We’ve all experienced great aggravation when we’re stuck in traffic, especially when it begins to clear and there was no reason for such inconvenience. It is revealed to us that everyone was craning their necks to watch someone on the shoulder try and pass a sobriety test, or get a ticket, or fix a flat tire. The experience is aggravating because what captured the eye of the other passengers actually slowed traffic and it wasn’t worth it at all! There is another experience similar to this that we may all recognize when something truly interesting or a beautiful landscape compels a passenger in the vehicle to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahhh,’ but if we were to turn our heads we would be in great danger.
We do not turn our heads away from the road, we may peak a glance or ask for descriptions, but no matter what is happening we never advise speeding on the interstate while staring in a different direction. Our lives, and our impact of those around us, keep our focus looking straight. Augustine of Hippo asks, then, why do we allow for our hearts to be so easily turned to the left or right? If our whole personhood (heart, mind, soul) is truly important to us, then we must care for our eternal destiny more than those distractions that crop up so frequently. We acknowledge that our spiritual health is often in greater disarray when compared to our physical position.
I am always convicted of my propensity for distractions when I read that well known passage in Deuteronomy 6:6-7, “And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Is this true of me, am I diligent? This is the command from our Gracious God that we be diligent in knowing him and his will for our lives. He is gracious because he gives us instruction knowing full well that we are a distracted people. He also gives us his Spirit knowing that by his work we can overcome the practice of craning our necks at every shiny thing that grabs our hearts away from Truth (John 16:13).
We have a tendency to play the roles of toddler and parent simultaneously. As the toddler part of us grabs the thumbtack and then we encourage our infant nature to put it into our mouths. We are often inadequate at parenting our spiritual selves and that is why we must be diligent in knowing God’s word, our heavenly Father’s will.
Psalm 119 repeats the word meditate and the idea of meditation more than seven times throughout this poem. The phrase likens the practice of contemplating God’s word to being on the straight path of life, whereas forgetfulness or lack of diligence is illustrated as clinging to the dust or laying face-first in a gutter. Perhaps we might say that reading or thinking on the things of God is keeping our necks in place, fastened to the easy-yoke of Christ. Our lack of attention to the word is then being stuck in the shoulder of the highway.
Let our hope be to know our hope. Yes, that is redundant. But let our focus and attention be on the things of God, mainly his word, each week. Let our prayer be that of the Psalmist in 119:78b-79, “as for me, I will meditate on your precepts. Let those who fear you turn to me, that they may know your testimonies.” If we are a people in God’s word, we are a people practicing what our Good Father commands of us in Deuteronomy 6. If we are diligent in knowing the right path, then we will be able to direct others to what is true and praiseworthy. Pray this week that we will be asked to give testimony of the word that we read.
Pastor Chris Osterbrock
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers
Augustine, Confessions. Book X. 35. Augustine uses the analogy of riding a horse because they didn’t have cars in the 4th-5th century!