Day 4: May 6, 2018: The Tension of Faith and Weakness
Psalm 119:10: With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments!
There is tension in this verse. The first line – “with my whole heart I seek you” – is a declaration of intense devotion to the Lord. The second line – “let me not wander from your commandments” – is an acknowledgment of how fleeting and frail that devotion can be. We can be energized with passion for Jesus in one moment, and in the very next we can be wandering off into yelling at our kids, cutting ethical corners at work, or looking up that porn website again.
One of my favorite scenes from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is when Aragorn stands before the Sword that was Broken in the House of Elrond. The sword lays in pieces on a table. It was a symbol of both great triumph and great failure. It was once wielded by Aragorn’s ancestors Elendil and Isildur. In a great war for Middle Earth Elendil, then the king of Numenor, was struck and killed by the Dark Lord Sauron. Immediately his son, Isildur, took up his father’s sword and cut off the hand on which Sauron wore his One Ring of power. This Ring gave Sauron the strength to dominate all life. The blow to Sauron’s arm shattered Isildur’s sword, but it also separated Sauron from the Ring. Without the Ring, Sauron and his army were defeated, and Middle Earth was saved.
It was then that Isildur’s greatest failure followed on his greatest triumph. He had the opportunity to take the One Ring and cast it into the fires of Mount Doom. This was the only place it could be destroyed. However, Isildur succumbed to the temptation of the power the Ring offered. He decided to keep it for himself instead of destroying it.
Now, thousands of years later, the Ring had been found again and the spirit of Sauron had returned. He was seeking to regain the ring and with it the power to rule all Middle Earth. Aragorn knew that, as the descendant of Elendil and Isildur, it fell to him to prevent Sauron from ever regaining the ring. However, he deeply feared that he would repeat Isildur’s failure. In the scene Aragorn is standing in the darkness in front of the broken sword when the Elf princess Arwen quietly enters the room. “Why do you fear the past?” she asks him, and then continues, “You are Isildur’s heir, not Isildur himself. You are not bound to his fate.” Aragorn answered her by saying, “The same blood flows in my veins. The same weakness.”
When we stand before the commands of God we also tremble with fear, for the same weakness which flowed in the veins of our ancestor Adam flows also in us. The desires for pleasure, power, fame, wealth, control, and revenge which have moved human beings to horrible actions throughout history also live in us. We know the power of those desires. We know how easy it is for us to follow these desires and forsake the commands of God. We know that the words of the hymn perfectly describe us: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love…”
This propensity to wander is why we must live in the tension of Psalm 119:10. We must declare our devotion to the Lord: “With my whole heart I seek you.” At the very same time, we must remain aware of the weakness which flows in our veins. So, we must also cry out to God to keep us from wandering. We must ask His Spirit to give us the strength to live our wholehearted devotion in daily obedience: “Let me not wander from your commandments.”
Take time now to confess to God both your allegiance to him as well as your need for grace to keep you from wandering away from him. This stanza from “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” is a prayer which can help you get started: “O to grace how great a debtor Daily I’m constrained to be! Let Thy goodness, like a fetter, Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.”