"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way." Psalm 139:23-24
When the Holy Spirit leads us carefully to consider, or clearly to see any spiritual subject, we generally turn that subject into prayer. David had been meditating on God's searching him, on his accurate knowledge of his nature and ways, and on the Divine omniscience and omnipresence. This led him to appeal to the Divine eye—as to his hatred of sin and incorrigible sinners; and then from a knowledge of the deceitfulness of the human heart, and the power that sin has to conceal itself—he pleads with God to search and examine him.
He was an honest man—for none but an honest man is willing to be searched.
He was a holy man—for none but a holy man would wish to be searched.
He was a believer—for without faith in the atonement, no one could bear to be searched. God's searching eye will drive any sinner to desperation, unless he knows the way to the cross.
What a solemn position we occupy! We are surrounded by the presence of a holy God! We are thinking every thought, speaking every word, and performing every action—under the eye of a sin hating God. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good." We will notice:
First, the investigation sought."Search me, O God, and know my heart." Here is an appeal to the Omniscient. He would have God's eye penetrate to the depths of his nature, and look at what was concealed under the many mysterious folds of his heart. He presents his heart to God—on purpose to have it examined, wishing to know its true state and condition. No one can honestly make such a request with thoughtfulness, but the sincere soul.
"Search me." It is personal. "Me," not my neighbor, my friend, or my brother. But Lord, search me! Search, not merely glance at me—but make thorough work. Search my entire nature, especially the secret and hidden part—which no human eye can see, and where wickedness may lurk which no one around me would suspect. Search me, so as to know, and make known to me the GOOD—even the work of your own Spirit, the principles of your own grace, the new nature produced by your own power. Search me, so as to know, and make known to me the BAD—even that which is my own. What I brought into the world with me, and all the evil principles which I have nourished and encouraged in my soul.
"Test me." Test me as they do the precious metals. Test if I am gold—or dross; a true Christian—or only a moral person? Has my heart been changed? Have I been renewed in the spirit of my mind? Have I been born again? Am I a new creature in Christ Jesus? God, test the state of my heart—and let me know it. Test my principles, and my profession—and tell me if are they divine? Are they Scriptural? O, to be decided! To feel decided! To come to a certainty—and that under God's sanction and approbation.
"Know my anxious thoughts," and make me know them.
Their NATURE: are they good—or bad; spiritual—or carnal; wise—or foolish? Are they to be encouraged—or rejected?
Their TENDENCY: do they honor God—or dishonor him; do they benefit man—or hinder him; do they exalt Christ—or extol the creature?
Their END: will they bring peace—or conflict; comfort—or sorrow; spirituality—or vanity; credit—or disgrace?
Our thoughts are sometimes wholly corrupt, flowing naturally from our depraved hearts; but they are seldom or never wholly pure, for though the Holy Spirit suggests them, our corrupt natures are sure to defile them. The power to think is a wonderful thing, and the effect of a thought is often most remarkable.
"See if there is any wicked way in me." Let me know the worst of myself. Let me into the secret of my true state before God. Are there wicked principles at work which will lead me wrong; grieve the Holy Spirit; and bring me pain and shame? Is there any wicked plan, or proposed course, contrary to your holy law, my profession, and the design of my creation?
Lord, show me MYSELF! Let me not deceive others, or be
deceived myself. Others have been led astray—do not allow me. I have
previously been almost overcome, which renders me jealous and wary. I know
my heart is deceitful. I know I am partial. I know Satan is
crafty—therefore, Lord, "see if there is any wicked way in me." This brings
us to notice,
Secondly, the desire expressed.
"Lead me in the everlasting way." If we are to walk right—God must lead us. When God left perfect Adam to himself—he soon went wrong. And from that day to the present, the testimony respecting the whole of his posterity is, "They have all turned to his own way!" Even saints cannot be trusted. When God left Hezekiah to test him, and show him what was in his heart—he manifested vanity and pride before the ambassadors of the king of Babylon. And David wandered so far, and became so weak—that he could not find his way back to the fold. Therefore he was obliged to cry to the great Shepherd, "I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; seek your servant!"
But WHERE would the Psalmist be led? "In the everlasting way." In God's own way. The way which he devised, revealed, points to, and approves. "The way of holiness," which is the way to heaven. God's way is pure—and the impure shall not pass over it. It is correct—and never bewilders or leads us astray. It is permanent—not shifting and changeable. It is an everlasting way—leading to everlasting happiness, everlasting holiness, and everlasting honor! It leads to heaven, where all our powers will be purified, rightly balanced, and directed—and consequently produce peace, pleasure, and satisfaction. It leads to heaven, where all is pure, clear and refined—so that we see, feel, and act exactly according to God's holy and righteous law. It leads to heaven, where we shall all be robed in righteousness, crowned with glory, and, as the adopted sons of God,
be publicly acknowledged before all worlds, and placed nearest the eternal throne. Well may the Psalmist desire to be in the way which leads to such an end!
WHAT did he desire? To be "led". The wicked are driven. Some professors are like the horse or the mule, which must be held in check with bit and bridle.
David wishes to be a child, and to be treated as such, therefore he prays, "Lead me!" "Lead me in your truth and teach me, O God of my salvation, on you do I wait all the day."
He wishes to be simple and docile. To this we must all be brought, for our Lord says, "Except you are converted and become as little children, you shall never enter into the kingdom of heaven." Many are too wise—to be led. They are too proud—to seek divine guidance. No wonder, therefore, if they go wrong! Let us lift up our eyes to our heavenly Father, put out the hand of our faith to be clasped in his, and say from the heart, "Lead me in the everlasting way!"
David would have God treat him as a pupil—as one waiting to be instructed, and willing to be taught.
Those who are afraid to go alone—will never be long without a sense of the divine presence. And those who wish to be divinely led—will never be permitted to go far astray.
Lead me—that is, carefully; for thus the Lord does. As Jacob could not allow Esau to remain with him after his reconciliation, lest his flock and family should be over-driven, so the Lord will not allow, his own people to be hurried on by the prince of darkness, or others under his influence, to their endless destruction.
Sweetly it is said of Jesus, "He will feed his flock like a shepherd. He will carry the lambs in his arms, holding them close to his heart. He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young." He leads gently just as his charge can bear, and he carries them when they cannot walk.
Having begun to lead, he never forsakes—but leads from grace—to glory; from earth—to heaven! He leads us from the world—to his church. He leads us from ourselves—to the cross! The Holy Spirit always leads us to Jesus, who is "the way, the truth, and the life;" and leads us to the Father through him.
O Lord, search us, try us, expose to us, (not to others,) every wicked way that is within us, and lead us in the everlasting way!
See then, what a honest Christian DREADS—deception! He would not be deceived for the world—for a thousand worlds. Nor would he deceive others. He is not satisfied without good evidence. No foundation will do for him—but the Rock. No way—but the everlasting way. No witness—but that of God's Spirit. No testimony—but what proceeds from God's own mouth.
See also what a true believer SEEKS—to be searched, to be tested! And to be searched and tested by God himself, who cannot be deceived, and who will never deceive. He is not satisfied with the verdict of his own conscience, much less with that of his partial friends; therefore he appeals to God to whom all hearts are open, and from whom no secrets are hidden—and prays to be thoroughly searched.
Have we this evidence of being true and genuine believers in the Lord Jesus Christ? Every real believer wants personal satisfaction that he is in the right road, that he is making progress in that road, and shall safely reach the end of his journey, to spend an eternity in his Father's kingdom.
The saint espies an everlasting way, a way in which the wisest have walked, where safety is found, and walking in which all blessings are secured for time and eternity. Having made this discovery, no other way will do for him. He must be found in Christ. He must walk in this living way. And lest he should miss it, or wander from it—he pleads with God to lead him in it.
The true Christian seeks to be . . .
led by an infallible Guide,
into an everlasting way,
to take possession of an everlasting kingdom!
Reader, is this your case? Have you been reading your own experience? Have I laid open your heart? Have I given expression to the rooted, abiding, and lively desires of your soul? God says, "Take heed that your heart be not deceived." Jesus said, "Let no man deceive you." Paul says "Be not deceived." Then there must be danger—to call for such cautions, admonitions, and exhortations, as those we find in the Divine word on this subject.
But should you be deceived! Suppose this for one moment, you thought you were right—but your heart deceived you. Suppose that you rested upon the testimony of man—but he misled you. Suppose that you live in false security, and die under the influence of false confidence. Like some spoken of by our Lord, you imagined that you were going to heaven; you had no doubt but you should be admitted into the kingdom, and therefore you cry, "Lord, Lord, open to us!" But he will say, "I never knew you! Depart from me you who work iniquity!"
The mere supposition is dreadful, and yet it is to be feared there are thousands in such a state. They have no doubts—and therefore they never pray to be searched. They have no fears—and therefore they never cry unto God to test them. Easily satisfied, they go on without any Scriptural evidence of a change of heart; they sink into carnal security, and die calmly under the influence of an awful delusion!
Rather than this—may we be shaken by temptations, harassed by Satan, tossed with tempests of affliction and trouble! Rather than this—may God search us—however painful the operation; may he test us—however piercing the process; may he expose us to ourselves—whatever distress it may occasion us.
Now, while the fountain is open—now, while the invitation is given, and while mercy may be obtained, "Lord, search us, try us, and lead us to Jesus!"