Using the Bible as a Reflective Tool: An Example from Psalm 119:59
“I thought about my ways, and turned my feet to Your testimonies.” -Psalm 119:59
How instructive is the word of God here! In just one sentence it gives us a prescription to keep us on the way that leads to salvation and to eternal life by allowing us to be reflective on our Christian practice.
In the field of education teachers and students are encouraged to be reflective about their teaching and learning. This means that they each set aside some time to think about what they did that day and take inventory of how things went. One benefit of this, if done honestly, is that it can allow the person to identify strengths to build on and things that didn’t go so well. Reflection time offers the chance to strategize about these areas of improvement and think deeply about adjustments that might need to be made for overall improvement. When the Psalmist says, “I thought about my ways…” he is inviting us to reflection. How often do you take time to think deeply about the course of your life, the state of your soul, or your advancement in Christian discipline?
The kind of reflection the author has in mind for us to do relates to our “ways” or our well-traveled paths of life. This has nothing to do with what grocery stores we frequent or where we purchase the things that are necessary for life but rather our patterns of behavior, speech and thought. It is much more uncomfortable turning a critical lens on ourselves than it is to point it outward at others. However, we should heed the words of Paul “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another” (Gal 6:4).
Another way to ensure honest reflection and diagnosis of our ways is to compare them to the Scripture. That is the only standard that will give us the truth in assessing our words, thoughts, and deeds. We gather misinformation when we seek to use another standard for this evaluation such as social fads, worldly wisdom, cultural norms or the actions of others. These can leave us with the impression that we are in a better place than we actually are. The scripture alone gives us the true standard for life and conduct that pleases the Lord. As Christians, this is to be our aim, our heart’s desire, our “true north” and the Bible leads us in the way.
The honesty in our reflection comes from shining the light of God’s truth upon our paths. In the very same Psalm, it says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps 119:105). We must be reading and meditating upon God’s word consistently if we are to have our minds calibrated to God’s standard for our lives and be able to accurately assess where we fall short and miss the mark (sin).
Always Be Reading and Ready to Turn Your Feet
Reading God’s word consistently and meaningfully will also yield us hearts of flesh so that when we do find these inconsistencies in our ways we will have the humility and tenderness of heart to acknowledge them and the willingness to turn and forsake them. Psalm 32:5 says, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” The apostle John in his first letter reinforces the truth given to us by the Psalmist when he writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9).
Repentance (turning) is a necessary practice for us not only at the point of salvation but is necessary thereafter when we commit sins willful or unknown. In this era where grace and mercy are emphasized repentance can get lost. More importantly, the acknowledgment of our need to repent can get lost. We are told things like “all is well” “God is for us” “He loves us no matter what” [all of which have some situational and contextual truth to them] but when present as the total diet of the Christian, this unbalanced messaging can give us the impression that we do not sin, are not really that bad and have nothing to repent of. If we embrace this conclusion, John again confronts us at this point and says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8).
Embrace God’s Way
Lastly, when we repent or turn from our sin we must not assume that the matter is closed. It has been said that if we turn from something, we must also turn to something. Haven’t we all at one time or another rejected one sin just to turn and embrace another? It’s a terrible feeling and an often lived experience by too many of us.
To prevent this, the Palmist says that he turned his feet to “Your testimonies”. He did not stop at using the bible to reflect upon his path nor did he use it merely to take inventory of his actions to see if they line up with God’s standard. Upon seeing deviations with his path and God’s standard, he did not simply repent. He repented of his sin and he embraced the commands of scripture anew. He reoriented himself to God, re-established the path laid out by the scriptures and set himself to recommence on the journey.
This is the critical step. If we stop before this we will never progress in sanctification, maturity and spiritual development the way God has laid out for us in the scriptures. At the end of our reflection, there must be an embracing of the truths of God and a renewed commitment to walk in them by faith.
Brothers and sisters, be reflective. Let this verse encourage you to set aside time to consider your ways, evaluate them by the standard of God’s word and repent where it is needed. But the greatest benefit of this type of reflection is that it causes us to consistently throw ourselves back on God and embrace his truth as our supreme good for this life and beyond.