Defiled

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Smut stains and erosion, Major Archibald Douglas Monteath Masusoleum, Glasgow Necropolis, Scotland

I love word origins, or “etymologies”.  They tell us more about the full meaning of words and often paint a more vivid picture. I often take words for granted and toss them about without really contemplating the full scope of their meaning.  I easily move on as if I’ve got the full picture, but I often don’t.  It’s not sinking in.

When I was courting my (now) husband, my mother told us both that we were not fully aware of what “love” meant, meaning that we should be very careful about how we use the word. She knew that love is not just romantic feelings of being pleased and adored and connected to another person.  Love is work, sacrifice, and often entails duty as much as romantic feeling. We have now been married 37 years and know far more about the meaning of love than we did when we were in our early twenties!  Words have meaning.

I can often read the Bible in this superficial way. Take the word “defile” in Alef (Psalm 119:1-8) “Blessed are the undefiled…” The Latin prefix de-means “down from” or “away from”.  The word root file means “order” (from the idea of “single file”); therefore, to be defiled is to be “away from order”.  But it also comes from a secondary meaning construction “be-foul” which means “to make stink” or to sully or ruin in a noxious manner.

In Psalm 119:1, the original Hebrew word is תָּמִיםor, tamim, which means “complete, sound”.  In other words, Psalm 119:1 says, “Blessed are those who remain unsullied or unspoiled from the world; who have their foundations well laid and are stable in all their ways, not lacking what is necessary” (my paraphrase).

I’m in!…..I  think. On a cultural basis, at a casual reading of verse 1, I may think myself safe. I’ve been a Christian all my life and though I’ve made some huge mistakes and have failed God in big ways, I can look at my life at the moment and think that I’m really “okay”. I’m not that bad.  I’m not a murderer, I don’t steal, I don’t lie, I don’t abuse culturally sensitive substances, I don’t hate people, I’m really a nice person.  This is a verse that pats me on the back and I can say “I’m in!”.  I’m blessed. Good for me!

But when I think of “defile” on an etymological basis, especially going back to the original word used in the Hebrew, I am stopped in my tracks.  I know in my heart that I am not ordered, not stable in everything.  Something has happened and I’m not up to snuff. I do lack much.  I may not murder or hate people to my knowledge, but if “hate” means “to reject”, I do a lot of rejecting!  And if stealing has any relationship with “wanting what is not currently mine” then I am in trouble (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 38-39, 43-44).  And if I realize that to lie means to accept false notions, even temporarily, then I’m entirely undone.  I tell lies about myself everytime I look in the mirror, whether good ones that make me feel better or bad ones that tear myself down.  And to be honest, I do eat or not eat according to mood rather than sustenance.

I know in my heart I’m not really such a nice person (and I don’t have to look far to have that validated!).  I’m not “in”—I’m “out”.  I’m guilty.  I can’t claim that blessing.

But what does it mean to be “blessed”?  It means to be “consecrated”–set apart for a pure, sacred purpose, or made holy; to have God’s blessing and favor, to take part in God’s holy character with Him.  To put it visually, it means to enjoy the smile and good friendship of Holy God.

I’m in big trouble.  My “foul” condition must truly turn this Holy God away in disgust, not friendship! I’m not “pure” in any sense of the word! Not only have my past experiences sullied me, my rebellion and my sins, but my current inconsistency in loving God and His Word set me out of the way of His favor.  I don’t walk in the way of the Lord when I gorge on sense-ual, momentary pleasures, be they binge-watching on Netflix, giving in to a “besetting” addiction, or harboring critical thoughts of others (or even critical or laudatory thoughts of myself).

Verses 2-4 set me at odds with God’s blessing.  I don’t keep the law of God.  I don’t look for God in all the moments of my life and certainly, I don’t look for him with my WHOLE heart!  I’m not that sacrificial!  I DO enact wrong thoughts into wrong behaviors!  I do not walk through this world in obedience to God.

I am commanded to diligently obey.  Verse 4, tells me that God has commanded that I do these things diligently (another word, meaning “to love, or take delight in”).  If I am diligent, then I am focused on the object in front of me with blinders on to all other distractions.  If I am diligent, I get up early and regularly to focus on the object of my love (which in this case would be God’s Word and Christ Himself in true prayer).  If I am diligent, I don’t let obstacles come in between myself and the object of my love; I filter them out and set my love high up above all else in life–no compromise!  

No, I am not keeping God’s law diligently, but slothfully.  I am not just slow about obeying God’s Word; at times I even resist it! Obedience means death to my self-centeredness, and I rebel against that death.  “Self” is a very determined survivor!

The psalmist’s cry is mine.  The psalmist continues, though.  And this is very important!

“Oh, that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes!” 

The Psalmist is like me!!  Oh, what a relief to my soul this passage is!

He is not setting himself up as holier than the rest of us. No, he sets God’s commands up high, but not himself.  He doesn’t lie about the requirements.  He is honest about them.

When I don’t want to obey something, it is easy to try to deface it down to my level.  “Oh, that’s not really what God is saying…” Who does that sound like? (Genesis 3).

No, the Psalmist is honest.  “Here’s what God requires.  Here is what gains our Holy God’s blessing and approval.  Here’s what draws me close to the Lord God’s breast in favor and friendship and love.  And this I see is ahead of me. It is not where I am now! Who can help me?

The Psalmist wants to be in that blessed place. In the New Testament, Paul said the same thing (Romans 7:24 Amplified Bible):

Wretched and miserable man that I am! Who will [rescue me and] set me free from this body of death [this corrupt, moral existence]?”

Isn’t it the same way with you and me?  We want to be pure, but we are not.  We want to set God high above all the distractions of this world, but we do not. We want to be unstained but we are stained and scarred and dirty with sin.  Every day.

Oh, that we could have someone direct our steps for us, because we can’t direct our steps alone!! I don’t have it in me to become pure or to stop sinning!

In verses 6-7, the psalmist exclaims what is ahead for the one who is helped in this way.

 I will not be ashamed.  Impurity makes us feel bad about ourselves.  We can then think badly of others to cover this up.  We are embarrassed and we hide parts of ourselves.  We withdraw (hide), or cover our shame with false claims (pride).  But if someone outside of us will only come and “direct our steps” to obey, the shame would dissipate.  I would give awe and honor to the right things! I would feel godly confidence; I would walk with sure and steady steps into the arms of Christ who loves me!

I will praise you in all genuineness.  Who of us has not seen false worship?  We sing songs in church services and raise our hands, but who is really thinking of the words (some, but surely not all!, and certainly not all the time).  How much is for show, to ourselves or to others?  Who is thinking of the beat, the melody, the people who are watching?  What will they think?

In conversation, we who are believers can repeat hollowed phrases that are expected of a Christian.  It becomes our habitual language, not untrue and not ungenuine, but not always mindful, either. We can easily speak truth without fully realizing it in our hearts at the time.  We know what we relay is true, but we can lose the sense of it in our hearts.

But who of us doesn’t want to truly understand and feel the value and gratefulness of the truth of God and His Word?  The psalmist says that if someone would only come and help me in obedience, my praise would be full of meaning, understanding and above all true thankfulness and joy!  That’s what it means to have “learned thy righteous judgement“; to have comprehended what is at stake and to know where I stand with God.  If in obedience, then in His favor (Praise Him!); if in disobedience, then in His wrath–distanced and isolated from all that is holy and good, from fellowship with God Himself (instant humble repentence).

The turn of the tide:  choice.  So the psalmist does something that turns the tide.  He makes a choice.  Though he is unable to complete that choice consistently, he still makes a turn of his will.  “I will keep thy statutes;…”

How about you and me?  It is one thing to assess these truths with our intellect and say, “Yes, that is true.”  It is another thing to make an active choice for change.

As you read Alef, you may also identify with the psalmist. You may also be drawn in your heart by his prayer: “I will keep the law of God; I will set out to do so with focus and intention.”  Will you actually say it and mean it with all your heart?  I am saying it right along with you!

Here’s the best partThe psalmist ends with a cry to the one who can help!  Yes, it is the Lord God Himself who is the answer to the psalmist’s cry for help: “O do not give up on me so that I fail and miss your salvation!”

We know we are human.

God does not change our humanity; he transforms it.

I will make mistakes.  I’ll fall back into old sin-nature habits–I hope not, but I’ve done with making claims I can’t keep! God must help me.

And He has promised to do just that!  God has not only paid the price for our sin in the love-sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus the Messiah; our risen Savior has further promised:

 “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever–the Spirit of truth….the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will REMIND you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:15-26).

Advocate.  Another word: ad = “toward”; vocare = “to call”.  It means “one who helps; to speak up for; to call upward.” When I am arrested, I have the right to an attorney who will represent my best interests with the judge who can determine my sentence, guilty though I may be.  Jesus has already stepped in and paid the price for the guilt of our sin.  We are no longer condemned.  Praise His Name!

But we still stand on a daily basis before our Holy Judge, accountable for the thoughts and actions with which we show our gratitude.  Even in this, we are given an Advocate, one who will stand WITH us before God, to call us up to all we should be in obedience, to hold us steady in the confidence and assurance of our salvation, lest we fall away under God’s Holy, all-seeing eyes.

It is Holy Creator God who is our Judge, it is God the Only Son who is our Savior and Redeemer, and it is God the Holy Spirit, Comforter and Advocate who walks beside us and guides us safely through as we walk out our gratitude and joy in our salvation in obedience.

The Promise of the prayer.  The Psalmist was an Old Testament believer.  The Promised Deliverer had not yet come at the time this psalm was written.  He pleads and looks forward to the promise God had given in Adam and in Abraham: a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  We live in a time when that Savior has already come.  Salvation is granted!

Jesus’ other name is Emmanuel, which means “God is with us”. Critics have said that God does not see our suffering, that he stands afar off and judges us in anger and severe judgment.  Yet God does want us and He loves us so very much that He sent His Only Son, who self-sacrificially provided a way for us to be reconciled to Him, while we are yet sinners.

And not only that, He then helps us to do as He has commanded by giving us the Holy Spirit (also called the “Comforter”), so that we can have fellowship with Him who is Holy.  He is “with us” in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  We have two Comforters:  Jesus, our Savior, and the Holy Spirit. (See article, Further Resources.)

The apostle Paul also answered his own New Testament cry with the assurance of God’s power to save (v. 25):

“Thanks be to God [for my deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

What does the Holy Spirit do for believers?  He comforts us in our sorrows and encourages us to remember the Provision of God in Christ Jesus for salvation and the Promises of God that sustain us, just as the promises of God had sustained the psalmist.  He teaches us so that we comprehend the spiritual things of God’s Word.  He reminds us of the Word of God. We must place ourselves in the hearing of it (Romans 10:14-15) and submit to the reading of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15), but the Spirit helps us so that our leaky sieve of a brain can retain enough of it that we can walk in it for the day and trial at hand (John 14:26).  He keeps us from falling (Jude 24-25). Even though we make mistakes, we are no longer imprisoned in the clutches of the evil one to destroy us.  We fall in our efforts to walk in God’s way, but each time we rise yet again in the strength of the Lord God (Micah 7:7-9; Proverbs 24:16).

We are not destroyed, but are progressively being made holy, transformed by the power of God and kept safe in Him until that Day when our salvation will be complete (Romans 13:11; See Further Resources, “Salvation Draws Near”).

The psalmist’s prayers were answered.

Lord, Jesus, I am undone!  I am not following faithfully in your Word, and I am impure in heart at all times.  I don’t even know my heart like you do in truth.  I am caught up in the distractions and allurements of this world and I don’t want to be.  Lord, thank you for Jesus Christ, whom you promised so long ago to free us from the bondage of recurring sin.  I don’t have to be imprisoned by my bad habits or habitual impurity.  I can be free because you paid the price to conquer death and sin and all evil and to raise victorious.  You lead us in Your way through the cross of self-sacrifice, from personal death-to-sin into the same Resurrection victory over sin and self. You not only go ahead of us in this, but you walk with us through the power and ever-presence of the Holy Spirit of Father God.  Praise you Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for your amazing love!  Keep me now as I determine in my will again to follow you in all purity of mind, heart, soul and body.  Steady me when I grow frail and doubt.  Correct me in mercy when I fail.  Encourage me in your strength, and remind me of truth when I succeed so that I don’t grow prideful and fall again. I will to praise you to the four winds of the earth in all I do and think and say, and in Your power, I will do it.  In the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, so let it be. 

© Sept 18, 2018, http://www.readpsalm119.com.

***********************

FURTHER RESOURCES:

“The Coming of the Comforter” by John McArthur, Grace to You ministry.  Article.

Salvation Draws Near” by Ligonier Ministries. Brief devotional.

“And Can It Be?” lyrics by Charles Wesley, beautifully arranged and sung by Glad, 1988 (a capella group), audio on YouTube, Gospel Nation Station.

“And Can It Be?” by Charles Wesley, (1707-1788)

1

And can it be that I should gain
An int’rest in the Savior’s blood?                    (to profit from)
Died He for me, who caused His pain?
For me, who Him to death pursued?             (He loved enough to die to save; John 3:16-17)
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! how can it be
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

2

’Tis mystery all! The Immortal dies!
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries                     (angel; 1 Peter 1:12)
To sound the depths of love Divine!
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.                   (but praise instead; no secret now)
’Tis mercy all! let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.

3

He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.
’Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.

4

Long my imprisoned spirit lay
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray,                  (He looked on me in mercy)
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.

5

No condemnation now I dread;                               (Romans 8)
Jesus, and all in Him, is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,                                  (my Savior and my Lord; the One I obey)
And clothed in righteousness Divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,                          (Hebrews 4:14-16)
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.      (2 Tim. 4:8)
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.

2 thoughts on “Defiled

  1. Postscript:
    To “befoul” something implies that the original state was pure. I have a brand new white blouse, but a fall down a muddy hiking trail “befouled” my fresh white shirt with blood and mud and ground in grass. It is stained and no bleach will get it all out. To “reconcile”, which is what Christ has done for us, is to RE (“again; back”) CONCILIARE (“to bring together”), or more fully: “to bring back together that which was pulled apart, separated”.

    Dear friend, and I mean that, you were and are not designed for pollution and stain. That is not who you were made to be. Not who I was made to be. Christ has paved the way across the chasm of separation due to our sin that gapes open between you and me and God the Loving Sovereign Father. In a metaphorical mystery that is not just wordplay but literally true, the blood of Christ has washed away your blood stains of guilt. You are clean. And the Holy Spirit is here to keep us clean, but only if we accept this gift of the Savior’s for salvation. We must begin at the right gate, and that is at the cross of Jesus.

    If you do not yet know or understand this gift that is offered to you for cleansing and the healing of your soul, read the book of the Gospel of John (or the Gospel of Mark) with prayer in your heart to understand. God sees you and hears your heart as you read with an open mind and heart. If you ask Him, He will come in and open your understanding. Find a Bible-believing friend or acquaintance or church and ask someone to pray with you and help you begin your journey with Christ and the Holy Spirit.

    I would love to hear from you, but if not then God go with you in peace and joy. — Tamara.

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