Put to the Test
Psalm 139:23, 24
In the Psalms, we see the heart of the psalmist and what is his main priority in life. We see the one who was called a man after God's own heart and who was said to have “done what was right in the eyes of the Lord, and had not turned aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, except” in one matter (1st Kings 15:5). In just these two verses, we again are able to look into the heart of the psalmist and see a man who desires more than anything to stand approved in the sight of God.
I believe it would be beneficial for us to look at the request of the psalmist and why it would be just as beneficial for us to do the same. Knowing the heart of this man, we know of his sincere desire to be pleasing in God's sight, so he stands as an example for us. Let us now consider the need for the Lord to search us, try us, reveal any wicked ways in us, and to lead us in the right way. When this is done, I am confident we will be a better person and servant.
“Search me.” (v. 23) The psalmist here is asking God to, in the most literal meaning, examine him closely. As one who desired to be pleasing to God in all ways and at all times, he did not try to hide from God, for he said earlier in the psalm (vv. 7-12) that it was not possible. Furthermore, he did not want to hide from Him; he wanted God to find out who he was. He wanted God to know his heart.
I believe he also asked God to do this because he truly sought to be approved of God. David was a man of whom it was said was “a man after God's own heart.” This being true, we may know that he was one who wanted to be like God in having a pure heart. He was willing to have God search him and discover even the things that were unpleasant and unrighteous — not to simply know about himself, but that he might remove those things and stand approved in God's sight (cf. Psa. 19:12).
“Try me.” (v. 23) The psalmist here is asking God to, in the most literal meaning, prove him — or put him to the test [like metals]. As it is used here, David is asking God to try him and refine him — to do what must be done to ensure he is pure. The basest of metals needs refinement, and even the most precious metals are made more valuable through the fire. Faith, like gold, is more precious when tried by fire. Further, the request of the psalmist is that He would know his anxieties. [This is the better translation, as the original Hebrew means disquieting thoughts.]
In the request that God know his anxieties was a desire that they be known to God that he might be comforted. Once our fears are known, we may find a way to overcome those fears and conquer that which may hinder us from doing more. He went to the One who would know what fears he had and could give him comfort.
“Reveal me.” (v. 24) The request of the psalmist here that God would see if there was any wickedness in him. But, in the literal translation, what we see is that he is asking God to see if there is any hurtful way in him. Was there something he did that was harmful, especially to God? In this word's most literal meaning, it was the act of setting up an idol in the place of God, and the resulting feeling of rejection that God felt when this was done.
As he had petitioned in another psalm, David desired that he be cleansed from secret faults (Psa. 19:12). Here, he requests that God might look into his life and reveal those hidden sins and hurtful ways that they might be removed. But he also wanted to see himself honestly. When you know yourself, you know both your strengths and your weaknesses, and will be able to improve on both. Failing to know our own weaknesses will leave us vulnerable to those trials and temptations in those areas.
“Lead me.” (v. 24) The psalmist now gets to the heart of his desire in that he desires to be led by the Lord. He knows and he understands that if he wants to walk in the paths of righteousness, it is only by following the way of the Lord that it could be done. This way is not just any way, it is “the way everlasting.”
Again, this is requested because he understood his own inability and limitations. The psalmist understood that if that was his desire, he needed to go to the originator of the promise, the giver of life, the source of salvation. Who better to ask than the One who provides that which we desire? When we seek to establish our own ways, we will always fall short and will never please Him. Without Him, we are without the light of knowledge and we will be truly lost (cf. John 12:35).
I believe we would do well to follow the pattern of the psalmist and have such a desire to be Put To The Test. Would we want our real self to be known — to the Lord? In reality, He already knows. The real question is: Do we want to know who we really are? The disciple who wants to grow will have such a desire, facing his shortcomings and imperfections — not to wallow in self-pity or to be embarrassed before the world, but to know himself that he may become better and more acceptable in the sight of His Lord. Let us have such a desire.
By Steven C. Harper
From Expository Files 18.7; July 2011