Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Psalm 86:11

Psalm 86:11

11    Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.

The psalms are wonderful because in them we find the full range of human experience.  The psalmist can swing from utopic praise in one breath to the woe-est of woe-is-me’s in the next.  The Psalms cover joy, confidence, fear, victory, defeat, doubt, anger, peace, love, despair, and more…sometimes in the span of only a few verses. 
The psalmist deals with what we deal with.  He is no stranger to split affections and a wavering allegiance.  He knows the One who deserves all but has trouble, at times, remembering the fact that he deserves all.  Read Psalm 86 in context and it is almost hard to imagine why he would falter in this way.
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
    All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10    For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.

But read it in the context of your own life, your own affections, your own heart.   Read it in the context of a fallen human who has encountered God but still so easily believes the lies of the world over the truth of the One.  Think of the Israelites.  Think of the Apostles.  Think of your own life. Believer, you have been encountered by the resurrected King of kings.  You have been filled with the very Spirit of the one true God.  You have been ransomed and resurrected and you still find yourself, on more occasions than you would care to recollect, lacking allegiance, lacking affection, lacking desire for the one who is most to be desired.  And so do I. And so do we all, on this side of eternity.

Why?  Because we are works in progress, as desperately dependent on the grace of God today as we were the day we cried out to him for salvation.  We are unfinished.  Lumps of clay that only distortedly resemble the image of God’s perfect Son.  But we are lumps of clay in the Potter’s hand, and he has promised to continue molding and shaping until we perfectly resemble the Perfect One(Rom 8:29).

And this includes our hearts.  We are in the same boat as the psalmist.  We want to love the Lord more and we know we should love the Lord more and we do not want to offer the affection and allegiance due to him to any other.  But we know that we are incapable of changing our own hearts.  We know that any lasting, genuine change is dependent on the work of the Lord. Hopefully we can be as wise as the psalmist as well and seek the change we desire from the One who is able to deliver it.

Notice though, quite importantly, that the psalmist does not simply request for his heart to be united.  This is not a prayer of “God fix me…now I’ll be over there sinning.  Page me when you are finished.”  Nope, God has prepared many things in our life through which he offers his grace to us.  The psalmist shows two in this verse: the study of Scripture and good works.

“Teach me your way, oh Lord,” the psalmist begins, expressing his desire to know what the Lord would have to teach him.  If we want to love the Lord, we must know the Lord.  If we want to know the Lord, we will meet him on the pages of his inspired Word.  If we want a faith that cherishes the Lord above all else we must be engaged in the study of his word since “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of the Lord.”

But we must not simply be “hearers of the word” but we must also be “doers of the word”(James 1:22).  This is the psalmist’s second plea, “that I may walk in your truth.”  The psalmist did not want to simply know the truth and for it not to affect his life.  This is for multiple reasons.  One, I am sure, is that he simply did not want to be a hypocrite.  There has never been a documented time in history where children of a culture said, “When I grow up, I want to be an utter and complete phony.”  Hypocrisy has historically, even in wicked societies, been look down upon.  But not only was the psalmist expressing a desire to not be a hypocrite, he also did not want a trivial knowledge of God.  He wanted an intimate knowledge of God and this type of knowledge would affect his entire being, including his actions. 

Beyond simply showing our faith and knowledge to be genuine, the works prepared for believers beforehand by the Father are a means by which God grows the believer’s faith.  It is said of Abraham specifically that his works “completed” his faith. (James 2:22) The Spirit inspired psalmist would have certainly known this truth and, in his desire to know the Lord better, asked the Lord to make sure that he was not simply a hearer but also a doer of his word. 

While recognizing his responsibility in this matter, the psalmist is unwilling to bear the burden of changing his own affections.  He recognizes the fact that he is in the Potter’s hand and goes to the Lord with the desperate assurance this causes.  He implores the Lord to “unite” his heart, knowing that the Lord is capable.  He begs for the Lord to fix his affections, knowing that the Lord is willing.   He knows that he must be obedient to the Lord (that is, know his way and walk in his truth) but he also realizes that it is the Lord who changes hearts and molds affections and this is what he wants.  And this is what we want.  We desire, as redeemed children of God, to love the Lord with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength.  And this is what God desires as well, for our good and for his glory.

 “Unite my heart”--engage and knit my whole heart to thyself and service, and deliver me from inconstancy and wavering, that I may not at any time, nor in the least degree, be withdrawn from thee, either to any corrupt worship, or to the love and pursuit of the lusts or vanities of this present evil world.”[1]

[1] Poole, M. (1853). Annotations upon the Holy Bible (Vol. 2, p. 137). New York: Robert Carter and Brothers.