Posted June 24, 2014
Search me, O God, and know my heart!Try me and know my thoughts!And see if there be any grievous way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting!
Welcome to our last week of memorizing Psalm 139! We’re so grateful to all the songwriters and artists who have participated in this process with us… The way this psalm started is the way it ends, but with a twist. The psalmist takes his first statement about God from verse 1 (“O Lord, you have searched me and known me”) but now prays it back to God: “Search me, O God, and know my heart!” The psalmist had clearly parted ways with the wicked just before this in verses 19-22 (the imprecatory part of the psalm), but he is not content with merely parting ways. He is aware that the wickedness present in the wicked is also within himself. He wants God to search him, know him, convict him of any straying wicked way, and then re-direct him in God’s path of life and holiness. In this prayer, the psalmist embodies two disciplines that we hope to embody as well: meditation and repentance.
Christian meditation is a discipline that has been long lost by many in the Western world. We like quick activities that we can check off a to do list, but meditation is unrushed and unhurried. It’s a prayerful lingering in the text of Scripture, allowing God to speak to us while we also speak to God. Richard Foster distinguished between Christian and Eastern meditation, “Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind… Detachment is not enough; we must go on to attachment.” Donald Whitney further explained, “For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to ‘create your own reality.’ And while Christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of our God-given imagination in meditation, imagination is our servant to help us meditate on things that are true (see Philippians 4: 8). Furthermore, instead of ‘creating our own reality’ through visualization, we link meditation with prayer to God and responsible , Spirit-filled human action to effect changes.”
Thought the psalmist knew that God had already searched him (see verse 1), part of his meditation and application of this truth was to ask God to do it again. He knew that God was the Great Searcher of hearts and souls, but turned that truth into a personal prayer and request. Meditation takes the truths of Scripture and transforms them into prayers. As we pray those truths, we are in turn led back to Scripture! Meditation is a beautiful bridge between Scripture and prayer.
Not only was the psalmist meditating, but he was also prayerfully responding to God’s leading and guidance in his life. This process is called “repentance” in the Bible. It’s marked by a relationship with God, not just ritualistic confession, but also a genuine turning back to God (the way everlasting). The psalmist knows that if the way everlasting is in God and His ways, any other way is the way to damnation, for it leads away from God; any other way is a “grievous way.” This process shouldn’t be a foreign one to the Christian, but rather is a normative one. It’s what marks a Christian as a Christian! A Christian is someone who realizes not only their sin, but also their need for a Savior. This need isn’t just found at the beginning of the relationship, but rather is one that keeps the relationship going. Martin Luther himself said, “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ… willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” Growth as a Christian is not marked by less repentance but rather more repentance because we’re more aware of sin! This sounds a little depressing upon initial glance, but true repentance should be marked by both conviction of sin and a greater trust in and joy in the work of Jesus. Tim Keller said it well, “We can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope — at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.”
We end our time in Psalm 139 praying alongside Charles Spurgeon:
”See whether there be in my heart, or in my life, any evil habit unknown to myself. If there be such an evil way, take me from it, take it from me. No matter how dear the wrong may have become, nor how deeply prejudiced I may have been in its favour, be pleased to deliver me therefrom altogether, effectually, and at once, that I may tolerate nothing which is contrary to thy mind. As I hate the wicked in their way, so would I hate every wicked way in myself. And lead me in the way everlasting. If thou hast introduced me already to the good old way, be pleased to keep me in it, and conduct me further and further along it. It is a way which thou hast set up of old, it is based upon everlasting principles, and it is the way in which immortal spirits will gladly run for ever and ever. There will be no end to it world without end. It lasts for ever, and they who are in it last for ever. Conduct me into it, O Lord, and conduct me throughout the whole length of it. By thy providence, by thy word, by thy grace, and by thy Spirit, lead me evermore…”
May we carry within us the words, truths & prayers of this psalm for years and decades to come.
Song written, performed, recorded, and mixed by Latifah Phillips (http://latifahphillips.com/).
Artwork by Jonathan Lindsey.