This past Sunday we took a break from the 2 Corinthians, Gospel of John, and Genesis series, and focused in on a mini-series that considered worldliness from James 3:13-4:10. The last message, “Recovering from Worldliness”, dealt with repentance from what is a central New Testament text on the nature of repentance. One of the texts in the Old Testament that also exemplifies the nature of true repentance is Psalm 32. The background is David’s sin with Bathsheba and his subsequent cover-up. The message of the Psalm can be summed up in this way: True joy is found in confession, forgiveness, and deliverance from sin. The Psalm illustrates various aspects of this true joy which has no existence apart from true repentance. One aspect of this true joy has to do with being teachable.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. 9 Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you (Psalm 32:8).
The LORD promises one main thing in verse 8. He promises to guide His children. That guidance is explained in three ways: He will instruct, teach, and counsel us. This guidance has to do with our daily lives. It concerns “the way which [we] should go.” In addition, this guidance is very personal: “I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” This is the promise for all of God’s children, God will guide them: But how? Well, where has God given instructions and taught us concerning His ways and His plans? Where do we find inerrant, authoritative, penetratingly accurate counsel about our lives in this world and how we are to live? The answer of course is in His Word. The eternal Triune God personal guides us through His Word. His Spirit illumines our minds so that we behold His glory in the face of His Son Jesus. And as we behold that glory we are changed from glory to glory. In this daily process of sanctification the Spirit of God takes the Word of God and searches, convicts, enables, and guides us in the paths of righteousness. This is done very personally with God’s “eye upon” us. We do not need to be looking for some esoteric guidance for life; we have this personal guidance from God Himself in His Word. This is God’s promise to every one of His children.
But this promise is not always enjoyed and appreciated like it ought to be. Verse 9 explains how we as God’s children can actually resist this remarkable promise of guidance in our lives.
Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, Whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, Otherwise they will not come near to you.
Do you see the connection between verse 8 and 9? God has promised to personally guide us as His children, but there is a danger. We could be stubborn. The image that illustrates this potential stubbornness is not very flattering. The horse and the mule have no understanding; therefore they need a bit and bridle to “hold them in check.” We are made in God’s image. Yes we were born rebels at heart with a marred image of God in us, but nevertheless we are made in God’s image and have the capacity for understanding. In addition, if we have trusted in Christ as Lord and Savior then we are born again. Therefore we are equipped to understand the ways of God for our lives because we have His seed in us (1 John 3:9) and the Spirit of God illuminating us to the truth of His Word. And yet Psalm 32:9 is very clear that we could act like a horse or a mule that has no understanding and has to be forced in the area of guidance “otherwise they will not come near to you.”
The Divinely intended question of application that these verses raise is this: Are we guidable? Rather than being a horse that needs bridle and bit, could it be said of us that we resemble a horse that can be ridden barebacked and simply spoken to or nudged with the hand for which way to go?
What would be the marks of a life that was submissive to this promised guidance from the Lord? If this promised guidance is given to us in His Word, then the hallmark of someone who was easily directed by the LORD would be someone who has a thirst for Him in His Word. Do you have this aspect of true joy in your life? Are you teachable when it comes to your walk with God? Are you in His Word which gives this guidance? Are you quick to agree with that guidance? Do you listen even when it is not guidance that you would choose if left to yourself? Does the LORD have to constantly discipline you so that you will respond to the least bit of conviction in your life? What level of anticipation do you have when you open up your Bible whether in private reading and study or public times of preaching and teaching? The portrait of a submissive follower of the LORD enjoying His personal guidance is someone who delights in Him by delighting in His Word, it is someone who fears Him and grieves over grieving His Spirit, it is someone who has the joy of freely obeying the One who made them and knows best how they ought to live. May the Lord enable us to be easily guided submissive followers of Christ.