01 Feb Living From The Heart (The Psalms) – Episode 10
In Episode 10 of Living From the Heart, we consider the “endless imagery” that bombards our view in our digital world. Consider David’s awareness of idolatry, immorality, and sensuality in Psalm 101: “I will set no worthless things before my eyes.”
INTRODUCTION: I will set no worthless thing before my eyes. And of course it is his eyes who sees the young woman Bathsheba.
Most of us are looking at a computer screen all day long, aren’t we? We spend a lot of time online, on a handheld device, a laptop, some type of technology that takes us to the web. In this environment we see endless imagery. How much of this is good? How many of the pictures we look at, the stuff we read, where we surf and search, and scrounge around for some information or shopping online, whatever we’re doing, how much of it’s good? Certainly there’s no harm in reading a news report or an article or looking at certain images.But sometimes we’re looking at things we should not be looking at. In fact, we could be in really dangerous territory. Even in the Old Testament hundreds of years ago, thousands of years ago, the Worshipper of God was aware of idolatry, or immorality, of sensuality, and those were labeled lots of different ways. In this inaugural Psalm as we continue in Psalm 101, David makes the statement, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” So as we listen to this passage and study these worthless things, I want to begin by asking you a question. Is there anything worthless you’re setting before your eyes?
Well in verses 3 and 4, he unpacks further this demonstration of integrity. He’s made a declaration of integrity. I will give heed to the way of integrity. I will walk a certain way, and then he explains what that means. I will walk within my house in the integrity in my heart. Now the words were: people aren’t watching me, I’m going to have the same character I do when I’m in public. Then he says, “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes.” It’s a powerful thing, this computer. It’s a powerful thing, internet pornography.It’s a powerful thing, the imagery of reading a romance novel. It’s a powerful thing, looking at television these days. A friend of mine who spent most of his life in Indonesia, Jakarta was working with a language to translate into the New Testament, and he would come to the states for their obligatory furlow and we would house them from time to time. He was aghast at the commercials that we would tune out on TV mentally and visually. He never said anything to me, but I could see the look on his face, when a hygiene product would come on. God help me if he saw all the dysfunctional medications on television today. I will set no worthless thing before my eyes because the eye is a gateway to the soul.
He’s affirming values in these passages. I will put nothing worthless before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away. This is a wordplay on the idea of lovingkindness and disloyalty. The word fall away is the antithesis of Hesid. In other words, I love those who are loyal to God and loyal to God’s Word. I hate, which means he’s renouncing. I hate those who are disloyal to God and disloyal to His Word, and who are disloyal to their word. So in comparison to the Hesid of God, the character of God’s lovingkindness, His justice, His always being truthful, always being one you can count on; I hate those, He doesn’t hate them emotionally, but He’s saying, “I disavow. I won’t deal with those who are disloyal, who are not consistent with what they believe.” I hate the work of those who fall away. Affirming values.
Now notice what he says in the next phrase: It shall not fasten its grip on me. He’s talking about the work of those he hates. A perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil. Where’s the origin of his perversity? His heart!
He’s recognizing the corrupt ability even as the king who makes these declarations, I will sing of this. I will sing of this. To thee I will. I will. I will. He says, “This is where it starts. In my heart.” I said the other day, “It’s not the sins I act out that are the biggest problems; it’s the one between my temple that caused me the most angst. It’s the ones I think about. It’s the ones that overtake my heart.” He says, “I won’t let these things fasten their grip.” It’s a very visual picture of evil men pulling us down into the mire. “I won’t do it, he says.” He’s affirming values.
Verse 5, The one who has a haughty look. If you’ve raised kids, your kids have given you haughty looks, haven’t they? Think of this illustration: If you looked up the word haughty in the dictionary, you would see my children’s picture in the margin and it would say,“This is what a haughty look looks like.” From time to time, I will say to that particular child, “I do not like you rolling your eyes at me.” “I don’t roll my eyes at you.” And then I’m about to kill them, you know. I’m about to eat my young. “You will not be disrespectful to your mother and me. You will be out of my sight. You will not be that way to us.” I send that child away often. I don’t do it in always the best way, but a lot of times I do. I say, “This is unacceptable for you to be disrespectful. Period!” Because if you don’t learn to respect the human agencies in your life, how will you ever respect Yahweh? How will you ever respect your God and King, Jesus Christ? You must learn to respect those in authority over you. I will not endure a haughty look. It’s a great lesson. No room for gossip, no room for slander, no room for people that wink when they tell stories.
Are any of you international rotarians? No rotarians? The Rotary Club, of course is all over the world. I had been invited to speak to the Rotary Clubs. Of course, it’s just a guise to get you to join, really is all it is. But I love going to those functions. A number of times I’d been to one that had a big placard. It’s a four by eight sheet of plywood that’s cut and on hinges and it’s on an easel. There’s four questions. You know what the four rotarian questions are? Before you speak, you’re supposed to ask yourself four questions. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it confidential? Is it necessary to share? Rotarians will browbeat you into asking those questions before you speak. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it confidential? Is it necessary to share? Now as I‘ve thought about those questions, (unfinished thought) they’re good to memorize by the way. If I applied those to my every speech my conversations would be terribly short. My phone calls would be, “How are you doing? Fine.Have an appointment next week? See you then. Goodbye.” That would be the end of the conversation. Is it kind? Is it true? Is it confidential?
I have learned a lot about confidentiality in the last twenty five years of ministry. Most people cannot keep confidence. The moment you say the word “confidence” it’s public information. What do we do? We tell our bestest friend who would never breath a word because we have information that’s power and we’ve got to tell somebody this little caveat of truth.So we say,”Dont tell anybody. I’ve been sworn to confidentiality.” “Well, why are you telling me, you knucklehead?” “Because you’re my bestest friend and I trust you completely.” Then you give them the pearl and then it’s like sand; it’s like a burr under the saddle. They’ve got to do something with it too. Then they say, “Well, I can tell my bestest friend because they won’t tell anybody. I trust them explicitly. They won’t breathe a word of it.” Then they say, I’ve got to tell you something, but you can’t tell anyone.” “Totally, I won’t tell anyone a word.” Then they tell their bestest friend and on it goes. For a leader, character is everything.
I had a little rouse a few years ago about “Oh, you can be a great leader and your character doesn’t matter.” The Hebrew word for that is “baloney!” From David’s life, we learn that character is everything and when following this well, the kingdom prospered. When David inquired of the Lord and went up he succeeded every time. When he had a failure or a misstep and he went back to God and prayed to Him and inquired of God, God answered him every single time. If you go back and look through the Chronicles and I Samuel, he inquired. He inquired. He inquired of the Lord. He inquired of the Lord. His success is like a chart for a financial dream. Up, up, up, up. Everything he did, he prospered.
Then we read the most terrible inquiry of all; David inquired of the woman. The careful reader of the Bible’s stomach goes into a knot. No! No! NO don’t ask about a woman. His faithful captains in the field killing for the name of king and Yahweh, “You better come out and join us lest they give the banner and the scepter to the wrong man. You’re the king for goodness sake. Play the band. Play the part. Be the man; Be the king. Come out and show yourself a man of integrity again. And to send the note, “Put Uriah at the front of the line where the battles the fiercest.” He’s gone. It’s over. Why do so many successful people fail so miserably? Commitment to serve the king, Number 1. A commitment to a clean character.
Thirdly, and last: A commitment to a core community, verses 6 and following. My eyes will be on the faithful of the land, that they may dwell with me; He who walks in a blameless way is the one who will minister to me. He who practices deceit, in contrast, shall not dwell within my house; He who speaks falsehood shall not maintain his position before me. Every morning I will destroy the wicked of the land, So as to cut off from the city of the Lord all those who do iniquity. There’s a vertical commitment to serve the king. There’s an internal commitment to his own character and now there’s a horizontal and downward commitment to those over whom he is king. So a commitment to serve the king, a commitment to a community of character building, and a commitment to his community of ministry, we might say.
Now David expands the way of integrity that he announced in verse 2. He’s going to talk about the people who are going to serve with him. The word surround is that same word in a circle we talk about. He’s going to surround himself with faithful people, verse 6. Instead of running with the wrong crowd, he’s going to run with the right crowd. Only those who are blameless minded will serve with him. I have an extraordinary privilege of working with elders at churches, as well as the trustees at Moody Bible Institute, and the President’s Cabinet, and to work with men of integrity. I have some close friends of whom I would trust my wife and my checkbook. I trust them completely. I trust them explicitly because they are men of a blameless way. Larry Crabb defined a friend as someone who knows your secrets and still loves you. That’s pretty good. I know their secrets; they know mine. They don’t blab about them. I could trust them completely with anything I have and I hope they would trust me in kind. He’s going to surround himself with people like this. The question is very simple for you and for me. Do you have people with whom you trust yourself explicitly and they you? If you do not have someone who will tell you the truth in love for your benefit and the benefit of your family, your marriage, your friendship, and your work, you don’t have a friend. There are only a few in life like this and I have discovered you have to pursue them and cultivate them.
It’s a little bit like dating. You know, the first date tell the person as I did: I love you and I want to marry you. You typically court them and after you’ve had some fun you say, “I really enjoy being with you.” You wait with bated breath for them to say, “I enjoyed being with you too.” Then you date a little more and a little more. Then you say, “You know, I really love being with you.” Then they say, “I love being with you.” Little by little, you make first downs, right? Finally you say, “I think I love you.” You wait and the whole world stops while you wait for her to say back, “I’m not sure I love you.” (Laughter). No, I love you too. Then it all goes in slow motion. The camera goes around and the orchestra plays in the background and you’re in love. But you court and you say these things. It’s the same with a friendship. You don’t tell them your life story the first time you have coffee. You see if they can handle a little bit, you see what they tell you,then if you’re a smart friend, a smart student of people, if you tell them something and you hear it later you know where the leak came from. Then you just don’t bring anything up with that person anymore. You go on to the next one. I found to pursue those type of friendships, it takes extraordinary energy, but the benefits are otherworldly.
I have a great friend, Dave. He’s a pastor down in Houston. Dave knows all my secrets and I know his. We can talk on the phone for an hour sometimes. Cindy likes to be in the room when I’m on the phone. She says,“I learn a lot about you when you talk to Dave. I like hearing you talk to Dave,” because I tell Dave everything and Dave tells me everything. Sometimes Dave will say, “Michael, you’re believing a lie. Don’t believe a lie.” Other times Dave will say, “I wish I could reach through the phone and give you a dope slap right now. You need someone to slap some sense into you. You’re being stupid right now.” Do you have a friend like that? That’s the type of friendship we all need in a very practical way. I will surround myself with those who are faithful, who are loyal, who have the blameless way of integrity. Those are the ones I want to serve with.
Think about this from a Presidential Cabinet. If the next President of the United States put men and women on his cabinet that were completely full of truth and integrity, it would change the world. It would literally change the world! It’s that simple and that true. It’s hard. You need people who will tell you the truth.
Gerhard Newman wrote a book, Herman the German, about General Electric’s aircraft engine power during World War II, the Flying Tigers. The Flying Tigers had a huge part in winning the war. They were having a series of mechanical problems with them and they couldn’t get fixed. These problems would show up at twenty thousand feet, not when they were on the ground with a squadron mechanics. In Herman the German, Gerhard Newman came up with the idea. He would take the crew chief, the mechanic with him in the single seat plane to show him what problem the plane was having. There’s no room for a parachute in this plane when you put another person in and the crew chief would sit on the pilot’s lap. That’s how small the cockpits were. Herman Newman writes, It found great approval with the pilots. The squadron mechanics work way into the night lest in the morning I might ask them to test flight with me the next day, on whose plane they had affected repairs. The workmanship improved dramatically. Late at night we would see what looked to be glowworms under the hoods of the planes. The mechanics with their flashlights checking one more time the repair they’d made, lest in the morning I might ask them to fly with me. It’s a little different when you’re in the plane with no parachute. Do you trust them? Accountability is a term we greatly overuse, but what is terribly lacking. You’re only accountable to someone who can hold your trust, who can hold truth. Good judgement comes from good character.
In verse 7, he has an interesting phrase that sort of, or verse 8 rather, that disturbs us a little bit. This part about Every morning I will destroy all the wicked of the land. The king of course had a job to protect the confines of Israel. The king of course had a job to take the land that God had given them, that was going to be their land. The king of course would destroy the enemies of Yahweh, the enemies of Israel, the enemies of God’s chosen people. God told them to do this; He would do it. What he’s saying here is,“I won’t be dilatory. If God says to go take this people and go fight this battle, we’re going to go do it. We’re not going to live in fear and worry about it. We’re going to obey the Word of the Lord.”
Now if you know the story of David well, when Absalom’s revolt begins, you may remember Absalom positions himself at the gates of the city. He listens to all the peoples problems and he says basically, “If I were your king, I’d do something about this. If I were your king, I would fix this problem.” He’s saying, “I wouldn’t be dilatory like your king is being right now.” Because after David’s failure, he quit being dilatory. It’s all scripted in the first Psalm he wrote. Every morning I will deal with the wicked of the land as God has put them in front of me.
E G Punchard writes, The test of all ministry comes in the last day, the day of fiery trial and inquisition. This and not the world’s opinion is the real approval. Unfortunately, this Psalm is haunting because we know about David’s end; we know about his finish. But we don’t have to do it that way.
Obviously, we don’t have the pressures of being the king of a nation, but we have the pressures of being faithful servants where we are. We serve Yahweh, not ourselves. We serve Jesus Christ, not our self interests. These three things apply: We need a commitment to Christ. We need a commitment to our character, that our character is refined by the Word of God and by His Spirit. We need a commitment to people who will be truthful, who will be faithful, who will walk the way of integrity with us. If you have those three things, you will do well in this Christian life. A commitment to Christ. I will sing of of lovingkindness and justice, To Thee O Lord, I will sing praises. I will be committed to a chore of integrity. I will be a truthful person. I will be a person who when I sin, I will keep short account. I will own my sin. I will ask for forgiveness. I will confess when, not if I fail. I will have men around me who will surround me, to help me. They will walk with me and I will trust them and they will trust me. I will not be dilatory in the way I’m supposed to serve Christ. It’s a pretty good vision for life.
If you were to go back to Arlington Cemetery today, you would stand by what is now called The Tomb of the Unknowns. There is a group of what is called Tomb Guard Sentinels. We think of the man marching in Arlington in perfect cadence, in his uniform, and his rifle and hat. If you’ve never been, you need to go there. It is the oldest active duty guard in the United States Forces. To be an Honor Guard is to be is to be elected to one of the most prestigious, ceremonial places of all service. These young men and women are picked out of a huge application process. It’s almost like one of the highest levels for these young men and women. They are chosen within a certain limit of height and weight in each of their groups. There is such precision with which they iron their uniforms, they practice and polish their weapon, the way their shoes are built, the soles that they have on their shoes. I believe it’s thirty paces they take, no more and no less on the runner. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, far from the view of audiences that are hobbling around taking pictures trying to distract them, they guard those remains.
When Hurricane Floyd came through the Northern Virginia area a few years ago, it was the first time since the Tomb Guards Sentinels had been established that they were given an executive order to stand down because of the weather. They wouldn’t do it! They marched in the fury of the winds and the rains, and the hail that came through that hurricane and they guarded the Tomb.
They have a trust and this is what it reads: My dedication of the sacred duty is total and wholehearted. The responsibility bestowed on me never will I falter. With dignity and perseverance, my standard will remain perfection. Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability. It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made me so proud. Surrounded by well meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night this soldier will in honored glory rests under my eternal vigilance. They’re guarding a box of bones. We serve the King, a risen Saviour who’s in the world today. I wonder, do I serve a King as well as those men and women serve a box of bones?
PRAYER: Father in heaven, help us to walk worthy. Help us to walk in such a manner of integrity, of humility, of character, and commitment that the world covers their mouth in awe,not because we’re good, but because you’re God. Thank you for the privilege of serving the risen Saviour. Thank you for the privilege of knowing the King. Help us to be a little more worthy in our walk by the power of your Spirit. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
CONCLUSION:I hope sometime you’ll have a chance to visit Arlington Cemetery. I hope you’ll get to see the Tomb of the Unknowns and watch the Sentinels who guard that with such great honor and distinction. Part of that creed, it’s almost like a secret handshake among Sentinels, and they will salute their commanding officer and sometimes say, “Line six, Sir.” Some of them will sign their e-mails “Line six,” and that is: My standard will remain perfection. It strikes me that these men and women who are so committed to honoring the memory, the legacy, what it means that those men and women died for our freedom. They take it so seriously, down to ironing their clothes, the way they shine their shoes, the way they march. They’re impeccable in the way they handle their weapon and in the way they honor that Tomb.
Who among us as believers in Christ would say, “My standard will remain perfection?” Obviously, it’s what Christ does, not what we do. But it is a person who loves God, who loves the Lord, who wants to walk a life of integrity and makes these kinds of declarations: I will sing of lovingkindness and justice, I will give heed to the blameless, I will walk worthy. I hope you will. I hope you’ll study this Psalm on your own and as you walk you’ll be walking in the context of Scripture. This is Michael Easley and by God’s Spirit I am trying to walk worthy and I hope you are too.