Psalm 119:36

Psalm 119: An Exposition
Charles Bridges

"Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to covetousness."

What is it that makes us walk in the path of God's commandments? It is the force of his Almighty love. This love effectually inclines the will, as with a Divine touch. The day of his power, in which he makes us willing, is a time of love. "I drew them," God says, "with gentle cords, with bands of love" (Hos. 11:4).

Every man who is conscious of the bias within his own heart--to not walk in God's path--will deeply feel the need for this prayer, "Incline my heart." The native principle of man draws him to his own self, to his own indulgence. Pleasure and covetousness assume a thousand forms of gratifying self at the expense of love to God. There are but few who are not ready to condemn this principle in others, while it may perhaps be their own "easily besetting" sin. When the mind is grasping after the world as if it were our portion, we have the greatest reason to take heed to our Lord's admonition and beware of covetousness. When we invest earthly gratifications with any inherent excellency--virtually putting them in the place of God--then will be a season for special supplication, "Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to covetousness."

There is probably no principle so opposed to the Lord's testimonies as covetousness. It casts out the principle of obedience, since the love of God cannot co-exist with the love of the world. The very desire to serve Mammon is a proof of unfaithfulness to God. We observe the deadly influence of it in direct breaches of the law of God--Balaam, setting his will to contradict God; Ahab, tempted to murder; David, embracing murder and adultery; Achan, stealing; Judas, both stealing from his fellows and betraying his Master; Gehazi and Ananias, lying. And common but painful observation reveals to us just how much of the good seed of the kingdom, which was springing up with the promise of a plentiful harvest, has been choked and made unfruitful by this weed of rank luxuriance!

And thus our Lord's parables, his providence, his promises, his terms of discipleship, his counsels, and his own example of poverty and renunciation of this world's comfort are all directed against this destructive principle of covetousness. It was the power of the love of Christ that delivered Matthew and Zaccheus from its influence and inclined their hearts to the testimonies of God. And has not faith still the same power to turn our hearts from the world, from sin, and from self to Christ? Learn, then, to rest upon the promise of his love and to delight in his testimonies. Thus will earthly cares be cast upon him, and earthly prospects will lose their splendor. This life of faith--living in union with a heavenly Savior--is the only effective principle of resistance. Those who are risen with Christ will be temperate in earthly things, "setting their affections on things above." As the Apostle Paul tells us, it is they--and they alone--who will be able to put to death whatever belongs to their earthly nature, among which is covetousness.

Our desire should be to live unattached to our earthly comforts and to curtail our natural discontent with the Lord's dealings with us, to restrain our eagerness to seek great things for ourselves by the recollection of his word, "seek them not" (Jer. 45:5). Let us not forget that this inclination to covetousness, even if it is not brought into active and perceptible motion, is fatally destructive to the life of religion. "But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows" (1 Tim. 6:9, 10). What an awful warning to mere professors! But what an important exhortation to the people of God is that which follows: "But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness."

If the Lord loves you, he will not indeed lose you. But unless you take heed and beware of covetousness, he will not spare you. In the midst, therefore, of temptation without and a world of sin within, go onwards with this pilgrim's prayer indelibly fixed in your heart--"Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to covetousness."

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