Indeed, much later on in the Bible, Paul tells his young friend and protégé Timothy that a key function of the Bible as the God-breathed Word is not only to teach, but also to rebuke and then correct (2 Tim. 3:16). In our heart of hearts, we all know we need to be “straightened out” but are often unclear or uncomfortable with how to go about it. We can often treat it as the spiritual equivalent of an annual performance review at work.
The beauty of this psalm is that God’s way of achieving this goal is not to put us under the microscope and make us look at our lives in all their ugly detail. Instead, He simply brings us into His presence. We have a family friend who is an interior designer, and every time he comes to stay we hold our breath. Simply having him in our home makes us aware of its décor in an altogether different way. Our home, which we would describe as just “the way it is,” becomes “this is what it could be!”
David has spent eighteen verses in the full iridescence of God’s glory, and he sees himself not only in terms of what he isn’t, but in light of what God intends him to be. The beauty of the gospel is that Jesus, the truest of all friends, has come not merely to help us try just a little bit harder or be just a little bit better, but He has come to transform us into His likeness (Gal. 4:19). This is the kind of spiritual corrective surgery we need more than anything else.
David’s final petition in the closing verse of this psalm is that God might direct him: “Lead me in the way everlasting!” (Ps. 139:24). When it comes to following maps or grasping GPS directions, I am not the greatest navigator in the world, but my wife is. So, I gladly defer to her direction when it comes to reaching my desired destination.
No doubt, this plea in the case of David arose out of memories of painful failure in his attempts to follow the right path in his own life. Despite being a great king and shrewd strategist, all too often he had been unwise in his judgments and decisions—with tragic consequences. So now, like a little boy, he looks up to God and says, “Please lead me!” Yet this is perhaps the greatest hallmark of a healthy child of God. As the hymn writer put it: “Lead me, Lord. Lead me in your righteousness.” We all need to be directed in life’s journey—from birth right through to final breath—and the only sure guide upon whom we can rely is God.
Given that no one, by nature, likes to have their life laid open to someone else’s scrutiny, what gave David the courage and the confidence to allow himself to be scrutinized by God in this way? The only answer can be that in the midst of the glory of God to which he had been exposed from his childhood, he knew that the most glorious thing of all about God is that He is gracious. He knew, therefore, that though the glory of God was guaranteed to expose the spiritual grime of his soul, the result would be that God would wash him afresh and lead him forward to better things.
The glory of God is incarnated in Jesus Christ, but so, too, is His saving grace. In the words of John the Evangelist, “We have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). We are guaranteed to be exposed by the radiance of His glory, but only that we might be expiated—cleansed—from the filth of our sins and clothed in His perfect righteousness.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on June 28, 2019.