Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.
What brought about this abrupt change of heart?
As his vengefulness got the better of him, the psalmist suddenly became aware of his own fallen mortality, and an instilled awareness that his consignment of the wicked to divine chastisement may not parallel his Creator’s thoughts and purposes for them. That God’s love and grace for the wicked certainly exceeded his own tolerance for them. He was getting close to teasing out his own motivations.
The transformational process is not activated without an awareness of our motivations. The counselor will recognize these motivations as ‘roots.’ Most of our decisions are reached automatically, often based on our past experiences and learning, like a kneejerk reaction, bypassing our cognitive reasoning center. Our motivations are, therefore, often unconscious, even though it may have been involved in recent thinking processes. That may be the reason for repetitive mistakes ad nauseam, as our superficial thoughts often follow historical ‘tramlines.’ Part of understanding ourselves is making sense of our motivations, and it is not an unfathomable task, although challenging at times. But getting to the roots of issues and making changes, if necessary, can be rather freeing.
What was the psalmist asking God to search his heart for? Why now? It abruptly dawned on him the enormous privilege he had in being under God’s eternal spotlight, since the day he was in his mother’s womb, which he had been taking for granted. He relished the attention, although at times grudgingly, but the relationship was exceedingly one-sided. The unwitting ‘hide-and-seek’ games and the finger pointing that he had been engaging with his Creator, all these years, had to end. He had been hurtful towards His Lord. His final plea was for His everlasting Companion to lead him into His ‘Ancient ways,’ His righteous ways. Ways that are eternal, in contrast to his individualistic and transient conduct. The transforming process had been initiated.
The Lord sees the heart in which our thoughts, speech, actions, and our habits, are formed. There is no running away from it. Actually, God will search our hearts without a pipsqueak from us. The only limiting factor in identifying this examination is our capacity to recognize His prompting and our own conscience. Scripture provides us examples of His confrontations with different ones when issues that would mar their fellowship with Him surfaced. I will just mention two incidents: the prophet Nathan’s lamb allegory to King David as he tried to cover up Uriah’s murder, and the verbalizing donkey at Balaam’s duplicity. Their ongoing propensity to discount God’s presence due to His invisibility anaesthetized them against the fear of the Lord. Both were made to dig deep into identifying their errant motivations.
He knows how we function, and often His approach to us will be along the contours of our sensitivity, and willingness to listen and obey in fellowship with Him. His challenges to my conscience and motivations often come through Scripture and that ‘still small voice.’ Not paying sufficient attention to them often lead to my own undoing, and at times, it can be devastating, but for the grace of God. I am still learning.
Christian discipleship, as expressed by the psalmist, ought to be permeated by the consciousness that we live coram deo – before the face of God. It is demanding indeed! But the degree to which we are able to appreciate that, will determine how we regard Him and continue fruitfully to walk in step with His Holy Spirit.