Lead me in your truth and teach me for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

Psalm 25 verse 5

Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose.

Psalm 25 verse 12

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Psalm 32 verse 8

Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.

Psalm 51 verse 6

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Psalm 86 verse 11

Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law.

Psalm 94 verse 12

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good spirit lead me on level ground.

Psalm 143 verse 10

All your sons will be taught by the LORD, and great will be your children's peace.            

Isaiah chapter 54 verse 13

Jesus said: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Matthew chapter 11 verse 29

Jesus said: It is written in the prophets, "And they shall all be taught by God". Therefore, everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.

John chapter 6 verse 45

An online digest of the truth about God as we find it in the Bible

Meditation on Psalm 73

 1 Truly God is good to Israel,
     to those who are pure in heart.
 2 But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,
     my steps had nearly slipped.
 3 For I was envious of the arrogant
     when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
 4 For they have no pangs until death;
     their bodies are fat and sleek.
 5 They are not in trouble as others are;
     they are not stricken like the rest of mankind.
 6 Therefore pride is their necklace;
     violence covers them as a garment.
 7 Their eyes swell out through fatness;
     their hearts overflow with follies.
 8 They scoff and speak with malice;
     loftily they threaten oppression.
 9 They set their mouths against the heavens,
     and their tongue struts through the earth.
10 Therefore his people turn back to them,
     and find no fault in them.
11 And they say, “How can God know?
     Is there knowledge in the Most High?”
12 Behold, these are the wicked;
     always at ease, they increase in riches.
13 All in vain have I kept my heart clean
     and washed my hands in innocence.
14 For all the day long I have been stricken
     and rebuked every morning.
15 If I had said, “I will speak thus”,
     I would have betrayed the generation of your children.
16 But when I thought how to understand this,
     it seemed to me a wearisome task,
17 until I went into the sanctuary of God;
     then I discerned their end.
18 Truly you set them in slippery places;
     you make them fall to ruin.
19 How they are destroyed in a moment,
     swept away utterly by terrors!
20 Like a dream when one awakes,
     O Lord, when you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21 When my soul was embittered,
     when I was pricked in heart,
22 I was brutish and ignorant;
     I was like a beast towards you.
23 Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
     you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
     and afterwards you will receive me to glory.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
     And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26 My flesh and my heart may fail,
     but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.
27 For behold, those who are far from you shall perish;
     you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you.
28 But for me it is good to be near God;
     I have made the Lord God my refuge,
     that I may tell of all your works.
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Psalm 73 deals with a subject that affects every Christian from time to time.

It was written by Asaph, who was a priest and a worship leader in the temple service. Asaph knew God; he walked with God; he loved God. He was a man of the spirit who knew and delighted in the presence of God. But he was also beset with a weakness that I can certainly relate to, and I suspect that you can too.

The prophet Isaiah says:
My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. Isaiah chapter 26 verse 9 ESV

In other words, his soul had the desire for God, but took no action, whereas his spirit rose up and sought God's presence. This is the difference between what me might call "soulish religion" and true spirituality.

Even the most spiritual of us can find that from time to time we are quite happy to get caught up in the "feel-good" factor of the liturgy, the ceremony, the music, the comfort of the scriptures, the socialisation that passes for fellowship, and the emotional experience that passes for the Presence. The soul delights in religion - but the spirit languishes under it.

When we are living at the level of the soul we find that the worldly things around us become valuable to us again. Before we became Christians, this was all that we knew; but when we found the reality of salvation in Christ, the old values were replaced by new ones, the old ambitions gave way to new ones, the old desires died and new ones were born. As we slip back into soulishness, however, we find that the Old Man is not quite as dead as we had thought, and he revives himself at the earliest opportunity.

All of a sudden, the nice house, the fast car, the fancy clothes, and the foreign holiday become very attractive again. But because we're "religious" now, we're not supposed to want these things, and we find ourselves battling with our own flesh - wanting and yet denying, desiring and yet resisting. We're supposed to be rejoicing in God and all his blessings to us, but underneath it all we're miserable, because we've lost sight of Him. We have wandered into a place of darkness and despair from which there seems to be no escape. We start to wonder if Christianity is all it's cracked up to be. Maybe we should throw in the towel and go back to the world.

The priests in Asaph's day would probably have been on a rota of some kind so that they would each have their turn to go in to the temple and perform their priestly duties. (We see this in the New Testament with Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist - Luke chapter 1 verses 8-9.). God's presence was to be found in the Temple, but it was experienced outside the Temple on only the rarest of occasions, so all the while that Asaph had not been on duty he would also not have known the presence of God.

In verse 17 of Psalm 73, Asaph finds himself once again in the Presence.

He enters the sanctuary to perform his duties, and all of a sudden that which he had lost he finds again, and that which had begun to cling to him falls away from him. The fog of soulishness is dispersed, and the eyes of his spirit are once again bathed in the light of truth so that he can see clearly as he used to. This is no new and unexpected revelation for him. This is something that he had known for years, and yet while living at the level of the soul he had been "brutish and ignorant ... like a beast" (v22), so that he had lost sight of what now returns to him as being obvious.

How many times has someone said, "When I meet God, I'm going to ask him such-and-such"? This is nonsense. When I meet God I'll be doing no asking of questions, I'll be doing no complaining about how badly treated I or someone else was, or how unjust life is on the Earth.

No, when I come into the presence of Almighty God two things happen:
  1. My perception of things is adjusted to take on a perspective that is in keeping with his. The things that seemed so important to me before become trivial, and I wonder how I could ever have considered them to be worth bothering about; and the things that I had lost sight of come back into sharp focus - the spiritual truths that I know in my heart but forget so readily when the veil of religiosity falls over my soul.
  2. My questions, my complaints, my objections and opinions are burned up in a moment in the unquenchable fire of his purity and holiness.

This is the presence of Almighty God, who spoke and the worlds came into being, who breathed on the dust and Man rose to life, who bled on a cross to pay the price for my sinfulness, and who rose to new life on the third day, because death could never hold him, not even for a weekend.

Today, we have an enormous advantage over Asaph. He was a priest, with the privilege and responsibility of access to the Holy Place, the sanctuary, where the priests would minister to God in their turn and come closer to his Presence than any other Israelite would ever be allowed to do. But we have the right, won for us by Jesus Christ, to come into the very Presence, into the holy of holies, at any time of either day of night (Hebrews 10:19-20).

Why do we neglect to do so? What keeps us at a distance? Why do we so often prefer the religion of the soul to the true relationship of the spirit? Why do we sell ourselves short, and dishonour him who gave everything to make that way open to us?

I don't know the answer to that question. I know that I am guilty of having done it many times. I also know that it is a recurring theme in the history of Israel and in the history of the church. It is a very human problem. Maybe that's why I do it - because I'm human.

But here is the comfort of the Scriptures, if you ever find yourself in such a place. Look at Asaph's words in verses 23 and 24:

Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterwards you will receive me to glory. Psalm 73 verses 23-24 ESV

Even when he was behaving like a brute beast, God held his right hand. Even during the days when his envious eyes were on the success of the wicked, God's counsel was guiding him back into his presence, back into his sanctuary. God does not give up on us, even when we feel like giving up on ourselves, or on him. God sees the end, and he is preparing us for glory. That is a lifetime task. It is not accomplished in a fortnight.

Our part is to cooperate with him, to put our feet in the footprints he has laid out before us and to keep walking, even when we have no idea what lies beyond the next turn in the road. And when we find ourselves slipping into soulishness, either in a religious or in an irreligious vein, to shake ourselves up, douse our heads with cold water, and get back into the sanctuary.

Only there will we ever find the fulfilment that our hearts crave.

A prayer.

Lord, God Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, our redeemer and our judge, have mercy on me this day and give me eyes that see, ears that hear, and a heart that understands your truth.

Keep my feet from the easy, downward path, and keep my eyes on the ultimate prize of following you to the end.

Keep my heart pure and my mind clear. Keep my soul in check and my spirit in tune. Keep me right, Lord, even when I want you to leave me alone. Hold me with your right hand; guide me with your counsel; prepare me for glory. Don't let me slip.

I can't do this without you - and I don't want to. You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Be glorified in and through me. I belong to you. Please don't ever let me forget that.