“I considered my ways And turned my feet to Your testimonies. I hastened and did not delay To keep Your commandments.” – Psalms 119:59-60 NASB
Just like Peter after the rooster crowed three times, or the prodigal son when he was neck-deep in pig swaller, David’s consideration of his own ways was all about regret. It was an honest reflection on what got him to the place he was at—a reflection on his sin. The truth is, most of us only consider our ways after they’ve been found wanting, after we’ve hit the wall, and David was no exception.
RepentanceThe truth is, most of us only consider our ways after they’ve been found wanting, after we’ve hit the wall, and David was no exception. Click To Tweet
But notice he didn’t merely consider his ways—in other words, this is more than just some therapeutic self-reflection. David considered, and he turned. What does that mean? Quite simply, it means that David repented. We should all know this by now, but repentance isn’t merely feeling sorry for or regretting our actions, although that will accompany it. Genuine repentance is turning from our way to God’s way. Again this is what we see from Peter and the prodigal son. (Mark 14:72; Luke 15:17)
Repentance should be the MO of God’s people. Repentance is not just about sinners turning to God. Continual repentance will always be a part of our life, at least this side of a new heaven and a new earth.Repentance should be the MO of God's people. Repentance is not just about sinners turning to God. Continual repentance will always be a part of our life, at least this side of a new heaven and a new earth. Click To Tweet
In this Psalm, we’re dealing with a David who was already in a covenant with God. And because of that, we’re dealing with a different type of repentance.
This repentance is the continual turning back to God. It’s repentance unto sanctification, unto righteous living, not salvation. We are all going to face the need for this sort of repentance. We are all prone to wandering from God’s ways. This is a fact we must face with humility. Consider these words from Come Thou of Every Blessing:
Oh, to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee:
prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it;
seal it for thy courts above.
We must recognize our proclivity for getting off course, then consider our ways and turn back to God’s, falling again on his grace.
(This consideration of our ways is why Paul told the Corinthians to test themselves to see if they were in the faith.)
There’s another thing we see in David over the long haul that we should learn from—something that comes with increased maturity—that is an ability and a willingness to consider our ways before we arrive at the consequences. Considering our ways before the rooster crows or the pig mud gets too deep is important (not easy, but important). And when we understand that God always gives us an out when we are tempted, it’s not only possible to escape; it’s also probable.Considering our ways before the rooster crows or the pig mud gets too deep is important. When we understand that God always gives an out when we are tempted, it’s not only possible to escape; it’s probable. Click To Tweet
The person whose portion is God will have a life marked by repentance, a life marked by increasing obedience, and a life marked by a greater level of discernment concerning God’s ways versus their own. I hope you understand I haven’t said that this means we are beyond faltering. Instead, my point is that we remain humble, teachable, and vigilant.
Next, is a lesson I’ve taught my girls for as long as I can remember, “delayed obedience is disobedience.” David not only turned to God’s way (repentance), but he also did so with haste. Here’s another truism for you—genuine transformation means the allure of sin doesn’t hold a candle to the glory of walking in God’s righteousness. If I offered you a love that makes you feel safe and protected and honored (and btw this is exactly what God has offered) over and against the supposed love of this world, not only would you take it, you’d chase it. You’d run with haste after it, in such a way as to win the prize. David understood this. So he repented and ran toward God.
If God is our portion, repentance and quick obedience constitute our lives.
Let me offer a brief idea here about what leads to repentance.
If God is our portion and we understand that He’s gracious, it’s then (because of that grace) that we turn to God. Scripture teaches us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, but it’s the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.If God is our portion, repentance and quick obedience constitute our lives. Click To Tweet
Sure fearing the Lord—and the wisdom that results—makes us keenly aware of how we fall short. But Scripture communicates that it’s the kindness of God alone that turns us. The fear of God shows us the mirror with all of our sinfulness reflected back at us, but then the kindness of God pivots that mirror so that we see the reflection of Christ instead.
The law not only shows how we’ve missed the mark, it also shows us the penalty of falling so short—death. The kindness of God reveals that there’s a merciful plan for restoration. It’s not something we deserve, but it is something that falls in line with God’s gracious character.
Dealing with Difficulty
“The cords of the wicked have encircled me, But I have not forgotten Your law.” – Psalms 119:61 NASB
Although God being our portion will lead to repentance and ready obedience, there is no promise that our difficulties will be removed. Another way of looking at this is that there may be lasting consequences to our choices. And yet a better promise remains. Although the cords of the wicked may encircle us, God is still there. Even though an enemy may be all around, God is bigger than any foe we face.
We do the church a disservice in promoting ideas of peace and prosperity that Scripture simply does not speak of. For example, God doesn’t promise a cessation of trial, trouble, pain, sickness, war (the list could go on). No! The greater promise in Scripture is that God will give us peace in the midst of all of those issues (think the three Hebrew children, Daniel in Lion’s den, etc.). If we look back to Deuteronomy 8, we will discover that it is even entirely in line with God’s character to allow these things in order to train us to trust Him.
There’s a great story in 2 Kings 6 starring Elisha and his servant, which I believe can give us some encouragement in difficult times like these. It also provides a very practical step to having peace in the storm.
“Now, when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” – 2 Kings 6:15-17 NASB
Elisha didn’t respond to his servant’s question of “what shall we do?” With “claim by faith that your enemy is gone” or “just walk as though there is no enemy” or “God promised no enemies to those who love Him, so clearly you don’t.”
Instead, the command is “don’t fear.” The truth is, “the enemy is real, but God is greater.” The action was a prayer asking a gracious God to open the servant’s eyes. Again, not to some fairytale idea that the enemy didn’t really exist, but instead that God’s provision and protection are ever-present.
The Apostle Paul showed us this truth in his second letter to the Corinthians.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NASB
If God is our portion, then we will not be crushed, forsaken, destroyed, or filled with despair. Instead, we will say the same thing as David, “although the cords of the wicked encircle me, I have You, Lord. I have Your law. I have Your truth.”
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress, My God, in whom I trust!” – Psalms 91:1-2 NASB
This sounds like a motto for the people of God!
Is your life defined by repentance and quick obedience? What is God teaching you about enduring difficulties? I’d love to hear. Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.