Psalm 119 - He (The Lust Of The Eyes)
Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.
Fulfil your promise to your servant, so that you may be feared.
Take away the disgrace I dread, for your laws are good.
How I long for your precepts! In your righteousness preserve my life.
The Psalmist asked God to direct him away from “selfish gain”.
Selfish gain is yearning to gain something that belongs to someone else. There are many examples in the Bible. Balaam sold out the people of Israel for money; David committed adultery because he coveted; Achan stole and brought defeat to Israel; Judas stole from the disciples and betrayed Jesus for money.
What do we covet today? In the financial world, we saw in recent years how some people who coveted money have swindled and stolen from others. Selfish gain is dangerous because it corrupts our soul and lowers our intrinsic value. Selfish gain is a zero sum game, you win selfishly and someone else loses; this is not the desire or way of God. Let God work out the path for us.
The Psalmist asked God to turn his “eyes away from worthless things”. He meant it in the spiritual sense, as everything is worthless compared to our eternal gains. That does not mean we shouldn’t try to work towards prestigious positions in the company or get better living conditions for our family by working hard. The question is, where is our heart?
We see how David rose up to be King of Israel. He set an example for us to follow. He didn’t want the role, but God took it from Saul and gave it to him. Ironically, Saul was afraid of losing his kingdom as he saw David’s rising popularity even though David had no interest in usurping him. The one who coveted the position lost it, while the one who didn’t want it got it.
What do we hope to achieve in our short lifetime? King Solomon had his eyes on wisdom and he spent much time on studies. He also had his eyes on pleasures and he spent a lot of time on projects too. But his eyes were not on God. In the end, he acquired nothing spiritually and everything he had gained was meaningless, as he concluded in his book Ecclesiastes.
The Psalmist had a lot of asks. He asked God to do many things for him, to help him follow God and His word – “Teach me... Give me understanding... Direct me in your path... Turn my heart... Turn my life... Fulfil your promise... Take away the disgrace...” We won’t learn unless God teaches us. We won’t understand unless God explains. We can’t see God’s wonderful deeds if He doesn’t open our eyes.
Conversely, action is required on our side too. We need to be eager to learn when God teaches. We need to make effort to ask God when we don’t understand. We need to follow the direction of the Spirit and not ignore the calling. We need to soften our hearts to let God turn us to Him. We cannot look back when God turn our eyes away from our sins. Like what Jesus told John in Revelation, “whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the Churches”, we can only hear God’s words if He speaks to us.
The Psalmist ended this section of the psalm requesting God, “preserve my life”. This isn’t an instructional section but a plea for his life to be preserved. Because God is righteous, God will preserve him. Perhaps the Psalmist had struggled with the lure of selfish gains and material things and thus found himself at multiple cross roads. He needed help from God to show him which way to go. God’s path may not seem as delightful as the path of selfish gains, but the Psalmist was right in seeing that selfish gains bring about “disgrace I dread”. There are risk takers who know the dreadful consequences of their actions could be imprisonment or divorce, but they continue on their path of deception.
Solomon had his eyes on women. He had 700 wives and 300 concubines at least, and that destroyed him. How did the wisest man on earth who knew so many proverbs and insights from God fall? It is not difficult to understand God’s words if we are earnest to learn; the difficulty has always been about our obedience. From whom can we learn about obedience?
During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. (Hebrews 5:7-10 NIV)
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.