Building on an earlier post (Monday), I want to delve a bit deeper into the first verse of the I.O.U.S. of soul development. The first verse--the "I" of the IOUS, is:
"Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain." -Psalm 119:36ON INCLINATIONS
We all have them. They're not forced. We exhibit them naturally. Whether we tend toward optimism or pessimism, to light meat or dark, Fords or Chevrolets, . . . or, to sin. No one has to cajole us; we lean in that direction. We are commanded not to "love the world" (1 John 2:15), but we lean that way . . . at least for a while. Americans, it seems, lean heavily in the direction of money, 401K's and vacations. What makes us incline toward anything? It suits us, pleases us, makes us feel better. Makes sense, doesn't it? But to be inclined toward God's testimonies is different. "We can be worldly of ourselves, but we cannot be holy and heavenly of ourselves; that must be asked of him who is the Father of lights, from whom cometh down every good and perfect gift." (Thomas Manton, 17th C.) So, what we lack by nature, we seek through prayer. This is one mark of the wise man. "We need rather to confess our weakness, than defend our strength" (Austin, in Manton).
If we weren't so disobedient to God's law, so naturally prone to move away from Him, then we would not need to pray, "Incline my heart." But even after we are redeemed by Jesus' blood, we still have the negative principle at work within us. Romans 7:21, "So I find it to be a law [principle] that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand." We need to be drawn back and bent in the direction of God's will.
Such a prayer also implies, does it not, that God is gracious and able to act upon our souls to bring us into conformity with his will. Should we not be thankful that while we tend to run away from him, our Lord pursues to bring us to himself again!
HOW DOES GOD BRING THIS ABOUT?
By Word and Spirit; by persuasion and power. "I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and be careful to obey my rules" (Ezk. 36:27). God does this! First, God draws us to himself (John 6:44), then he causes us to "walk in his statutes." In Christ, all is covered. He INCLINES our hearts to his way.
Lastly, God works upon our moral desires. "I led them with cords of kindness, with bands of love" (Hosea 11:4). "Surely," as Manton says, "God hath more hand in good than Satan hath in evil; otherwise man were as praiseworthy for doing good, as [he is] reproveable for doing evil." God knows how to alter the course of our affections by his power, therefore, he does not just lead us but draw us to himself.
(Thomas Manton, Sermons on Psalm 119, Banner of Truth Trust)
Tomorrow - Why the contrast of "testimonies" with "selfish gain"?