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October 23rd, 2008 at 10:44 am

Psalm 119:10: Prone to Wander

Today we look at the second verse of the “beth” stanza of Psalm 119, Psalm 119:10. I have included the preceding verse nine just to give a sense of the flow of things.

(9) How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.
(10) With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!

Have you ever had the experience where one day you are not only striving to seek God, but you are in special communion with Him, and for a time nothing else in the world matters? Those times come less than we may like, but they do come. But then the next day you wake up and your heart is all over the place, greedy for this, desiring that, seeking after fame or money or power.

As the hymn says, “Prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.”

The way we are to keep our way clean is by keeping it according to God’s Word. But ultimately it is not merely the Word we wish to follow, as if it had some special divine status separate from its author. We wish to keep the Word because we wish to please and love and show our gratitude to Him, to the Word’s ultimate author, to God whom we as Christians know as “the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ.”

If we try to seek God apart from his Word we will wander, perhaps even into dangerous places. If we try to follow the written letter apart from a relationship with its author, we become dried up, legalistic, and just mean and awful.

Just as Word and Spirit go together, so do Word and God the Father go together. As Christians we believe that God is three in one, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, so this makes ssense to us.

Sometimes we feel so dry. Our hearts feel empty. There seems no yearning after God in us. We don’t even care. Other times we yearn for intimacy with God and He seems to be hiding from us.

The Psalmists also knew that feeling. From Psalm 63:1 we read:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

And from Psalm 77:2:

In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be comforted.

The need to seek the face of God continues into the New Testament, as we read for example in Matthew 6:33:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

And similarly in Philippians 3:1-4:

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Oh how we yearn for an undivided heart, that we would not only seek the Lord with an undivided heart, but seek him at all times with an undivided heart.

It never ceases to strike me how honest the Bible is, not only about its various “heroes” and their faults, but also about the hard aspects of living faithfully before God. Because of this honesty we can pick up and pray the Psalms as from our own hearts.

I seek you with my whole heart…
Do not let me wander….

People rant and rave about free will. As for myself, I desire that God change my will, protect my will, direct my will, and conquer my will. You see, underneath our “will” lay our desires. (I put the word “will” in quotation marks because I don’t actually know that there is really such an entity. What I do know is that people “will” or “choose” to do things.)

Our desires impact our will. We cannot really get down underneath our desires. We can’t really change them by an “act of will.” And so, if we are free to exercise our unchecked and unchanged desires we will not be free, we will be slaves, slaves to our desires and slaves to sin. I for one don’t wish to be such a slave. I desire to be another kind of slave – a slave to Christ.

“Seeking” God is not just a matter of mind over matter, of “willing” or “choosing” to seek God. Yes, we can structure our lives and develop habits that make the seeking of God easier. But in the end “seeking” is a passion of the soul, a longing of the heart, a desire erupting from deep within, and we desperately need God to keep us desiring and longing rightly.

Not only that, but for reasons that have mystified the saints over the centuries (and often the saints who have been of greatest help to the rest of us), is the fact that though we seek God He sometimes seems to be hiding as it were. I think He tests His children, to see if they will continue to long after him even when He is not gratifying the longing. And in fact, the very longing itself is a sign of grace. We must never let a lack of fulfillment in our longing after God make us indifferent to His word and to His will. We must seek to obey Him and trust our souls to Him even when he seems afar off.

Longing after Him is right and needful. We seem built to “long” after things. ‘Longing” is a deeply significant part of our nature. Madison Avenue understands this perfectly. It wants us to long after stuff. We set our hearts say on a new car, or a new kitchen, or a new set of golf clubs, and  the brain releases chemicals that reinforce the longing. The longing is deeply pleasurable. But is also a trap. As soon as we obtain the thing we have been longing after, we lose the rush. We’re off to longing after something else.

My Christian friends, we need God’s help and power that we would continue to long after Him, to seek Him with our whole heart. We need to pray for this grace for one another. At any point in time any one of our number may be slip sliding away, wandering from the Lord, and that could be you, or me. We each need to pray for the other.

The verse says that we are to seek YHWH with our whole heart. That also implies that we are to seek Him with all of our might. Oddly there are Christians who believe that the exercise of all our faculties in trying to be obedient to God is somehow wrong, a kind of “living according to the flesh.” It isn’t wrong. It is required. But as we seek the Lord with all of our being we know that we are being carried along by God Himself. We know that His Holy Spirit is lifting us up, giving us strength, empowering our hearts, and giving us the “want to.” And so we give Him the credit – and the glory.

In summary, we seek him with our whole heart, yet we know how prone we are to wander.

I like how Spurgeon puts it. He says, “The man of God exerts himself, but he does not trust himself.”

I think I will close this meditation on that note.


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