We are a married couple, a New Testament professor and a theology professor, both Presbyterian ministers, who will comment on important topics that affect Christians. In line with the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Philippians (4:8-9), our perspective will be to encourage Christian maturity.
Thursday, March 23, 2017
How to Keep a Clean Conscience, a devotional based on Psalm 139
are many passages in the Bible that deal with the subject:“How to Keep a Clean Conscience”.One of those passages deals with keeping a
clean conscience in the midst of conflict.Many believers when they enter into conflict tend to assume:“I am in conflict….That means I must have sinned….”I have met abused women who have this sort
of mindset.Psalm 139 shows that just
because one is in conflict does not necessarily mean that one has sinned.
139 is one of the favorite psalms for the church throughout the millenniums.It may be divided into six sections: 1. The Psalmist David marvels at God’s
omniscience regarding himself (vv.1-6).2. He marvels at God’s omnipresence with himself (vv. 7-12).3.The
Psalmist marvels at how God created him (vv. 13-16).4. The Psalmist marvels at the summary of
God’s thorough knowledge of himself (vv. 17-18).5.On
the basis of parts 1-4, the Psalmist prays and reveals the occasion of this
Psalm (vv. 19-22). 6. On the basis of parts 1-5, David prays (vv. 23-24).
1.The Psalmist marvels at God’s Omniscience
regarding the Psalmist (vv. 1-6).
the Psalmist marvels in the tenderest manner at how God knows the
Psalmist.God knows when the Psalmist
sits and rises.God knows the Psalmist’s
thoughts.God knows the Psalmist’s path
and lying down.For me, as a person who
has had speech problems throughout my life, the following insight especially
touches me: God knows the word on the Psalmist’s tongue even before the
Psalmist speaks.Sometimes, I do not
know the word that will come off my mouth.I take comfort that God does know the next word that will come
from my mouth.The psalmist concludes
this section:“Such knowledge is too
wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain it” (v. 6).
2.The Psalmist marvels at God’s Omnipresence
with the Psalmist (vv. 7-12).
“Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm
And the light around me will be night” (vv. 7-11).
the Psalmist marvels in the most tender manner at how God is present to the
Psalmist.Where can we flee from the
Holy Spirit?Where can we flee from
God’s presence?When I was a child, I
was afraid of the dark.I took great
comfort in v. 12:“Even the darkness is
not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day.Darkness and light are alike to You.”Such a verse of God’s presence would calm my
fears at night as a child.
3.The Psalmist marvels at how God
created the Psalmist (vv. 13-16).
For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb (v. 13)….
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them (vv.
the Psalmist marvels in the tenderest manner at how God created the
Psalmist.God wondrously formed the
Psalmist’s inward parts.God wondrously
weaved the Psalmist in the womb.One can
understand why the Psalmist would exclaim:“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well” (v. 14).
4.The Psalmist marvels at the
summary of God’s thorough knowledge of the Psalmist (vv.17-18).
to how the Psalmist marvels about God’s knowledge of the Psalmist:“How precious also are Your thoughts to
me, O God!How vast is the sum of
them!If I should count them, they would
outnumber the sand.When I awake, I am
still with You.”
5. On the basis of parts 1-4, the
Psalmist prays and reveals the occasion of this Psalm (vv. 19-22).
way one would think that this Psalm would have been completed at verse 18.But it is not finished.The Psalmist has expressed earlier in this
Psalm some of the most tender thoughts found within the Bible.In contrast, now, the Psalmist prays one of the
most non-tender prayers in the Bible.The Psalmist prays a violent prayer:“O that You would slay the wicked, O God; Depart from me, therefore,
men of bloodshed.For they speak against
You wickedly, And Your enemies take Your name in vain.Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?And do I not loathe those who rise up against
You? I hate them with the utmost hatred; They have become my enemies” (vv. 19-22).
we find the occasion of this Psalm.The
Psalmist David is in trouble.He is in
conflict.He is being hunted down.He prays specifically:“Depart from me, therefore, men of
bloodshed” (v. 19).The Psalmist is
being hunted down by murderous people.
light of this lethal hunt, David does some spiritual inventory.He wants to know if the trouble he is in is
because of something wrong in himself.Is there a sin that David has done that has caused this murderous hunt
of the Psalmist to proceed?That is why
the Psalmist David has called upon our Omniscient God, Our Omnipresent God, and
Our Creator God to search the Psalmist out (parts 1-4).
calling upon our Omniscient God, Our Omnipresent God, and Our Creator God to
search the Psalmist out, David has come to a singular conclusion.The problem is not in the Psalmist.The Psalmist is not being hunted down because
of the Psalmist’s sin.The problem is
100% with the murderous thugs chasing him.The Psalmist takes singular aim at the problem.He prays a violent prayer against his
should we understand such a passage?Should
we pray violent prayers against our human enemies?We should bless our human enemies (Matt.
5:44).However, we as Christians should
know who our enemy is.The Apostle Paul
writes who our enemy is:“For we wrestle
not against flesh and blood [humans], but against the rulers, against the
powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces
of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).
war between the devil and Christians is true and real.We can pray violent prayers against the
devil.We can pray:“Depart from me, demons of bloodshed.”We can pray:“O that thou would slay the wicked demons, O God.”We can pray:“Do I not hate those demons who hate Thee, O Lord?And do I not loathe those demons who rise up against
Thee?I hate those demons with the
utmost hatred; these demons have become my enemies.”
the past I have been asked:“How can you
tell the difference between the devil’s accusation and the Holy Spirit’s
conviction”?The answer is easy.If one follows what the Psalmist does in this
passage by calling on our Omniscient God, our Omnipresent God, and our Creator
God and asks God to point out one’s sin, God will point it out.If God points it out, then ask God to forgive
you.We have a great promise:“How much more will the blood of Christ,
who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse
your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?”(Heb. 9:14).
one has a vague sense of dread….If one
has a sense of “Oh me, oh my, how sad am I,” then one knows that it is the
devil’s accusation.Here one can pray
violent prayers against the devil.
6.On the basis of parts 1-5 the
Psalmist concludes in prayer.
the Psalmist David prays a prayer to God.The Psalmist prays a prayer of spiritual inventory and hope.He does this with a clear conscience:“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try
me and know my anxious [the psalmist is anxious] thoughts; And see if there be
any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way” (vv. 23-24).There is no reason whatsoever to have a