so it is with all mankind. “Darkness is upon the face of the deep.” It is not until the Spirit of God moves that that darkness is driven from the man. To beg and plead dead sinners to let God save them is no different than to believe the original creation could have become fruitful and inhabitable by imploring it to be such. Neither however, can man or nature resist the Almighty when he advances with eternal power and commands that there be light. The resulting effect will be the same, “and there was light.” (Genesis 1:1-3) Creation demands a Creator, and the Creator revealed in the Holy Scriptures cannot be resisted by His creation. “For who hath resisted his will? Nay man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonor?” (Romans 9:19-21) The resistance we see or experience in natural and fallen man is not a resistance that frustrates or supersedes God’s Holy and eternal will. The resistance to God’s laws seen in the unregenerate man is the natural derivative of his fallen and totally corrupt nature. God may be pleased to change that fallen condition and show mercy, or He may be just as pleased to leave the wicked in his fallen state and show His wrath and make His power known in those vessels of wrath fitted for destruction. (Romans 9:22) Because our feeble minds cannot accept God the way He is revealed in the Bible does not give us permission to rewrite His decrees or redirect the ordained channel of mercies. In short, if we cannot apprehend the unmerited favor of God in redemption, we certainly will not appreciate the election of the same. “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done and good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, the elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.” (Romans 9:10-18)
What David was teaching in the latter part of Psalm 119:35 was that there is no real spiritual delight in being independent. True believing delight comes from a total dependence upon the God of all grace. “Trust in the LORD.” Psalm 37:3 is the only axiom from which genuine delight can proceed. Delight is the promised benefit of obedience to the word of God. “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Actual delight then is the consequence of Christ dwelling in and working through the believer. (Ephesians 3:17 and Philippians 2:13) When saints are made to go in the path of the Lord’s commandments they will find great delight in the Saviour and commit their complete being to Him. They shall rest in Him, wait patiently for Him, and fret not against His providence. A faithful commitment that is based on trust and dependence to God will according to promise bring all spiritual and faithful desires to pass. (Psalm 37:3-7)
A redeemed child by virtue of sovereign, merciful saving grace is called a good man. This man has his steps ordered by the Lord, and he delights in his way. This is the fruit and reward of faithful dependence upon a perfect and benevolent benefactor. (Psalm 37:23) Faith is privileged to see that the statutes of the Lord are right. The right instruction inevitably produces a rejoicing in the heart. (Psalm 19:8) A Biblical truth is once again exalted and confirms that there is truly joy in believing. “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)
Blessed is that man whose delight is in the law of the Lord. His thoughts and meditations are toward the Lord’s word day and night. (Psalm 1:1-2) This man has been made aware of the enmity of the flesh and the continual obsession of his old nature to be in a world of self-sufficient freedom and independence — A station in life where he needs not to be constrained by afflictions and hope of deliverance. A walking by sight is so appealing that we think the man is blessed who lives that way. The power of the flesh is exceedingly strong, yea, stronger than our resolve to show it no quarter. All too often tried saints surrender to the inclination and temptations of the flesh. Thus they undermine their faith and walk in opposition to the will of God. This is no small dishonor to the Lord. It is a wide path for bitter sadness and the main cause for extinguished delight. Our need for God’s all inclusive control and merciful guidance is a never going out of fashion necessity. It appears that afflictions are means that God has prescribed to keep believers dependent upon Him. Well might the Apostle Paul therefore declare that in himself there was paralyzing weakness and an inability to perform that which was good, but that in Christ believers are more than conquerors. (Romans 7:18-21; 8:37) This is the reason why all the redeemed can delight in the law of God after the inward man. (Romans 7:22) and trust in the faithfulness of their Master to arm them against the carnality of their natural disposition and lead them to an instructed dependence in their faithful Redeemer. It is a redemptive adherence to the testimonies of the Lord that gives believers delight. These testimonies are our counselors. (Psalm 119:24) They reveal the tender mercies of God which enables His children to live in His statutes with a child’s delight. (Psalm 119:77) To seek salvation by the law is burdensome and a rigorous bondage (Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16; 3:1; 5:4; Hebrews 7:19) but, for the elect chosen in Christ who has fulfilled the perfect law of God (Romans 10:4), this law is precious delight and the source to a cleansing walk. (Psalm 119:9-11)
The correct understanding of the law perfected through the obedience of Christ prevents believers from perishing in afflictions and therefore authors thankful and confident delight. (Psalm 119:92) Let troubles and anguish be what pleases God, and even when they take strong hold on the believer the Lord’s sure commandments are still delightsome announcements (Psalm 119:43). The law of the Lord is delightful in those who long for His salvation. (Psalm 119:174) Apart from Jesus Christ the law of God is damning to the soul, but since Christ has magnified the law, and made it honorable (Isaiah 42:21) the redeemed share in the eternal inheritance and it becomes their thrilling delight.
Verse 36 – “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” To incline, is to stretch out, to turn toward or into, to set in the mind a will and desire to be deviated from one direction to another. The Psalmist found that he was naturally disposed in the wrong direction, and that all man’s desires were defiled and bent toward, and set in iniquity. (Genesis 6:5, 8:21; Ecclesiastes 7:20, 29, 9:3) “Divine grace and omnipotent power are necessary to bend the will, bow down the heart, and incline the affections to God.” (William S. Plumer)
The believer often finds that his inclinations are all incorrect. We are naturally inclined to doubt the faithful promises of God, and ignorantly place our confidence in the futility of man. We approach divine testimonies with unbelief and suspicion when made to wait on their fulfillment, but with incessant desire we chase our aspirations in human reasoning and understanding promising ourselves a successful outcome. This should be adequate proof to all believers that they need to be completely turned around and continually guided in a right direction. A guidance that must be present at all times. May God teach His people that there is no strength in them to stand alone. Should the Lord remove His supporting hands of mercy, our immediate direction would be down, a swift and total falling away. So the plea of David, “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies” was an urgent and desperately-felt condition. For every “incline my heart unto” there is also an incline “not” my heart. This warfare is real, and foolish is the man who becomes infatuated with his own faithfulness apart from the sustaining power of God in Christ. The “incline my heart” is more importantly understood when joined with “incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties.” (Psalm 141:4) The believer must be as convinced as was the Apostle Paul “that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing.” We must be aware that without doubt we are devoid of power to perform that which is good because evil is present with us (Romans 7:18, 21) and woe be unto us if we ignore or diminish the ever present lusts of the flesh which prevents the believer from doing the things he would or should. (Galatians 5:17) With this knowledge should it not be our habit and prime supplication to God that He would “incline my heart unto thy testimonies.” The instructional phrase of Jesus to the disciples carries with it this same admonition. “And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil.” (Luke 11:4) Note also Matthew 6:13, 26: 41; Mark 14:38; Luke 22:40.
Verse 36 – “. . . and not to covetousness.” Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife.” (Exodus 20:17) What a heart-wrenching horror and conscience smiting guilt this commandment must have been to the Psalmist. A man so highly blessed and well favored by God’s abundance to be seen authoring and implementing such malignant atrocities is an astonishment which cannot be reconciled unless we know man for what he truly is when left to himself. David’s covetous desires for another man’s wife were so steamy that murdering her husband was deemed by the then anointed King of Israel, as a necessary medium to bring about his unwholesome passions. This is fearful warning so each believer to never think himself impregnable to wickedness, even the most vile kinds of wickedness, because he knows God. Beware of complacency and self-confidence in spiritual matters, for left to ourselves we will surely fall. “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12) Peter also cautioned the saints to be careful with regard to the error of wickedness by which man is so often deceived. “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.” (2 Peter 3:17)
Covetousness is a great sin. The Apostle Paul stated that he would not have known sin, but by the law. He went on to say in the same verse that he would not have known lust except the law had spoken. What sin the law specified and ultimately slew him thereby was “thou shalt not covet.” (Romans 7: 7-9) We all want what we do not have. From Adam and Eve in the garden until this very day man is ardently prone to covetousness. To this great sin David found the cure. That cure is to be ever seeking the Lord to incline his heart to God’s testimonies, and not to covetousness. May it please God to cause us to be as desirous for His testimonies as we are now about worldly things, and be as uninterested concerning the temporal matters as we are seemingly about His testimonies. This is why believers need to pray the same prayer as David did with same convictions. “Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.” AMEN.