12 September 2012

Walk with Him Wednesday ~ Radical Reflection

Last week, as we've been discussing the practice of habits, Ann added a very specific qualifier, encouraging us to think about how we "...practice new habits. How do we begin again every day? How do we make a fresh start every day and begin anew?..."

Last week, I finished a book that it has taken me a very long time to read - I think a friend handed it to me sometime around Christmas last year. No joke! I've been reading a bit, putting it down, thinking lots on what I read, going over what I was learning, and asking the Holy Spirit to show me things to keep, use, apply...

One area where I was challenged was in the area of self-examination (or soul-searching, contemplation, introspection, rumination, reflection, whichever word you prefer). The author, Ruth Haley Barton, divided self-examination into two broad categories: 
  1. Examining the consciousness - deliberately looking to see all the evidences of God's presence and the working of His hand throughout each day, and
  2. Examining the conscious - choosing to see myself more clearly in the light of God's unmistakable presence by embracing the gift of who and how He created me to be as well as focusing on, instead of running from, the darkness within and what having a sin nature means.

When I typed "self-examination"  into the search box on openbible.com,  57 different verses popped up; one of the first portions of God's Word listed was Psalm 139.

O LORD, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O LORD, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.
O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.

These words are not unfamiliar words. Yet there is one part of this particular passage that has always confused - even disturbed - me, making me feel uncomfortable.

O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O LORD?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.

These words of imprecation just seem out of character with the rest of the psalm, at least to me, as I read it. 

Am I the only one that thinks that? 

Yet since this is God's Word... I need to try and figure out what they mean and why they are there.

My first... and maybe primary thought is that...

I find preschoolers refreshing. While they imagine and play, they don't tend to pretend when it comes to what they are thinking and feeling. They tell you what they think. I rarely have to guess about what M&M wants. She tells me with her words, her behavior and her facial expressions pretty much exactly what is going on in her heart, soul and mind. In other words, what you see is what you get. 

On the other hand, she's often clueless about herself, and can't explain why she does what she does... why she chooses disobedience or flies off in a rage and hits her sister for picking up her toys or walks around with a sour expression when she has to help put away her brother's laundry.

What does that have to do with Psalm 139?

Well, David starts off by saying: "You have searched me and known me." Then he goes on to describe the intimate totality of the Almighty's knowledge of him. Isn't that sort of like what Ms Barton (that author I mentioned earlier) means by examining our consciousness, recognizing the traces and clear evidences of God's hand and presence in our lives? The first many verses of this Psalm, penned by David, are words counted  beautiful and precious in Scripture because of the truth that God knows us better than we know ourselves, and still chose love and enormous sacrifice because of His choice. David wrote, right before he launches into that imprecatory section, these words: "How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You."

Then he writes words that rain judgment, asking God to visit His wrath on the wicked. Please note that I'm not trying to negate the more traditional applications of these verses, but as I read this time, I wondered, especially in the context of David writing about God's thoughts, if these verses couldn't also be a little bit of that second type of self-examination, examination of conscious, about which Ms Barton wrote. Could David be asking the Lord to reveal the dark, sinful, loathsome things within himself, of which he is unaware - and in the recognition of God's abiding presence, help David rid those things from his life? 

What if David's imprecation is not just directed towards the visible, tangible, physical enemies of God, but also the very things inherent within standing contrary to God, His character and His holiness? 

What if David's angry words are for the deep darkness that comes from a sin nature and which needs God's revelation before we are even capable of knowing and recognizing it?

In this context, the last words of this Psalm pack quite a punch. It was another one of those curious things I'd noted previously about this psalm. At the beginning, David says "searched" - past tense. So why here, at the end of the psalm, is he speaking in the present imperative? 

David's example fleshes out what God-dependent, always present and continual soul-searching and contemplation just might look like. 

Working to develop this as a daily habit might, by God's grace, make me into a woman after His own heart.

The book to which I refer in this post is  
by Ruth Haley Barton

No comments:

Post a Comment

Stop in for a chat! I love to hear what you have to say ~


Related Posts with Thumbnails