Thursday, July 03, 2008

Pondering The Depths Of My Depravity

There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.
Proverbs 6:16-19 (emphasis added)
The reason these verses strike me and, in particular, the first thing in this list of what God hates is because I have been soaking in Psalm 131 for over a month now:
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time fort hand forevermore.
Psalm 131 (emphasis added)
Encountering Proverbs 6:17 after having been meditating on Psalm 131 for some time now feels like a head-on collision with a freight train that confirms a growing awareness of the outrage of the deceptive rebellion that lives in my heart, a rebellion that has quietly lived there for a long time without ever being noticed. Let me tell you what I mean.

When David says "my heart is not lifted up" and "my eyes are not raised too high" and "I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me," I understand him to be saying the same thing in each of those three phrases. One reason I believe this is because after saying these three things he then sets off a contrast that describes what he has done instead, seemingly instead of these three things.

Consider another reason why I see these phrases to be related. What does it mean for me to "occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me"? For me, it means wanting to understand why things are the way they are. It means wanting to have a say in the way I think my life should be even though I am not the author of it. It means wanting to discern God's hidden design in the unexpected and undesirable contours of my life. As I think about each of these inclinations of my heart, it's clear to me that in each of these postures "my eyes are raised too high" because "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are [God's] ways higher than [my] ways and [God's] thoughts than [my] thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9). And since they involve my heart, it means that "my heart is lifted up."

David doesn't make this seem like such a big deal in Psalm 131. But then I must ask what Solomon means when he speaks of "haughty eyes" in Proverbs 6:17? One way to understand this is that he is speaking of those who look at other people with a prideful spirit, those whose eyes are haughty in that they look down on others. This is probably the case.

But could Solomon's use of "haughty eyes" also be speaking of one whose "eyes are raised too high" in the sense that David speaks of in Psalm 131? Eyes that aren't necessarily raised towards other people but eyes that are raised towards God in the sense that they are raised to a place that only God's eyes should be?

If this is true, then this means that to have "eyes that are raised too high" or "to occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me" or "to have my heart lifted up" is a bigger deal than I realize. Why? This category of actions/postures is the first item on the list of specific things that God hates (Proverbs 6:16)!

Why would God hate this kind of "haughty eyes"? Because it is a deeply ingrained, subtle form of pride that leads me to contend with Him for the throne in my life. It disguises itself as innocent "Why Lord?"'s when in reality it is the anxious complaining of an unweaned child that has no peace (Psalm 131:2). This heart knows what it wants and it will not be content until it gets it.

Is that really me? Yes, that's the true and ugly me who is powerless to change myself.

All I can do is cast myself on mercy and pray the way the Scottish minister Robert Murray M'Cheyne was led to pray when he wrote from meditating on Psalm 131:
It has always been my aim, and it is my prayer, to have no plan as regards myself; well assured as I am that the place where the Saviour sees meet to place me must ever be the best place for me.

Lord, forgive me. Change me. This leopard can't change his spots. I feel more desperate for your grace now than ever.

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