The Message of Psalm 86:11
Biblical Research Monthly, October 1943 — by Dr. David L. Cooper
Psalm Eighty Six is one of those sweet messages of trust and devotion to the Lord. It will do the heart of any child of God good to meditate upon it, if he will ask the Lord to open his eyes that he may behold the wonderful, deep, and profound truth contained therein. The special portion of it which has loomed largely before me recently is verse 11:
Teach me Thy way, O Jehovah;
I will walk in Thy truth: Unite my heart to fear Thy name.”
David's asking God to teach him His way was a tacit admission that he did not know the way of God. Only a humble heart could pray this way. The proud and haughty the Lord hateth, but He loveth and giveth grace to the humble. The person who feels that he knows everything is not teachable. On the contrary the one who realizes his limitations and who desires to know more will be open to truth new to him in order that he may act accordingly.
David wanted the Lord to teach him His way, God's way. There are two ways which one may pursue through this life. They are set forth in Proverbs 4:10-19. In verses 14-17 the way of wickedness is pointed out, but in verse 18 we see that “the path of the righteous is as the dawning light, That shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” It was this path which David doubtless had in mind when he prayed in our psalm for the Lord to teach him His way.
The Lord Jesus Christ, in the Sermon on the Mount, told us about two ways: the strait gate and the narrow way which leads unto life and which few, comparatively speaking, find; and the broad way which leads to everlasting destruction and which the majority of people travel.
If we are willing to be taught, the Lord will use various means for our enlightenment. He will teach us by “the still small voice” as He did Elijah, provided our hearts and souls are in tune with Him to receive such a message. On the contrary, He may have to speak to us in the whirlwind, or in the storm, or in some terrible disaster or calamity. Just as the dictators of Europe and Japan can understand no voice except that of the thunder of cannons and the bursting of bombs, so there are many of the children of God who can understand no language except that of severe chastisement from a loving, heavenly Father.
Whether God speaks to us through the still small voice of conscience or a blessed experience when we are separated from the world and are alone with Him, or whether He speaks to us through the thundering voice of some mighty calamity which He permits to come upon us to bring us to our senses and to our knees, let us accept the message as coming from His heart, which is overflowing with love.
We are admonished to study the Word. Paul urged Timothy to give diligence to show himself approved unto God, “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15). The rendering of this passage in the Old Version is “study to show thyself approved ...” God expects us to study the Word and let Him teach us through its message. There is nothing that will take the place of sincere, earnest, consecrated, systematic Bible study. It is as essential to the growth and development of the Christian as food is to our physical bodies.
Let us not think that by our own brain power and mental grasp we can fathom the depths of God's Word, for such is untrue. Education is excellent but modern education cannot enable one to get the deep, rich, sweet message out of the Word. One must pray in faith to the Lord that He will open his eyes to behold the wonderful things contained in the Word. David prayed thus:
Open thou mine eyes,
that I may behold Wondrous things out of Thy law.” (Psalm 119:18)
Paul prayed in behalf of the Ephesians that God would open their eyes and enable them to see our marvelous blessings in Christ (Ephesians 1:15-23). I know from personal experience that I was unable to understand the message of truth to any extent until I learned that the Lord is the one who illuminates the page and who enlightens our hearts and enables us to see the truth. When I saw that fundamental principle, I began earnestly praying to the Lord to open my eyes that I might understand the Word. This was in the fall of 1912. It has been my constant prayer almost daily for spiritual light and understanding in the Word. I wish to testify to the glory of God that He has made His Word living to me. I have seen myriads of truths that otherwise I would never have recognized in the Holy Scriptures.
The Lord is eager to give His truth to honest, sincere souls who are willing to take their stand with Him and walk with Him daily. It will be, let me say, a very lonely walk, in all probability, as far as great crowds are concerned, because there are very few who are willing to go all the way with the Lord. He knows the heart and knows whether or not He can trust one with the precious gems of truth from His Word.
After praying to be taught by the Lord, the psalmist promised Him saying, “I will walk in Thy truth.” The connection shows that David's thought was this: Lord, teach me Thy path, and I will walk in the way which you show me. When we ask the Lord to give us spiritual understanding in the Word, are we willing to say to Him, honestly and conscientiously, we will walk in Thy way, in Thy truth irrespective of everything else? If we sincerely make such a promise to the Lord, He shows us precious truths, and if we fail to walk therein, then there is but one thing that He can do, which is to chasten us for dereliction in duty.
The Lord gives us His truth in order that we might conform our lives thereto and might teach others. I have always had the highest admiration for Ezra, because we are told concerning him that “... Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances” (Ezra 7:10). He meant business with God. There was no foolishness with him, no halfway ground according to his estimation. He wanted to know the will of God in order that he might do it himself and that he might teach the truth to God's people. This should be the idea before the mind of every minister and teacher of the Word. May the Lord stir our souls and enable us to see this vision which Ezra had had and to set our hearts to know the will of God that we personally might do it first and then teach others.
The third element to be found in our verse is “Unite my heart to fear Thy name.” The request that the Lord would unite his heart in order that he might worship God acceptably implies that it was disunited. There are different functions of our hearts or spirits. Man was made originally in a perfect condition. His heart was functioning properly. The various faculties of his being were properly coordinated so that he could and did enjoy free and perfect fellowship and communion with his God. When, however, he was seduced by Satan, an element foreign to his nature entered into his very soul and disrupted and disorganized his entire being. His soul was no longer in that perfect, coordinated, normal condition. On the contrary, sin had wrecked and made havoc of his being. With his mind he willed to do the will of God, but, since this disorganization had taken place in his being, he was unable to worship God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength. This fact shows the need of regeneration, of the new birth. “Jesus answered, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except one be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” John 3:5).
After one has become a new creature in Christ Jesus, after he has experienced the miracle of regeneration, after his various faculties have been properly adjusted by the miracle of regeneration, and his innermost being is functioning properly like a perfect mechanism, even then Satan may inject some foreign element into the life of such a one and disrupt the proper functioning of his being in his worship to God. Thus this foreign element, sin, disunites the heart so that one can no longer worship God with all of his heart, mind, soul, and strength (Mark 12:30).
In such a case one must repent of his sins, turn to God, and ask the Lord to remove the hindering cause, to forgive the sin, to unite the heart by the power of the Holy Spirit in order that he might render the proper, acceptable service to God, to fear His name. The term, “to fear,” is the regular Old Testament term signifying worship in the true sense of the word.
Let our prayer always be that God may keep our hearts united to worship and serve Him in an acceptable manner.