Open Heart Examination

Scripture Focus: Psalm 17.3-5
3 Though you probe my heart,
     though you examine me at night and test me,
 you will find that I have planned no evil;
     my mouth has not transgressed.
 4 Though people tried to bribe me,
     I have kept myself from the ways of the violent
     through what your lips have commanded.
 5 My steps have held to your paths;
     my feet have not stumbled.

Reflection: Open Heart Examination
By Erin Newton

I’ve been rewatching a sitcom about a genius who pretends to be a lawyer in New York. The main character spends every day on the precipice of disaster as he struggles to keep his lie hidden. One episode opens with the song lyrics, “You’re a fraud and you know it…It’s always been a smoke and mirrors game.” Season after season, he bears the weight of his guilty conscience.

A different story plays out in Psalm 17. There is no fraud. The psalmist opens his heart, shining a light onto any hidden corner. No smoke and mirrors. He is steadfast, firmly confident that God will find no guilt in him. This psalm is a stark contrast to the sitcom.

Each psalm reveals a scene from life and makes proclamations about psalmist, enemies, and God that reflect a moment in time. The psalmist here is not universally guiltless. This is not a mirror of perfection left for us to imitate. In this moment, whatever causes this critical crisis of the psalmist’s life, he is innocent. He is confident because he has actively rejected opportunities for sin.

Hearts are not always willingly exposed.

The heart can be a labyrinth, twisting and turning with various desires. The heart can be a catacomb hiding the proverbial skeletons in our closet. 

And yet, the heart can be the home of wisdom. The heart that trusts in God can be an open book.  

God is able to navigate the complexity of the human heart. Other verses in the book of Psalms invite God to examine the heart (Ps. 17.3, 26.2, 139.23) and others proclaim God’s ability to do so (Ps. 7.9, 33.15, 44.21). Like a skilled surgeon, God can open our hearts and assess their health. There are no dark corners obscured from divine examination.

The psalmist is confident in his innocence in this matter. People have tried to bribe him and he refused. People have tempted him toward violence and he has rejected their offer. He follows the road less traveled, God’s paths of righteousness.

It is a tender and humble request to ask God to examine your heart. We know what lies within the crevices of our souls, things we wish to keep hidden. But like the fraud in that sitcom, disaster crouches at the door and reality becomes smoke and mirrors.

God is able and has already examined your heart. He has loved you regardless. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they will be filled. — Mathew 5.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Samuel 24 (Listen 4:48)
Psalms 17 (Listen 1:58)

Read more about Judging Our Hearts
If the tree is sickened at its heart, the fruit will be sickened as well.

Read more about Choices and Hard Hearts
Hardened hearts happen in stages. Our choices matter. Our hearts are hardened or softened day after day.

What David Longed For

Psalm 17.14-15
By your hand save me from such people, Lord,
   from those of this world whose reward is in this life.
May what you have stored up for the wicked fill their bellies;
   may their children gorge themselves on it,
   and may there be leftovers for their little ones.
I will be vindicated and will see your face;
   when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.

Reflection: What David Longed For
By John Tillman

Today’s psalm of David gives us a famous and oft repeated idea, that we are the apple of God’s eye and are precious to him. It also gives us one of the texts that show us that the concept of resurrection was not an idea that developed in the first century.

Many of the most important voices of the Old Testament such as David and Isaiah gave clear and unambiguous testimony that they looked forward to a day when they, after death would see God.

David as a psalmist opens up all of his fears, desires, and longings to God. He shows us, perhaps more than any other Old Testament writer what a passionate, and intimate relationship with God can look like. And he shows us clearly that he expects this relationship to continue after death.

David makes a contrast between the evildoers whose satisfaction is found in this life, and himself. David testifies that his only satisfaction is in knowing that he will be in the presence of God.

In so many ways, what David longed for after death, we have access to now. We have many advantages over David.

David was unable to read of Jesus as we are. Yet how often do we read of him?

David was unable to know of Christ’s saving work on the cross. He thanked God for salvation and forgiveness while worshiping with ceremonial signs of lambs and blood that pointed to Christ, but were powerless to save. Yet how many times do we fail to kneel, thankful for the sacrifice made for us by our High Priest?

David was close to God and sensitive to his Spirit. Multiple times the Bible tells us the Spirit of God “came on” David and others in the Old Testament. David would be astounded that the Holy Spirit has indeed been poured out on all flesh. Yet how often do we seek to soak in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit?

This Lenten season we have focused heavily on our sins and their effects. May we spend time in the final weeks of Lent, seeking renewal, redemption, and revival.

In preparation for the joy of his resurrection, may we seek to resurrect our awe and wonder at the wonderful gift of his presence and as David says, may we “see your face’’ and “be satisfied.”

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
As the deer longs for the water-brooks, so longs my soul for you, O God.
My soul is athirst for God, athirst for the living God; when shall I come to appear before the presence of God?  — Psalm 42.1-2

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Leviticus 14 (Listen – 8:11)
Psalm 17 (Listen – 1:58)

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Read more about Last Priest Standing
Jesus’ high priestly ministry on our behalf is perpetual, never-ending. If we could grasp the full ramifications of this reality, it would radically impact our daily lives.

Read more about Christ: Temple, River, and City
Christ is our river, flowing as the Holy Spirit into our lives…His river-like spirit brings life to what is dead and healing to what is sickened by the waste products of our sins’ industrious and destructive revolution.