Teach Me (Part 1): Psalm 119

“Teach me.” This is a phrase I attribute to David Lee (until proven otherwise) that sometimes appears in random conversations and occasionally litters my Facebook wall. It’s most often used in reference to the hidden art of wooing a woman, as if we are all recently converted Gnostics and only a select few individuals have had this wonderful knowledge revealed to them. Whenever someone does something of particular merit, whether it’s a Facebook comment or flowers on a car door, they receive accolades from their friends: “Teach me! Teach me!” I’d like to note that I am rarely a receiver of such praise, but because the phrase has become so commonplace I have become much more aware of it and have been able to connect it to some things I am learning. It’s been a while since I’ve updated this thing so here is part one of three (maybe four) on this thought, since I don’t want to bore anyone with a ten plus  page ramble. I’d like to also say that my first round playoff picks were pretty close!

Teach Me (Part 1): Psalm 119
Teach Me (Part 2): Prayer
Teach Me (Part 3): Shortcuts
Teach Me (Part 4): Something Concerning Relationships (maybe)

_________________________________________________________

The theme for this quarter at my campus ministry placed emphasis on the “distinguishing marks of a Christian,” a very helpful topic after studying the attributes of God and the Gospel. The first message was on biblical intake, where the speaker gave an excellent summary of the importance of God’s Word. He outlined a couple of practical tips, many which I had already integrated into my reading, but brought up a new one of interest that he coined “king’s work.” The foundation of this method of study is derived from Deuteronomy 17:18-19, where it prescribes that kings ought to write a copy of the law to spur them to personal holiness and godly discernment in leadership.

What does this have to do with, “Teach me”? After that message I decided to copy, or rather type, out a few passages with which I wanted to familiarize myself. I looked over the Bible and set up a series of themes that I hoped to transcribe at least a few times per week. I will say that it has been helpful to go through scripture at a pace similar to reading out loud for those who want to give it a try.  Here are a few examples, though I have not been very faithful as of late since Winfred posted his exercise“Ad Fontes,” so I’ve been switching off (Ephesians is nuts!).

  • Week 1: Sermon on the Mount
  • Week 2: Those Who have Gone Before (Hebrews 11, Romans 4)
  • Week 5: The Word of God (Psalm 119, Romans 10)
  • Week 8: The Curse Motif (Galatians 3, Deuteronomy 27:11-26, 28)
  • Week 10: Chapters of Great Encouragement (Romans 8, Ephesians 1, I Peter 1)

I want to draw attention to week five, which concerned the Word of God. For those of you who didn’t know, Psalm 119 is no cakewalk. I’d liken it to an intense hike of 176 verses all dealing with the law of God. There are a lot of distinct things that stand out in this treatise, but a phrase showed up enough while I was plugging away for me to Ctrl+F to see how many times it showed up. Go figure, “Teach me,” showed up ten times in the NASB! The phrase was used eight times with the word “statutes”, once with the word “ordinance” and once with the phrase “discernment and knowledge.” There’s no distinction between statutes or ordinances, since they apparently are the same word in Hebrew. The general idea is clear enough.

The repetitive nature of the phrase underscores and supports an important theme in this chapter and throughout the Bible: God must be the one to impart wisdom to man because we do not have an ability to understand apart from His grace. This is a humbling reminder, especially since I’ve been striving to be in the Word in the morning and in my free time. Growth in understanding comes from illumination granted by the Spirit. When the psalmist cries, “Teach me!” it is an acknowledgement of his inability to comprehend but also expresses an intense desire for holiness. It reinforces the age-old truth that we cannot become righteous or pure on our own merit but must trust in the virtue of another. Consider how the following excerpt (vs. 33-40) exemplifies the plea.

33Teach me, O LORD, the way of Your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
34Give me understanding, that I may observe Your law
And keep it with all my heart.
35Make me walk in the path of Your commandments,
For I delight in it.
36Incline my heart to Your testimonies
And not to dishonest gain.
37Turn away my eyes from looking at vanity,
And revive me in Your ways.
38Establish Your word to Your servant,
As that which produces reverence for You.
39Turn away my reproach which I dread,
For Your ordinances are good.
40Behold, I long for Your precepts;
Revive me through Your righteousness.

I’ve taken the liberty to search and survey the phrase, “Teach me,” in the entire NASB translation so you might have a systematic view of what the Bible expects when you ask the Teacher of teachers to teach you (that’s a mouthful). Click here for the compilation BibleGateway assembled. As you can see, “Teach me,” is not the only phrase testifying to the nature of the psalmist’s prayer.

There’s one more brief note I’d like to make concerning what Scripture indirectly says about, “Teach me!” When I reflect on what it means for God to teach anything, I can’t help but be reminded of I Corinthians 1, where Paul speaks of the wisdom of God. As seen in the Bible, God must be the one to grant knowledge, for we cannot begin to hope for clarity apart from His grace. As ones being saved, God has extended His power, but for those whom have heard and not believed, this message is a stumbling block and foolishness. Was not God pleased to save men who believed in an absurd message? This message eludes the wise man, the scribe, the debater, and the rulers of this age alike. Christ crucified reminds us that the foolishness of God is wiser than men, that no amount of accumulated knowledge or fanciful imagination could conjure up such a story. It is through this “wisdom”, this knowledge that God has revealed and continues to teach us, that we might know righteousness, sanctification, and redemption in Christ. It is by the Spirit that we have the capacity to be taught the things of God, “for who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the spirit of God (I Corinthians 2:11).”

Let’s end on a note from I Corinthians 2:12-16. Certain phrases are bolded for emphasis.

12Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,

13which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.

14But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

15But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.

16For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.

Teach me! PLEASE.

P.S. SOTM has been updated for the few that are interested!

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