Before David closes hymn 139, he makes a final request of God in verses 23–24. The words are familiar to many Christians.
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
David no longer looks up (as in verses 1–18) nor around (as in verses 19–22); he now looks within. He wants to be God's man at any cost, so he invites the Lord to make a thorough examination of him down deep inside. The word "search" was used earlier in verse 1. The basic idea of the original Hebrew verb means "to explore, dig, probe." David wants God to penetrate his outer shell and dig down deeply within him. He unveils his inner being, down where unspoken thoughts dwell and unstated motives hide out in secret, and he invites God's searchlight.
Now David goes even further. He asks the Lord to put him to the test so as to discover any distracting thoughts. In other words, he is saying, "Find out which thoughts carry me away from fellowship with You, O God. Show them to me so that I can understand them and their effect on my walk with You." That was his desire. Insecurity has passed off the scene as he stands open before his Lord.
The desired result of this probing is set forth in the last verse, where David asks God to see if there is any way of pain or grief in him. It is not so that God might know the results, but that he himself—David—might know what God discovered. When you submit yourself to the scalpel of the surgeon for an exploratory operation, you do it not just for the sake of the physician. You want to know the findings yourself, don't you? You are interested in what is discovered. David finally states that it is his desire to be led in the "everlasting way," meaning the path of righteousness. He wanted to be a man of God, regardless of the cost.
Do you want to be a person whose walk with God is intimate and deep? Honestly now, is Christianity simply a ticket to heaven for you, or is it the very root and foundation of your life? Is this business of Bible reading/study, prayer, church attendance, baptism, witnessing, the Lord's Table, and the singing of hymns just something to calm your guilt and/or occupy your Sundays? On the other hand, if Christ has gotten a solid grasp of your will and you've become genuinely serious about spiritual things, then you will take the truth of these verses and allow it to take root in your life. Becoming a godly person takes time, but along the way it includes occasions when you expose your entire inner being to God's searching and you welcome any insight He might give you, regardless of the difficulty involved in facing it. By and by, the daily grind of insecurity will fade and you will be saying to the Lord: "I gladly open all the closets of my life—every room and every corner. Scrutinize my thoughts and examine my motives, Lord. Show me what needs attention. Reveal to me what brings pain to You in my life."
From Living the Psalms by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright © 2012. Reprinted by permission of Worthy Inspired, an imprint of Hachette Book Group, Inc.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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