Samech. (Sin/Shin) – v. 113-120.
James warns of the power of the tongue, which is like a raging fire, burning down forests. Oh, the power of words to wound or heal, save or destroy! And yet, the Bible tells us that “from out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34; Prov. 4:23; Luke 6:45). It is from the motivation of our hearts that our thoughts proceed.
What is the condition of my heart? Observation of my own inner thought life and emotions helps me discover the truth that God has already said about all of us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). I know it is true. I feel the unsettled nature of my heart, and that’s all it takes–being unsettled, not at rest. That’s my red warning light that I’ve had the heat turned on and what is inside is beginning to simmer.
Of course, the rest of that passage (v. 10) tells me that the Lord himself searches the heart and knows it. I am known in all my foolishness–I can’t hide. The problem is that I don’t recognize it in the heat of the thought. I can always justify my mood, anger, hurt, withdrawal, and those nasty little barbs and vengeful stabs that often don’t get said (though they hover on our tongue like a bitter aftertaste).
We are daily held hostage to our own random, unorganized, emotionally charged thoughts! Daily, I wake up to face a new day of challenges with a disordered mind. I walk through the day in a daze of self-thought generated from my own temporal motives mixed, hopefully, with various re-calibrations from the world outside. I lie down at night in a whirl of thoughts, summarizing the day’s perceptions, false or true.
My own thoughts never turn off. They guide my behavior in relationships and communications. They form my decisions. Thoughts are important!
In Samech, the psalmist comes before the discerning fire of God’s holiness and pleads with God to keep very close–to shape the very root of his very thoughts.
He realizes the struggle he suffers with his own human frailty. He also realizes the struggles he faces with “other voices” in the world interpreting for him that which only God can truly know. We are led astray and we know it. Daily, moment-by-moment we allow other voices to have credence over the stated will and purpose of God.
This psalm teaches us all to prioritize our allegiances and not mix them together indiscriminately. Only God, through His written Word, deserves the preeminence over our thought life. All other communications must be filtered through Him, all other communication including our own lusts of the flesh for comfort and ease, for influence and prestige. A filter lets in the “rightly aligned” and keeps out that which is harmful.
In other words, I can’t trust myself; and no one else on earth can discern truth for me in all its complexity and hidden considerations, even that which is humanly well-intended. Who can I trust, but God?
Therefore, the Word of God must be read, studied, prayed over, and obeyed by asking the power of God to help. He knows me, my heart, my situation, and the others with whom I live life. Is there any better companion?
Choosing my companions. The reality is that we DO listen to others! We can’t ignore the voices we hear in this world. The question is not “if”, but to whom are we listening? Are these voices pointing me to God, or away from Him? What are they saying? Are they building up, or tearing down? Some of the lies we hear in this world are about ourselves, and we believe them! Are the voices we hear glorifying God? or dragging glory away from God and to another?
Who are my companions? Who am I spending the most time with? Who do I reach for when I have questions, or successes, or failures, or sorrows? Who has the preeminence in my heart? Is it a particular author, pastor, philosopher or friend or group? A professional in this world? A person with whom I am co-dependent? An idea or cause? Or is it myself?
Who we lean our attention to is important, because who has preeminence in my heart, has my thoughts and controls my tongue!
Two Ways the Psalmist Models Righteousness
a) He determined that God should be first. He restricted his foremost attention to those who prioritized the discipline of the Lord in their private thought-life. As advisors and companions, he filtered out those who rejected the cultivation of God in their life;
b) He submitted himself to the discipline of reading (knowing) and doing the commands of God without compromise. He knew he could not be any better than those from whom he distanced himself, if the Lord Himself didn’t keep his promise to sustain him (John 15:5).
In other words, the psalmist was not arrogant against the sins of others; he knew he was no better (Rom. 7:14-24)! But he knew that he had to move ahead in faith. We can’t run a three-legged race to the finish. We have to run with our own two feet on the promises and in the keeping of the Lord Himself. We are only accountable for our own thoughts and the speech and actions which follow.
Prevention and Protection. It would be silly of me to ask God to help me if I’m not filtering the voices I listen to. It would also be silly to distance opposing voices if I had no guiding power to filter through my own inner voice! I can’t shut out the world, I must filter it. I must let God have the preeminence; He must be the filter of my heart, my thoughts, my words and my actions (2 Cor 10:5). And he has said that he will do this!
Thankfully, now that Christ has come, we all have even better surety of the promises of God to sustain us and keep us in obedience, even in the privacy of our own thoughts. Romans 6:16-23.
“…God’s redeeming acts towards his chosen are for ever the favourite themes of their praise. If we know what redemption means, let us not withhold our sonnets of thanksgiving. We have been redeemed from the power of our corruptions, uplifted from the depth of sin in which we were naturally plunged. We have been led to the cross of Christ—our shackles of guilt have been broken off; we are no longer slaves, but children of the living God, and can antedate the period when we shall be presented before the throne without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. Even now by faith we wave the palm-branch and wrap ourselves about with the fair linen which is to be our everlasting array, and shall we not unceasingly give thanks to the Lord our Redeemer? Child of God, canst thou be silent? Awake, awake, ye inheritors of glory, and lead your captivity captive, as ye cry with David, “Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name….” (Spurgeon, C. H. Morning and Evening: Daily readings, December 1, Evening)*
Thank you, my Lord, for knowing me in all my foolishness, for redeeming me through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and for staying with me to help me to follow you faithfully. Thank you for giving me discernment through the power of your Holy Spirit. You teach me which way I should go, whether to the left or the right. Teach me the truth of what is in my heart. Bring me to repentence so that I can be remade in the newness of life and holiness through Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. Help me to have eyes and ears only for you, to intentionally take up and read your Word–and do it. Amen.
© 2018 by http://www.readpsalm119.com; last updated January 25, 2019.
*Thanks to Goodness of God Ministries for this quote, from which I extracted the shorter part, in “Is Jesus Christ the Lord of Your Tongue?…“, Sept 19, 2013, goodnessofgodministries.wordpress.com.
“Refiner’s Fire” – Haebel Abraham, published Sep 18, 2012 (music w/lyrics, 3:53 minutes). A prayer for worship. 😀
The Heart of the Matter: Daily Reflections for Changing Hearts and Lives, New Growth Press and Nancy B. Winter, ccef.org. (Book, Kindle and ebook editions available). I don’t normally give links to book resources I don’t personally own, but I do know the authors as my professors and recommend these brief, scripture-focused daily reminders of the transformation God is doing in our hearts as we yield to Him.