Responding to Sovereignty
(19) If only you would slay the wicked, God! Turn aside from me, you men of bloodshed. (20) They speak against you with evil intent. Your enemies take (your name) in vain. (21) Do I not hate those who hate you, Yahweh, and do I not loathe those who rise up against you? (22) I hate them with the utmost hatred. I count them as my enemies. (23) Search me, God, and know my heart. Examine me and know my thoughts. (24) See if there might be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
David responds to his meditation on God’s great attributes in two ways. First, he aligns himself with Yahweh against his enemies, the wicked, the violent, and the profane. We feel the heat of his anger in the fourfold repetition of “hate” (twice each in vss. 21 & 22). The synonyms and phrases he uses to describe those opposed to God also convey his passion: “the wicked” and “men of bloodshed” (vs. 19), “your enemies” (vs. 20), “those who hate you” and “those who rise up against you” (vs. 21).
Next, David welcomes Yahweh’s close examination of his life with a sincere prayer (vss. 23 & 24). One repetition and several synonyms convey this change in attitude. Twice he asks Yahweh to “know” him (vs. 23). Other terms include “search me,” “examine me” (vs. 23), and “see” (vs. 24). Especially note the transformation in the author’s attitude toward God’s omniscience. As he began the psalm, David confessed to being overwhelmed by God’s knowing him so thoroughly (vss. 1-6). By the close of the psalm, David welcomes Yahweh’s searching gaze with a heartfelt prayer for cleansing and guidance (vss. 23 & 24).
I. Opposed to the wickedness of Yahweh’s enemies (19-22)
II. Open to Yahweh having his way in my life (23 & 24)
Being in relationship with Yahweh means that his enemies become our enemies and that we wholeheartedly welcome his working in our lives.
The two verses that close this psalm contain one of the most memorable prayers of the Old Testament. Every believer who yearns for a growing relationship with Yahweh should consider memorizing these verses and praying them frequently, meditating on the richness of their significance. Note that verse 23 goes a long way toward answering the puzzling question, “If God knows everything about us, why should we pray?” Our prayers should never be offered with the intent of informing an omniscient God about something he already knows. The reason why we pray has much more to do with us than with him. We are the ones whose hearts need adjustment and cleansing. In our praying we should seek to align our wills with God’s will rather than trying to persuade him to adopt our point of view.
In shaping a piece of wood or leather or fabric to fit into a specific part of a project, a skilled craftsman will often use a template, a pattern made out of metal, wood, or cardboard that serves as a guide by which each piece can be precisely formed. In our praying, we should come to God as we would come to a master craftsman whose perfect template provides the shape our lives should take according to the pattern that he desires in us. Adelaide A. Pollard wrote the following lines taken from her hymn, Have Thine Own Way, Lord, which beautifully capture the thrust of David’s prayer: “Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way; / hold o’er my being absolute sway. // Mold me and make me after thy will, / while I am waiting, yielded and still.”