(Psalm 119:36) Incline my heart to your testimonies and not to covetousness.
In this passage we see the psalmist seeking the LORD for two things; one a positive and the other a negative, through the word incline which means “to bend”. In times when our REALITY is a willing spirit and weak flesh (Matthew 26:41), David’s prayer is for a two-fold bending. First, bend my heart toward the testimonies of the LORD. Second, bend my heart away from covetousness. Interestingly, the Hebrew word for iniquity expressed a crooked or bent nature toward sin. David is crying out to God that He would re-bend his natural heart toward God’s truth and testimony.
I believe this desire is largely why David was deemed by God “a man after my own heart” (Acts 13:22). The shepherd king’s heart was a living picture of the disposition of the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12), as taught by Jesus. David was poor in spirit, mournful over sin, meek, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. The man wanted to lose his bend toward iniquity, and be bent straight to God’s testimonies and truth; but Messiah had not yet come. He would have to wait in faith, for Christ to accomplish the task of breaking the dominion of the sin nature and straightening the heart of man to connect with God.
In Christ, this inclining has taken place but let us give it a new testament vernacular. We were bent toward sin, but now we have been straightened up to Truth and Righteousness. This straightening has bent us away from sinful tendencies. Yet, when weak in flesh or in a season of temptation, our old patterns of flesh begin to throb for satisfaction. Then, by faith, we must hold to that which we have been straightened up to in Christ, and refuse what we have been straightened away from.
Straightened up to focus on His Testimonies
Since the historical, wisdom and prophetical books were either being inspired by the Holy Spirit through Samuel and David at the writing of this Psalm (and through later authors), the testimonies written of here refer to: the writings contained in the Books of the Law written by Moses, as inspired by the Holy Spirit (II Timothy 3:15). This word of God contained the acts of the Lord of power from creation to their entrance to the promised land, and was David’s delight (Psalm 1:1). This testimony was the record of all the commands from the law; a moral code for the Israelite but also a revelation of YHWH’s holiness. It also recorded the acts of deliverance, provision, protection, grace, mercy, and justice–with punishments meted out through God’s Almighty power and love.
These were what David prayed God would bend him toward, recognizing his human propensity to know these testimonies, but grow undisciplined and wanting when weakened in the flesh.
This is a very real need in our Christian life when we become wore out, willing in spirit, yet weak in our flesh. Consider Colossians 3:1-3
(Colossians 3:1-3) If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
(Colossians 3:5-7) put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them.
The Testimonies of the Lord are also “those things which are above” which draw us to hope in Christ’s return and which remind us that God is with us, to deliver us. Having our hearts inclined to the testimonies of the Lord are of such great importance, for it is how we endured temptation and discipline from the Lord (Hebrews 12:1-3).
We add to David’s testimonies of the Lord:
- Jesus’ eternal nature and being God.
- Christ’s birth, sinless life and miracles.
- His all sufficient atoning death and resurrection.
- Christ’s life fulfilling 100% of all prophecy concerning Messiah.
- The day He brought us out of the kingdom of darkness and into His own.
- The mighty acts of power and faithfulness He has displayed in us and others
- His call and commands to be holy and obey.
- His future return and glory with Him.
- The blessing of His presence with us.
Bent away from covetousness
In my opinion the best tag line concerning our flesh is “I want more”. On the night Jesus warned the disciples “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”, they needed just a little more rest, and fell asleep. We must be honest about our own inclination to want more than we need and be discontent with what we have. It seems the want for a little more is just a breath away and heightened in times of difficulty or seasons of discontent.
We must be careful to mind Colossians 3:1 “set your mind on things above, as well as Colossians 3:5-7 which calls us to put do death covetousness. We do this reckoning by faith, that what we need will be supplied by God (Philippians 4:19) and setting ourselves on the inexhaustible treasure that is Jesus Christ our Savior (Hebrews 12:1-3).
- Prayerfully seek scripture which is associated with the 9 New Testament testimonies of the Lord above. If you get stuck, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Do some inventory of your thinking during difficulty, temptation or disappointing times. Do you encourage yourself in Christ, calling to mind His testimonies or drop off the table into pity parties and stink’n think’n.
You are right! What we need in times of temptation is the desire to desire God. Our flesh is naturally bent toward relaxation or whatever makes us feel best, so we need to ask God for His strength to bend us back. My old youth pastor told me reading the Bible is like most addictions: the more we read it, the more we want it–but when we go a while without reading it, we long for it less.