“Search Through Me, O God”
“Search through me, O God, and know my heart. . . . Lead me in the way of time indefinite.”—PSALM 139:23, 24.
1. How does Jehovah deal with his servants?
ALL of us like to be dealt with by someone who is understanding, someone who takes into account our circumstances, someone who helps when we fall short, someone who does not demand of us more than we are able to do. Jehovah God deals with his servants in that way. Psalm 103:14 says: “He himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” And Jesus Christ, who perfectly reflects his Father, extends the warm invitation: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you [or, “Get under my yoke with me,” footnote] and learn from me, for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls. For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.”—Matthew 11:28-30.
2. Contrast Jehovah’s view with that of humans as regards (a) Jesus Christ, and (b) followers of Christ.
2 Jehovah’s view of his servants is often very different from that of humans. He looks at matters from a different standpoint and takes into account aspects that others may know nothing about. When Jesus Christ walked the earth, he was “despised and was avoided by men.” Those who did not put faith in him as the Messiah “held him as of no account.” (Isaiah 53:3; Luke 23:18-21) Yet, in the eyes of God, he was “[God’s] Son, the beloved,” to whom the Father said: “I have approved you.” (Luke 3:22; 1 Peter 2:4) Among the followers of Jesus Christ are people who are looked down on because they are materially poor and endure much tribulation. Yet, in the eyes of Jehovah and his Son, such ones may be rich. (Romans 8:35-39; Revelation 2:9) Why the difference in viewpoint?
3. (a) Why is Jehovah’s view of people often very different from that of humans? (b) Why is it vitally important for us to examine the sort of person we are inside?
3 Jeremiah 11:20 replies: “Jehovah . . . is examining the kidneys and the heart.” He sees what we are inside, even those aspects of our personality that are hidden from the eyes of others. In his examination, he gives primary emphasis to qualities and conditions that are vital to a good relationship with him, those that are most lastingly beneficial to us. Our knowing that is reassuring; it is also sobering. Since Jehovah pays attention to what we are inside, it is important for us to examine what we are inside if we are going to prove to be the sort of persons that he wants in his new world. His Word helps us to make such an examination.—Hebrews 4:12, 13.
How Precious God’s Thoughts Are!
4. (a) What motivated the psalmist to declare that God’s thoughts were precious to him? (b) Why should they be precious to us?
4 After having meditated on the breadth and depth of God’s knowledge of his servants, as well as on God’s extraordinary ability to provide whatever help they might need, the psalmist David wrote: “So, to me how precious your thoughts are!” (Psalm 139:17a) Those thoughts, revealed in his written Word, are far higher than anything from humans, no matter how brilliant their ideas may seem. (Isaiah 55:8, 9) God’s thoughts help us to keep in focus the really important things in life and to be zealous in his service. (Philippians 1:9-11) They show us how to look at matters the way God does. They help us to be honest with ourselves, to face up to the sort of person we truly are at heart. Are you willing to do that?
5. (a) What does God’s Word urge us to guard “more than all else”? (b) How can the Bible record regarding Cain benefit us? (c) Though we are not under the Mosaic Law, how does it help us to understand what pleases Jehovah?
5 Humans are inclined to put too much emphasis on externals, but the Scriptures counsel us: “More than all else that is to be guarded, safeguard your heart.” (Proverbs 4:23) Both by precepts and by examples, the Bible helps us to do that. It tells us that Cain went through the motions of offering sacrifices to God while in his heart he seethed with resentment, then hatred, toward his brother Abel. And it urges us not to be like him. (Genesis 4:3-5; 1 John 3:11, 12) It records the Mosaic Law requirement of obedience. But it also emphasizes that the foremost requirement of the Law was that those who worshiped Jehovah must love him with their whole heart, mind, soul, and strength; and it states that next in importance was the commandment that they love their neighbor as themselves.—Deuteronomy 5:32, 33; Mark 12:28-31.
6. In applying Proverbs 3:1, what questions should we ask ourselves?
6 At Proverbs 3:1, we are urged not merely to keep God’s commandments but to be sure that the obedience is an expression of what is truly in our heart. Individually we need to ask ourselves, ‘Is that true of my obedience to God’s requirements?’ If we realize that in some matters our motivation or thinking is deficient—and none of us can say that we are flawless—then we need to ask, ‘What am I doing to improve the situation?’—Proverbs 20:9; 1 John 1:8.
7. (a) How might Jesus’ denunciation of the Pharisees at Matthew 15:3-9 help us in safeguarding our heart? (b) What situations may require us to take strong measures to discipline our mind and heart?
7 When Jewish Pharisees made a pretense of honoring God while craftily promoting a practice motivated by self-interest, Jesus denounced them as hypocrites and showed that their worship was in vain. (Matthew 15:3-9) Jesus also warned that to please God, who sees the heart, it is not sufficient to lead an outwardly moral life while, with a view to passionate pleasure, we also persistently indulge in thoughts that are immoral. We may need to take drastic measures to discipline our mind and heart. (Proverbs 23:12; Matthew 5:27-29) Such discipline is also needed if as a result of our secular work, our goals in education, or our choice of entertainment, we are becoming imitators of the world, allowing it to mold us according to its standards. May we never forget that the disciple James addresses as “adulteresses” those who profess to belong to God but who want to be friends of the world. Why? Because “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.”—James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17; 5:19.
8. To benefit fully from God’s precious thoughts, what do we need to do?
8 In order to benefit fully from God’s thoughts on these and other matters, we need to set aside time to read them or hear them. More than that, we need to study them, talk about them, and meditate on them. Many readers of The Watchtower regularly attend congregation meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses, where the Bible is discussed. They buy out time from other pursuits in order to do it. (Ephesians 5:15-17) And what they receive in return is worth far more than material wealth. Is that not how you feel?
9. Why do some who attend Christian meetings progress more rapidly than others?
9 However, some who attend these meetings make more rapid spiritual progress than others do. They apply the truth more fully in their lives. What accounts for this? Frequently, a major factor is their diligence in personal study. They appreciate that we do not live on bread alone; spiritual food every day is just as important as eating physical food regularly. (Matthew 4:4; Hebrews 5:14) So they endeavor to spend at least some time every day reading the Bible or publications that explain it. They prepare for the congregation meetings, studying lessons in advance and looking up the scriptures. They do more than read the material; they meditate on it. Their pattern of study includes thinking seriously about the effect that what they are learning should have on their own lives. As their spirituality grows, they come to feel as did the psalmist who wrote: “How I do love your law! . . . Your reminders are wonderful.”—Psalm 1:1-3; 119:97, 129.
10. (a) For how long a time is it profitable to continue to study God’s Word? (b) How do the Scriptures show this?
10 Whether we have studied God’s Word for a year, 5 years, or 50 years, it never becomes simply repetitious—not if God’s thoughts are precious to us. No matter how much any of us have learned from the Scriptures, there is more that we do not know. “O God, how much does the grand sum of them amount to!” said David. “Were I to try to count them, they are more than even the grains of sand.” God’s thoughts are beyond our ability to count. If we were to enumerate God’s thoughts all day long and fell asleep doing that, when we woke up in the morning, there would still be much more to think about. Thus, David wrote: “I have awaked, and yet I am still with you.” (Psalm 139:17, 18) For all eternity there will be more for us to learn about Jehovah and his ways. We will never come to the point where we know it all.—Romans 11:33.
Hating What Jehovah Hates
11. Why is it important not only to know God’s thoughts but to share his feelings?
11 Our study of God’s Word is not merely with a view to filling our head with facts. As we let it penetrate our heart, we also begin to share God’s feelings. How important that is! If we do not develop such feelings, what may result? Though we may be able to repeat what the Bible says, we may, nevertheless, view as desirable what is forbidden, or we may feel that what is required is a burden. It is true that even if we hate what is wrong, we may have a struggle because of human imperfection. (Romans 7:15) But if we do not put forth earnest effort to bring what we are inside into line with what is right, can we expect to please Jehovah, “the examiner of hearts”?—Proverbs 17:3.
12. How important are godly love and godly hate?
12 Godly hate is a powerful protection against wrongdoing, even as godly love makes the doing of what is right a pleasure. (1 John 5:3) Repeatedly the Scriptures urge us to cultivate both love and hate. “O you lovers of Jehovah, hate what is bad.” (Psalm 97:10) “Abhor what is wicked, cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9) Are we doing that?
13. (a) With what prayer of David regarding the destruction of the wicked are we in full agreement? (b) As shown in David’s prayer, who were the wicked that he prayed for God to destroy?
13 Jehovah has clearly stated his purpose to root the wicked ones out of the earth and to usher in a new earth in which righteousness is to dwell. (Psalm 37:10, 11; 2 Peter 3:13) Lovers of righteousness long for that time to come. They are in full agreement with the psalmist David, who prayed: “O that you, O God, would slay the wicked one! Then even the bloodguilty men will certainly depart from me, who say things about you according to their idea; they have taken up your name in a worthless way—your adversaries.” (Psalm 139:19, 20) David did not personally long to slay such wicked ones. He prayed that retribution would come at Jehovah’s hand. (Deuteronomy 32:35; Hebrews 10:30) These were not people who had in some way merely offended David personally. They had misrepresented God, taking up his name in a worthless way. (Exodus 20:7) Dishonestly, they professed to serve him, but they were using his name to promote their own schemes. David had no love for those who chose to be God’s adversaries.
14. Are there wicked people who can be helped? If so, how?
14 There are billions of people who do not know Jehovah. Many of them in ignorance practice things that God’s Word shows to be wicked. If they persist in this course, they will be among those who perish during the great tribulation. Yet, Jehovah takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, nor should we. (Ezekiel 33:11) As long as time permits, we endeavor to help such people to learn and apply Jehovah’s ways. But what if some people show intense hatred for Jehovah?
15. (a) Who were the ones that the psalmist viewed as “real enemies”? (b) How can we today show that we “hate” those revolting against Jehovah?
15 Regarding them, the psalmist said: “Do I not hate those who are intensely hating you, O Jehovah, and do I not feel a loathing for those revolting against you? With a complete hatred I do hate them. They have become to me real enemies.” (Psalm 139:21, 22) It was because they intensely hated Jehovah that David looked on them with abhorrence. Apostates are included among those who show their hatred of Jehovah by revolting against him. Apostasy is, in reality, a rebellion against Jehovah. Some apostates profess to know and serve God, but they reject teachings or requirements set out in his Word. Others claim to believe the Bible, but they reject Jehovah’s organization and actively try to hinder its work. When they deliberately choose such badness after knowing what is right, when the bad becomes so ingrained that it is an inseparable part of their makeup, then a Christian must hate (in the Biblical sense of the word) those who have inseparably attached themselves to the badness. True Christians share Jehovah’s feelings toward such apostates; they are not curious about apostate ideas. On the contrary, they “feel a loathing” toward those who have made themselves God’s enemies, but they leave it to Jehovah to execute vengeance.—Job 13:16; Romans 12:19; 2 John 9, 10.
When God Searches Through Us
16. (a) Why did David want Jehovah to search through him? (b) What is there about our own heart that we should ask God to help us discern?
16 David did not want to be like the wicked in any way. Many people try to conceal what they are inside, but David humbly prayed: “Search through me, O God, and know my heart. Examine me, and know my disquieting thoughts, and see whether there is in me any painful way, and lead me in the way of time indefinite.” (Psalm 139:23, 24) When referring to his heart, David did not mean the physical organ. In harmony with the figurative meaning of that expression, he referred to what he was inside, the inner man. We too should want God to search our heart and discern whether we have any improper desires, affections, emotions, purposes, thoughts, or motives. (Psalm 26:2) Jehovah invites us: “My son, do give your heart to me, and may those eyes of yours take pleasure in my own ways.”—Proverbs 23:26.
17. (a) Instead of covering over disquieting thoughts, what should we do? (b) Should it surprise us to find wrong inclinations in our heart, and what should we do about them?
17 If there are hidden within us any painful, disquieting thoughts because of wrong desires or wrong motives or because of some wrong conduct on our part, then surely we want Jehovah to help us clear the matter up. Instead of the wording “any painful way,” Moffatt’s translation uses the expression “a wrong course”; The New English Bible says: “Any path that grieves thee [that is, God].” We ourselves may not clearly understand our disquieting thoughts and so do not know how to express our problem to God, but he understands our case. (Romans 8:26, 27) It should not surprise us if there are bad inclinations in our heart; still, we should not excuse them. (Genesis 8:21) We should seek God’s help to root them out. If we truly love Jehovah and his ways, we can approach him for such help with the confidence that “God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.”—1 John 3:19-21.
18. (a) How does Jehovah lead us in the way of time indefinite? (b) If we continue to follow Jehovah’s direction, what warm commendation can we expect to receive?
18 In harmony with the psalmist’s prayer that Jehovah would lead him in the way of time indefinite, Jehovah does, indeed, lead his humble, obedient servants. He leads them not only in the path that can mean long life because they are not prematurely cut off for evildoing but in the way that leads to life eternal. He impresses upon us our need of the sin-atoning value of Jesus’ sacrifice. Through his Word and his organization, he provides us vital instruction so that we are able to do his will. He emphasizes to us the importance of responding to his help so that we become inwardly the sort of person that we profess to be outwardly. (Psalm 86:11) And he encourages us with the prospect of perfect health in a righteous new world along with an eternity of life to use in serving him, the only true God. If we continue to respond loyally to his direction, he will, in effect, say to us, as he did to his Son: “I have approved you.”—Luke 3:22; John 6:27; James 1:12.
What Is Your Comment?
□ Why is Jehovah’s view of his servants often different from that of humans?
□ What can help us to discern what God sees when he examines our heart?
□ What sort of study assists us to learn facts and to safeguard our heart?
□ Why is it important not only to know what God says but to share his feelings?
□ Why should we personally pray: “Search through me, O God, and know my heart”?
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When studying, endeavor to make God’s thoughts and feelings your own
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Jehovah’s thoughts are “more than even the grains of sand”
Pictorial Archive (Near Eastern History) Est.