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Hope For Heavenly-Mindedness

Hope For Heavenly-Mindedness

A brief study of Psalm 119:25-32, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 17 May 2013


This is the 4th of the 22 songs which make up Psalm 119, “The Righteous One’s Alphabet of True Godliness.” In the original every verse in this song begins with the Hebrew alphabet “daleth.” In English, the key word to remember is the word “dust” and the key idea is “depression,” especially spiritual depression. The key verse is verse 25—“My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.

We may entitle it “Hope for Heavenly-Mindedness.” It is a song for God’s children to express,—in union with Christ,—their hope and desire to have their hearts enlarged so that they may be lifted from spiritual depression to enjoy God with heavenly-mindedness.

We may study this Psalm in 4 parts according to the four prominent requests found in it: Quicken (v. 25); Teach (v. 26-27); Strengthen (v. 28-29); Uphold (v. 30-32).

1. Quicken

25 My soul cleaveth unto the dust: quicken thou me according to thy word.

When the apostle Paul uses the word “quicken” in Ephesians 2:1, he is speaking of the first act of God in regeneration. Lazarus was quickened by the power of God before he could hear the voice of Christ to obey Him to come forth out of the tomb.

All true believers have been quickened. However, there is a remnant of corruption in us so that while we are in the flesh, we will often have to battle with the lust of the flesh (cf. Gal 5:16). In our heart of hearts, we desire to have a closer walk with the Lord, and to enjoy God more.

But we find ourselves unable to lift ourselves up from our earthiness or a dull spiritual depression. David describes the experience as that of having his soul cleave to the dust. Paul was, in some sense, describing the same exasperation when he says: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Rom 7:24). Our Lord has no original sin, so he was not held down by corruption. But he took on our flesh so that he could experience what we experience of the longing and exasperation in our hearts. Thus He gives us to sing with him, “My soul cleaveth unto the dust.” And He teaches us to pray “Quicken thou me according to thy word.

That is to say: “Lift me up from the dust according to thy promise. By thy grace put life into my affections; by thy providence stir me up that I may delight in holy exercises; by thy Word and Spirit cure me of my spiritual deadness and depression.” God alone can quicken us by His Spirit and by His word, and so we must cry unto Him.

Today, more than at the time of David, we can expect the Lord to quicken us. The Lord Jesus says in John 6:63—

“It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life”

But the experience of the soul cleaving to the dust is still very real. Do you know that experience?

Are you aware if your soul is cleaving to the dust? You won’t bother about it if you are not truly a child of God. But if you are a child of God, you will surely be troubled by a sense of cleaving to the dust. We are made different, but surely every child of God senses something of it because of the Spirit of Adoption dwelling in us. Even if you have backslidden for a season, you will desire for more heavenly mindedness. Therefore, cry out unto the Father. He will hear our cries to be quickened and to be lifted up from the dust that we may truly enjoy Him.

Learn to speak to the Father about the problem in your soul with the help of the words of this psalm. But do not only request to be quickened. Request also to be taught!

2. Teach

26 I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes. 27 Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.

The children of God are never too far from the Father to talk to Him. The Spirit of Adoption who enables them to cry out to Him as Abba Father will see to it that there is always a longing in their hearts to speak to the Father.

One of the things that we find ourselves talking to the Father about, which we may not find comfortable telling others is the state of our soul—how our soul cleaves to the dust. This is what we are given to acknowledge in verse 26a—“I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me.

But what should we desire of the Lord as we pour out our hearts to Him? Some of you may have occasion to pour out your hearts to your earthly father especially if he is a believer. When you do so, you can be sure that your father, if he is a godly man, will not only empathise with you, but will seek to help you in what ways he can. Indeed, your father will probably be very pleased if you will tell him exactly how you would like him to help. Which father will not enjoy an opportunity to show his fatherly love?

If this is so for our earthly fathers, how much more for our heavenly Father. So, even as we pour out our hearts to Him, we plead with Him for help. Thus, we are given to request in the second part of verse 26 and verse 27—

“…teach me thy statutes. 27 Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.

This is our heart’s desire. We want to know God’s ways. We want to please God our Father with our attitude and life. But we know that for that to happen, we must first know and appreciate God’s precepts. We must understand them well; and we must hide them in our hearts to the point that it overflows from our lips. Unless that happens, we shall walk in hypocrisy or we shall continue to cleave to the dust. So let us pour out our hearts to the Lord and plead with him to teach us and lead us in his ways.

And as we do so, let us acknowledge our weakness and need of strength as we are given to sing in verses 28-29.

3. Strengthen

28 My soul melteth for heaviness: strengthen thou me according unto thy word.  29 Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.

There are actually two related requests here. The first is a request to be strengthened, the other a request to be freed from hypocrisy.

When we speak of our soul cleaving to the dust, we are of course speaking metaphorically of the depressed state of our soul. Our soul is not material like dust. But we understand what it is to feel a sense of frustration like a man tied down to the dusty ground, unable to get up.

The same feeling can also be described as a melting of our soul and a sense of heaviness. It is hard to describe it any more graphically. At such time, we feel in our heart of hearts like a jellyfish plopped on the ground helpless and melting under the sun. Unless the Lord strengthens us, we will continue to ebb away. We will find little delight in spiritual things. We find it tiring to read or to write or to serve the Lord in any way that requires us to use our minds.

When that happens we will, more and more, find ourselves walking joylessly and sometimes doing things simply because it is expected of us. This, I believe, is what the Spirit of Christ is leading us to think about in verse 29—“Remove from me the way of lying: and grant me thy law graciously.” When we are struggling with spiritual depression, we will feel hypocritical. We will feel like we are living a lie. Oh may the Lord deliver us by graciously applying His Word to our soul that we may move with new joy and hope! This is what we are given to pray for in the words, “grant me thy law graciously.

But now, finally, when we have poured out our hearts and made our requests, let us not forget also to make our resolution and ask the Lord to help us to maintain it. This is what we are given to sing in the final 3 verses of this song, which we have sub-titled—

4. Uphold

30 I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me. 31 I have stuck unto thy testimonies: O LORD, put me not to shame. 32 I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.

Again, this is the innermost desire of the regenerate heart indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. We will feel spiritual depression, or our soul cleaving to the dust, because we have been quickened. Were we still dead in sin and trespasses, we would not bother at all. But when we are made alive, we would also not be satisfied with a mundane earthly existence. Rather we want to walk in the way of God’s truth. We want to make the right choices. We want to stick closely to God’s Word. This is characteristic of our new nature. This desire moves us in our better moments to resolve to walk in the truth.

But here is the problem. The problem is that we can’t do all these by our own strength. We need God’s help. We need Him to enlarge our hearts (v. 32). Only when He does so will we be able to run in the way of the Lord!

So beloved, let us resolve; but let us also ask the Lord to help us to keep our resolution. The Lord Jesus says: “without me ye can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). Let us respond by saying, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13); “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart” (v. 32).

Conclusion

This is the 4th Song of Psalm 119. It is a song that is hard to comprehend and appreciate for anyone who is not a child of God. But it is a song that resonates, I believe, with every child of God who has grappled with his own failing and lamented how his soul cleaves to the dust. It is a song that can bring tears to our eyes as we are made to realise that our experience is not unique.

Christ, who made us alive and deemed it fit that our sanctification should only be partial today, has given us this song to sing in union with him. He would have us not only to pour out our hearts with regard to our spiritual depression. He would have us encourage one another with His word. May we sing with new understanding and gratitude! The Lord cares and He understands and He would truly help us as we prayerfully reflect on the state of our soul.

—JJ Lim