Show Me, Pt. I

Teach Me Thy Way, O LORDThe Hebrew letter ‘he’ began its life in 3000-2000 B.C.E.[1] in Ancient Semitic script as a pictograph of a man standing with his arms held up.  The letter has a word-meaning (as all letters used to):  “to behold, reveal, breathe, live”.  It is a stance of prayer and petition for life, directed above himself.  That’s interesting, isn’t it?

He‘ became our modern letter ‘H’ which is an aspirated letter, meaning that we breathe it. Say “heal” without the ‘-eal’ part.  Do you hear it?  You have just imparted the breath of life into the air around you.  Now what happens?  You must breathe back in, or you will die.  You “take in” the oxygenated air from outside of you, and you live.  In and out, in and out.  Respiration is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

I just gave you information, but did I teach you anything?  I did, if one relies upon the modern meaning of the word “teach”.  I pointed something out to you.  But the word “teach” has a greater meaning.

Show me, don’t tell me

He (v. 33-40) begins with a request from the psalmist for the Lord to “teach” him His ways, his laws and commands.  We can safely suppose that the psalmist has read these laws and commands; they’ve been pointed out.  The knowledge of the data is there.  So what is the psalmist actually asking?

The Hebrew yarah or yara (yaw-raw’) is the word translated in our Bibles as “teach”.  It’s picture story is similar; it means “to throw, shoot”.

The story of David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 20) may help us here. Jonathan is aiding his friend David’s escape from Jonathan’s father, the crazy, angry King Saul.  They agree that Jonathan will learn whether or not it is safe for David to return to court.  He will return to David’s hiding place and will shoot three arrows to one side or another of a special stone depending on whether the news is good (return) or bad (flee!).  Jonathan is giving David information that David cannot know without this sign.

Imagine David hiding out around or behind this stone for who knows how long until his friend returns.  He is anxious in his ignorance of his situation before the king.  He is dependent, we will say, upon this information for his very life.  Imagine, too, Jonathan uneasily pretending to enjoy the feast back at court.  He is waiting to discover what he needs to know so he can translate it to his dearest friend in order to save his friend’s life.  Both are dependent on this secret mode of communication–the shooting of arrows. [2]

Let’s consider the psalmist again. “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes, and I will keep it to the end.”  With arms raised above his head in petition to a God that is higher than himself [3], he asks to be shown the way of God’s statutes (all of them as a singular body of wisdom).  In other words, he’s asking the Lord to “come” and communicate with him!  He isn’t asking for a theological degree.  He needs a trusted Jonathan to come and translate the code. He’s asking the Lord God, maker of heaven and earth, to literally condescend to the psalmist’s level and commune with him, to share that big picture wisdom that he needs for life,

Wow. This brings a whole new twist on a plain, old repeated phrase doesn’t it?

“Then,” the psalmist says, “I shall keep [thy way] to the end.”  To emphasize the meaning here, the psalmist says in effect, “Only then, Lord, will I be able to really know it, comprehend it, walk in it, obeying it fully to the uttermost of all that I am.” [4]

Knowledge we can get from shared data.  For understanding, experience is definitely needed.  These are both open to “in the box” learning: humans sharing with other humans. But wisdom is a gift that is given only from the Lord, and fear of the Lord–that turning to God with arms upraised in humble petition–is the beginning of it (Psalm 9:10).  Wisdom makes sense of knowledge and understanding in a way that those of us inside the box can’t get any other way.  Wisdom is revealed to us from outside the box.

Answered prayer: God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,…”(Hebrews 1:1).

God did condescend to speak to his fallen creatures and show the way back to reconciliation with God. God “tabernacled” or dwelt with them in the Holy of Holies, and from there on through Old Testament history.

However, the psalmist needed personal clarity.

  “…but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.  After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,…” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

And also:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1, 14)

You see, a Savior had been promised long before the psalmist could cry out for one:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)

Immanuel, or Emmanuel means “God with us”.  God did come down, not in high isolation apart from the very lowliest of us, but WITH us all. Just as the psalmist asked for! Jesus death and resurrection bridged the communication gap between God and ourselves, paying the cost for our sin that put the gap there in the first place and restoring us in right relationship with the Father.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Not just any counselor, or teacher, Jesus’ counsel is wonder-ful, or full of wonder!  His counsel was not like any other teaching.  He taught with authority (Luke 4:32, Mark 1:22) as one who spoke from God (John 12:49-50, John 17:8) and inspired awe (John 6:63, 68-69).  God was with us in Christ, and He still is…

[Jesus said,] “‘I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. … These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you….Now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe.'”  (John 14:16-26, 29)

God’s heart for us is to give us Himself to show (not tell) us the way to reconciliation with the Father.  These passages show us two kinds of humans: those who look for him, and those who do not. We are not left in ignorance (Romans 1:18-21).

What do I want? 

The psalmist wanted more than mere knowledge, he wanted understanding, which requires experience. He wanted to know God more, to experience God Himself.

Many from non-Western cultures that are more familiar with visions have received visions of Christ and the change in their lives becomes evident.  When I prayed to see God at a special time in my life, I, too, experienced God and the end of it was a heart flooded with praise!  I knew the reality of him in a way I have never and could never forget.  He changed my life.

The question to me since that time is, “Do I still want to experience God’s transforming, humbling work in my life, or have I become enchanted with the allurements of this world above Him?” The answer of my heart is humbling.

One time experiences do not carry us long in this broken, sick, unjust world with threats and terrors on every side. We need him every hour, as the hymn says.  Am I still willing to pray, “Lord help me experience you today, even if it humbles me, even if it means death to my encrusted, prideful and crumbling spirit?”

Goad Me Onward

“Make me go in the path”, “incline my heart” the psalmist pleads.  He knows the condition of his heart is stubborn like a rock.  He will not go unless the Lord prod him on.

That is the way it is with me.  I resist seeing myself in my true colors.  I resist confession, repentance, and humble obedience with all my powers.  These never have been things I long for!  But I do look ahead now, and I long for what is on the other side of that process of being made holy even as Christ Himself is holy.

The psalmist says, “Lord, go on,…prod me with your goad. Make me continue on the path you have set for me and that I said I wanted when I first bowed before you.  Lean me toward the finish line and don’t let me stop short.  If you’ll do that for me, my King, I will obey your commands; I will cooperate with your design for me and will keep going.  But I can’t go on without your power and strength, for I have none of my own.”  Hope and humility loosens the rock of my heart (see Daleth).

End of Part I.  See “Show Me, Pt II”.

© 2018 by www.readpsalm119.com

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Footnotes:

[1] I’m going to go with the modern abbreviation here, intended to eject Christ from the timeline as “Before the Common Era”, but really, we’re still centering our timeline around that one great event that is Christ’s birth, whether or not he was actually born at 4 B.C. or 0 B.C.  The abbreviation still means “BeforeChrist’s Era”.

NOTE BENE:  Just as a side note to any who are interested, A.D. means anno Dominiin Latin, or “in the year of our Lord [Jesus]“.  I used to think it meant “after the death” of Christ.  You know, before and after.  But it doesn’t, and you know why?  Because Christ rose from the dead!  Yes, your TIMELINE is a gospel-centered evangelistic tool!  Because he lives, we live “in the year of our Lord” which is ongoing.  Glory to God! Our very world-wide dating system cannot be changed.  Christ is at the very center of history in every way!  Be sure your children are aware of this!

[2]  In fact, that very word “communication” comes from com-, a prefix meaning “with, together”, and an ancient Latin root moenia meaning ‘duties’.  The meaning implies the nature of sharing, imparting, or transmitting duties, to make common that which previously was not common (and yes, the word ‘common’ is related to ‘communicate’).

[3] The term here is not just any “lord” or boss, but when it is in all capital letters, LORD, it means YHWH, or the unspoken name of “the God who brings things into existence.” See “Yahweh”, Encyclopedia Britannica online at https://www.britannica.com/topic/Yahweh.  See also “What do LORD, GOD, Lord, God, etc., stand for in the Bible?”, GotQuestions.org, at https://www.gotquestions.org/LORD-GOD-Lord-God.html.

[4] Psalm 119:33, Benson Commentary, http://www.biblehub.com

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