MUSINGS WHILE IN THE HOLD
The Faithful Prayer of Dependence ( Conclusion)
“Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way…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 119:37, 39-40)
Verse 37. “Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.” To turn away is to cause, to pass over, make to pass away from sight by turning away from by intervention. It is as if the Psalmist desired the Lord to place His hands, one on each side of his face and graciously turn his head in the opposite direction. That the merciful God and Father would forever place that holy fringe of righteous remembrance before his eyes. Like the borders of a blue ribbon that would remind him of the perfections of the righteous and imperial divine standard. David trusted not his own heart nor his fleeting glances. God had taught him that he should never seek after his own heart and his own eyes, which if left unhindered, or not turned away by grace, would go a whoring. (Numbers 15:38-39) When our eyes are permitted to behold vain objects and we observe lying vanities, we forsake our own mercies. (Jonah 2:8) The things of this world are impressive to our sinful flesh, and when we first look upon them in a longing stare, we soon infect the heart with a diseased passion which blinds spiritual vision. “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.” (1 John 2:16)
“Turn away mine eyes.” “By these words we are taught that all our senses are so filled with vanity, that until refined and rectified, their alienation from the pursuit of righteousness is no matter of surprise.” (John Calvin) Well does wisdom declare, though you should butt and pound a fool in a hollow place among wheat with an instrument for refining substances to a fine power by grinding and stamping, yet will not his foolishness depart from him. “Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied.” (Proverbs 27:20 & 22)
David, a man after the heart of Jehovah, (Acts 13:22) knew the reeking defectiveness of his own heart, and durst not lean upon his own understanding. The necessity of God keeping him was acutely vivid, and the fearfulness of being left to himself was a condition he abhorred as much as sinful independence. We sadly hear very little sound preaching on the subject of the believers propensity to wander back to the flashing delight of sinful pleasures. When one is saved the impression given in most sermons is that the born again will never again suffer from the natural depravity which is theirs by nature. The contrary is however the truth of the whole matter. Sinners never suffer in their natural state in a spiritual manner. Suffering over sin is the mark of only the redeemed child. The Bible is for believers, its warnings and admonitions are for the saved of earth. The purchased flock should beware of any sermon that embellishes the so-called religious exploits of man, even the best of men. “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” (Isaiah 2:22) When man is exalted, God is robbed of the honor due Him. How is it that believers can have such a false assessment of the ocean of wickedness that is still within them, and if left to make our own choices, we would fare no better than did Adam and Eve. Eve saw with her eyes, and immediately she believed falsehood in her heart, and her husband did also. Between the two of them they damned the whole of mankind. (Genesis 3, & Romans 5:12) “The eye is not satisfied with seeing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8) as Adam and Eve have forcefully illustrated for over seven thousand years. Should this not be sufficient inducement to fear, and cause us to plead with God in the name of Jesus, “turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity.”
“Beholding vanity.” To see, to look, to consider and behold, and that with an envious desire of the things that titillate the flesh. This is a screaming reminder in the face of our Christian profession to “make the watch strong” (Jeremiah 51:12) “and set no wicked thing before our eyes.” (Psalm 101:3) There is a quote that goes as follows, “if I could, and not get caught, or feel distraught, I would.” Oh! how we wish this cutting charge was false, but honesty compels that were it not for the restraining grace of God, and His merciful forbearance that we unworthily receive daily, we could as easily be, and no doubt would be, as hardened a pursuer of sinful pleasures as are the most vile of all the servants of Satan. The contrition felt and the desire for greater remorse and sorrow over sins are truly a mighty work of amazing grace. It is the free and effectual gift of abundant mercy that has caused believers to be different than Cain (Genesis 4:8; 1 John 3:12; Jude 11) than Pharaoh (Exodus 8; Romans 9:17), than Jezebel (1 Kings 18). than Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ (Matthew 26), or any vessel of wrath. “For who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) The believers’ position in righteous redemption is the work of God in Christ. Left to ourselves we would bring forth only dishonor, and our eyes would be the constant conduit for filth and vanity.
Verse 37 – “. . . and quicken thou me in thy way.” To quicken, is to give life, to continue steadfastly in giving that life. By nature man is lively in his own way. It had been revealed to David that the ways of a man were sure destruction always. We need very little urging to go the way of the world. There are many ways in a man, but not one of them is right. (Ecclesiastes 7:20 & 29) “Surely every man is vanity.” (Psalm 39:11) This is the Lord’s witness concerning every man apart from Christ, even at his very best, man is vanity. (Psalm 39:5) The possessor of true faith will agree that all is vanity, but man without the gift of faith, or those who go forth without it, are confident that their way is quite good and honorable. In fact, every way of man is right in his own eyes. (Proverbs 21:2) Yea! In his own eyes all his ways are clean. (Proverbs 16:2) The testimony of God however is that all such that subscribe to this delusion are fools, (Proverbs 12:15) and the way which seems right in their own eyes is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25) For man to tenaciously and slavishly follow hard after the ways of death is indeed forward and strange (Proverbs 21:8) but, such is the manner of the man who follows his own ways. To this end David despaired the often leanings of his heart in the ways of vanity and independence, and sought in the Lord to be quickened and granted a lively perseverance in the ways of God.
Believers need to be quickened each time there is a faithful approach to God in supplication, or else their prayers are no more than words without spiritual life. Prayers that are not authored by a quickened faith are “wells without water” (2 Peter 2:17) — a form, a shadow, a verbal likeness, but no blood. May our prayers to God be like the one of David in Psalm 80:18. “. . . quicken us, and we will call upon thy name.” With his soul often clinging to the earth, the believer needs the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit in his daily prayers. “My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.” Psalm 119:25) When the saints petitions are quickened by the Spirit, they will in turn pray in the Spirit. (Ephesians 6:18 & Jude 20) The confidence that a quickened faith may rest in is the witness of the Scriptures and the intercessory mercies of Jesus Christ. “Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to thy word.” (Psalm 119:154) Note also Romans 8:26-27, 34; Hebrews 7:25. The favor of divine quickening is eternally blessed with the righteousness of God, His loving kindness, His judgments, and the effectual glory of His great name. “Quicken me in thy RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Psalm 119:40) Quicken me after, and according to thy LOVING KINDNESS.” (Psalm 119:88, 159) “O LORD, quicken me according to thy JUDGMENTS.” (Psalm 119:149, 156) Quicken us O LORD, in all things, that thine elect may reverence and glorify your GREAT and life giving NAME. “Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.” (Psalm 143:11)
The dependence upon God that David sets forth in this prayer is rarely, if ever seen. We are just not as spiritually and lovingly familiar with God as was David. Neither are we as conscious of our wayward and sinful condition as was he. There are a number of questions we might ask ourselves at this point. Was David weaker in faith than we are today? Was he less trustworthy, and much more given over to sin and folly? Who would dare answer these questions in the affirmative? Let us remember that the Bible clearly states that this man David was a man after the heart of God. His total prayer of dependence in God as seen in Psalm 119 will suffice to sustain this position. What about us, where is our heart today?
Verse 39 – “Turn away my reproach which I fear: for thy judgments are good.” The most debilitating and disheartening position for the believer to be in is the heavy recollection of sins and rebellions committed against the Lord. These transgressions are enhanced in miserable memories when they are fully known by our enemies. The profession of the believer is castigated and held in derision as hypocritical. Christian faith is jeered, mocked, and cast aside as nothing more than a superficial cloak. The holy and great name of God is paraded in the dens of wickedness with smugness and applauded with lustful glee, such as one is subject to experience at a burlesque show. The wounded saint could wish that all such mockers would be made desolate for a reward of their shame when they insult God with their contemptible, aha,aha, (Psalm 40:15) but when their ridicule is made somewhat legitimate by the believer’s carnal behavior, the saddened saint can only grieve over his vile performance that gave the infidel ammunition for the wounding shots and fuel for his satanic fire.
David was perpetually plagued all the days of his life by the fruit of his sinful passions which found their expression in sexual concupiscence and calculated murder. That he was truly repentant is easy enough seen by his prayer, “turn away my reproach which I fear.” True repentance is the burden of this verse. This same conviction is also seen in an earlier Psalm where David cried “Deliver me from all my transgressions: make me not the reproach of the foolish.” (Psalm 39:8) The reproach he feared was that of mockery and cutting remarks, and blasphemies against the only true God. Still more painful and perhaps the most haunting aspect of all these transgressions was the fact that in every age thereafter there would be those who would use the Psalmists fall and scandalous adultery as a mitigating argument for following the same course. The rankest of mongrels who care nothing at all about God, His word, or even David and his repentance, somehow have the history of his sins imbedded in their memory, and the hellish audacity to seek justification for their filth by reminding their fellows that David did the same, and he was a man of faith. The truth of this statement is verified by our own adulterous thoughts which first run to David for refuge, and also by the remarks heard by people concerning him. Almost all know of David’s sins, but few appreciate the preciousness of his repentance and the heart-breaking grief he suffered for the rest of his life. “Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the LORD, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die. Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die.” (2 Samuel 12:9-14)
By the word of God sin is called a great reproach to any people. (Proverbs 14:34) The remainder of the Psalmist’s life was an ever present confirmation of the divine Proverb; “..The way of the transgressors is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15) David knew the depths of his wickedness and how it was spread among the people of his nation. Could he have but known that thousands of years later he would be best remembered by some for his sinful folly, he would have no doubt grieved with even greater bitterness over his sins. Sin committed by otherwise wonderful servants of God like David and some others has authored countless excuses for sexual desires in both sinner and saints alike. The fear of the Psalmist was truly justified; “turn away my reproach which I fear.”
Let the life of David be a loud caution to each believer. We know not what will be the result of our sins and follies in the lives and well being of those who know us. The unregenerate will ridicule the faith of the redeemed most always, but their disdain is magnified to glory when believers transgress. However, they will embellish the faith of saints should they ever be found guilty of the same sin to which some believer fell victim. The one difference being they know nothing of a broken heart that accompanies God wrought repentance. Should believers ever suffer reproach, let it be by God’s grace, a suffering for the sake of righteousness. (1 Timothy 4:10; 1 Peter 4:14-16)
Verse 39 – “. . . for thy judgments are good.” All good, in every way the judgments of God for His people are good. In this 119th Psalm alone they are called righteous judgments, perfect, without flaw, holy in every aspect, like God, the Father of them, they are eternally divine. (Psalm 119:62, 106, 137, 169, 164) Each believer that suffers can with conviction declare along with David “I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.” (Psalm 119:75) True and righteous altogether are the judgments of God. This was the inspired verdict to the Psalmist and this same holy worth was attached to the Lord’s judgments by the writer of the Revelation. (Psalm19:9; Revelations 16:7, 19:2) The redeemed may not be able to completely understand the incomprehensible and unsearchable value of the benevolence of the Father’s judgments, but our faith could not be sustained if we were to suspect that they were somehow flawed. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)
Verse 40 – “Behold, I have longed after thy precepts: quicken me in thy righteousness.” “Behold” calls to God to take special notice of the longings, regard with affection, and view as necessary to effectually consider. The Psalmist’s longing hunger would most surely be held in favor with the Lord because these longings were after the heart and mind of God.
This longing was a powerful Spirit wrought heart seeking after the incomprehensible perfections of the Glorious Godhead. A longing that has no natural definition, it is divine in its essence and compelling in its strength. For that sole reason the truly quickened vessel of mercy is animated by a holy drawing that has its authorship in glory. This divine influence has a revealing aspect which leaves the seeker stunned by his own overwhelming impotence to achieve in a spiritual fashion that which he seeks for, except God by His condescending mercy grants fulfillment and gives revelation that passes human understanding.
Should these desires after God for a time remain unsatisfied the seekers heart will break and deferring of accomplishment will place him in the sick room of despair. Why would God create these longings if He were not also going to grant them a wonderful fruition? Only believers who have had a spiritual quickening will ever long for His precepts. Only those who are truly saddened by their dull perception of God will truly grasp the meaning of the Psalmist when he prayed “My soul breaketh for the longing that it hath unto thy judgments at all times.” (Psalm 119:20) “Hope deferred does make the heart sick.” (Proverbs 13:10)
When these longings for God are unanswered and for a time denied, the inner man is quite naturally caused to search his own heart and confess many sins. He feels the heaviness of his own vile nature and his ridged adherence to things of the flesh. This will surely break the heart of those that truly long and hunger after the Lord’s precepts.
The intense longing seeks relief and deliverance from the natural and tenacious course of human nature. Man’s Adamic self is ever at enmity with Godliness. Its habitual leanings are so pervasive that without super natural intervention on the part of the Godhead, all believers are as helpless and fearful as was Mephibosheth – lame in both of his feet and full of fear. (Samuel 4:4, and all of Chapter 9.) When the elect therefore are taught of God, they see themselves as useless as a dead dog. (2 Samuel 9:8) For this cause the living soul longs for the salvation and deliverance that only God our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord can give. Mercy and grace are herein personified. “I have longed for thy salvation, O LORD; and thy law is my delight.” (Psalm 119:174)
There is a promise from God that all who long for His precepts shall not be denied. “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) See also Matthew 7:7-11). J. A. Alexander wrote that knowledge of God’s precepts would be insufficient unless ability to adhere and perform were not also graciously connected with the longing. “To long for God’s precepts is to long for knowledge of them and for the grace to obey them.” (The Psalms)
“. . . quicken me in thy righteousness.” When the eternal magnificence of God is correctly considered, the believer is forced to conclude that a need of great proportion exists. There is a necessity to be made alive with spiritual qualities. Qualities that are of the Holy Spirit, by the Holy Spirit, and qualities that are granted to the spiritual man. David sought to be quickened in many facets. Quickened in the word (v. 25). Quickened in the way (v 37). Quickened after and according to God’s loving-kindness (v. 88 & 159). Quickened unto the word of God (v .107). Quickened according to judgments (vs. 149 & 156), and our present verse which seeks a quickening in the righteousness of God (v. 40)
To capture the burden of the statement “quicken me in thy righteousness” one could do no better than to repeat Oliver Heywood. “Thus, lay your dead hearts at Christ’s feet, and plead in this manner: Lord, my heart is exceedingly dull and distracted; I feel not these enlarging melting influences which thy saints have felt; but are they not chief material mercies of the covenant? Dost thou not promise a spirit of illumination, conviction, and humiliation? Is not holiness of heart and life a main branch of it? Dost thou not promise therein to write thy law in my heart? To give me oneness of heart, to put thy fear within me, to subdue my corruptions, to help my infirmities in prayer? Now, Lord, these are the mercies my soul wants and waits for, fill my soul with these animating influences, revive thy work of grace in my soul, draw out my heart into lively exercise. Doth not that gracious word intend such a mercy when thou sayest thou wilt not only give a new heart, but “put a new spirit within me” (Ezekiel 36:26), to make my soul lively, active, and spiritual in duties and exercise? Dear Lord, am not I in covenant with thee? Are not these covenant mercies? Why then my God is my heart thus hardened from thy fear? Why dost thou leave me in all this deadness and distraction? Remember thy word unto thy servant in which thou hast caused me to hope, and which thou hast helped me to plead; O quicken my dull heart, according to thy word.”
Only God can give life and vitality, and He only gives it to the spiritual aspirations which He Himself has created in the renewed heart. “The petitions are for liveliness in the knowledge and practice of holiness, according to the tenor of God’s word and by its operation on the heart.” (William S. Plumer) The longings of David far surpass in value all that is today called spiritual desire. At best, our condition is one of admittance that something is lacking. Well might our prayer be “quicken me, O Lord, in all thy ways.”