Turn Away our Eyes

The songwriter gets a little demanding in the fifth stanza of his epic love song concerning the word of God (Psalm 119:33-40). In many ways, it’s all about him.

Teach me Your statutes, O LORD. Give me understanding. Lead me. Incline my heart. Confirm to me Your promise. Me, me, me!

But you’re going to be hard-pressed to stand in judgment of the psalmist. For in making it about himself, his desire is that God’s divine work would impact the songwriter’s daily walk.

I will keep the statutes You teach me. I will observe with my whole heart that which You have allowed me to understand. Selfish gain will be eliminated when you incline my heart to Your testimonies. And, when I know Your promises are true to me, I will purpose to live in holy, reverent fear and awe of You.

Not the worst thing to do . . . make it about me so that I might please Him.

But here’s what grabbed me this morning. One of the psalmist’s request is not quite like the others. While all the “me requests” above are about leaning in to the things that matter, there’s one plea that’s about a turning away from those things that don’t.

Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;
  and give me life in Your ways.

(Psalm 119:37 ESV)

There’s a connection between focus and fullness of life. A link between our activities and our abiding. A cause and effect between the disposition of our priorities and the depth of our pilgrimage. And the songwriter pleads with the Lord, “Turn my eyes away from worthless things” (NIV).

Worthless things. To be sure, they include the vile things which should never find a place before our eyes. But the term has a broader meaning. Worthless things are also empty things–things with no real, lasting substance. They are vain things–things which, when all is said and done, make very little difference despite what was said and done. While they might be evil things, they can just as easily be quite benign things, but things which can catch our eye, then occupy our interest, and ultimately capture our heart.

“Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness.”
~ Jesus

(Luke 11:34-35 ESV)

Jesus says be careful of where your eye lands. And so, the sinner saved by grace, knowing the on-going battle with their old nature, pleads with the Lord in return, “Divert my eyes from toys and trinkets” (MSG).

Life in His ways–real life, eternal life, abundant life– the life the songwriter hungers and thirsts for, is dependent on where our eyes are cast. The extent to which we can know heaven on earth today is directly related to the degree to which we “seek the things that are above” in anticipation of tomorrow (Col. 3:1-2).

O, for wisdom to recognize not only the evil things seeking to fill our field of vision, but also the amoral things which seek to consume our time and energy. Those pursuits which, though neither good nor bad in themselves, when they become our primary focus hamstring the fulfillment of our primary purpose.

What is the chief end of man?
   . . . to glorify God (1), and to enjoy Him forever (2).

~ Westminster Shorter Catechism, Question 1

(1) – Rom.11:36, 1Cor. 10:31
(2) – Ps. 73:24-28, Jn. 17:21-23

So, maybe sometimes it’s okay for it to be about me . . . if, ultimately, I desire that it be about Him.

Turn away our eyes, Lord . . .

By Your grace. For Your glory.

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