It’s worth repeating:
God is not going to open our eyes
to understand a word
we have no intention of obeying.
So shall we get this straight right off the top?
Let’s set our hearts and minds
to work out the truths that God is working into us.
Are you with me?
Now, let’s get to work on Psalm 119:33-40!
Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end.
The Lord is a teacher. He alone can instruct us. We live in a time with a plethora of good Bible teachers. Gifted communicators, scholars and commentators are only a click away. It’s easy to get dependent on them to take us by the hand and feed us. But even the best of them are like T.A.s (Teacher Assistants). We can certainly learn from good preaching and teaching, but let’s not bypass the Head Master and forfeit learning from the very Source. Ask God to teach you first, then get help from the T.A.s.
David decided how he was going to finish – not with a fizzle, but with a sizzle. He was going to stick with God until the very end, no matter what. It’s a good idea to settle that early on. The more we learn about our God, the easier it will be to finish strong.
Give me understanding, that I may keep your law and observe it with my whole heart.
This was step two in David’s program of discipleship. He needed a good Teacher, but he also needed the power to learn. Although David loved God’s word, he knew he needed God’s help to comprehend it. He asked God to move the law from his head to his heart.
Lead me in the path of your commandments, for I delight in it.
Step three was to put legs to David’s new understanding of God’s gracious teaching. A path is meant to be walked — this is the daily use of the things we learn, step by step. “Remark the order: first understanding, and then going; for a clear understanding is a great assistance towards practical action. Thou hast made me to know; now make me to go!” (Spurgeon) This process of being taught, gaining understanding and then working it into daily life is truly a delightful way to live.
Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to selfish gain!
David knew that “the heart is deceitful above all things…” (Jere. 17:9) Even new-found Bible knowledge and insight can lead to puffed up pride and self-absorption. It’s so important for us to lean in close to the Lord and watch out for ego-driven attention-seeking. Left unchecked, the human heart naturally inclines toward selfish ambition, so David was wise to say, “Bend me in Your direction instead.”
Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your way.
Oh man. There’s no shortage of “worthless things” in our world. The word “worthless” encompasses these meanings: desolate, wasteful, destructive, false, vain, useless, empty and without profit. They aren’t necessarily bad things, just unworthy of our time. This verse begs the question: What am I looking at? According to my screen time report, I pick up my Iphone way too many times per hour. PB and I have watched a lot of TV in the past weeks of quarantine. Nothing wrong with that, but I can’t exactly say it’s been profitable.
Another question: What is NOT a worthless thing? The Bible tells us: Whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. (Phil. 4:8) How about beauty, art, nature, people, God’s Word?
Last question: Isn’t it interesting that David didn’t pray, “Turn my mind from thinking about worthless things” or “Turn my desires from wanting worthless things”? Have you noticed how much David talks about the eyes? Go back and read verses 6, 15, 18, 37.
If the eyes do not see, perhaps the heart may not desire: at any rate, one door of temptation is closed when we do not even look at the painted bauble. Sin first entered man’s mind by the eye, and it is still a favorite gate for the incoming of Satan’s allurements; hence the need of a double watch upon that portal. (Spurgeon)
Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared.
It’s okay to ask for reassurance and validation. David knew the promises of God, yet he needed a little boost of confidence. Perhaps he reviewed what he just wrote and was convicted by his lack of understanding, his bent toward selfishness, and his wandering eye. The promises were indeed for him, and being assured of that, David was moved to reverence for a God of such mercy and grace.
Turn away the reproach that I dread, for your rules are good.
Choosing God’s way doesn’t usually get a round of applause from the world. In fact, it’s more likely to bring scorn and contempt (see v. 22). David did not relish the criticism and negative press, but it didn’t make him question God’s goodness.
Behold, I long for your precepts; in your righteousness give me life!
David longed for God and he knew that immersing himself in the words of God would give him the intimacy with God for which he hungered. It’s one thing to long for the promises, but it takes maturity to long for the precepts. David echoed the words of Moses, “They are not idle words for you — they are your life.” (Deut. 32:47)
Things I know for sure from this passage:
- Focusing on worthless things will suck the life out of me.
- I need to be careful about what enters the portal of my eyes.
- God is pleased by a heart that is turned toward doing after the mind has turned toward knowing.
- There’s a difference between knowing about something and understanding it.
- I can ask the Holy Spirit to empower my good intentions.