It’s not easy to ask for help. I’d much rather not do it myself – ask for help, that is. We’re a real “do it yourself” breed, we humans. We’ve even got a saying for it, “If you want something done right, do it yourself.”
Yet that flies in the face of almost all forms of wisdom, both Biblical and otherwise. Solomon fills his proverbs with encouragements to seek out counsel. Paul says to consider others wiser than ourselves. “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought,” he tells the Romans. We call that humility, right? To lower ourselves. To submit ourselves to someone else.
Here in just two verses of Psalm 25 we find a lot of this kind of talk. “Show me,” David says. “Teach me,” David says. “Guide me,” David says. And then for good measure he says, “Teach me,” again. And of course, it’s what David asks to be shown and taught that’s key: “your ways,” “your paths,” “your truth.” The ways, the path, and the truth of the LORD, of God my Savior.
But we just have no real desire to say this. After all, what could God really teach us? In fact, we spend most of our lives doing the opposite. We spend a lot of time thinking that maybe we can teach God, that He has a thing or two to learn from us.
Oh the arrogance in that thought. That we would approach the King of the Universe, the God who spoke and caused light to come forth, the God who knits us together in our wombs, the God who preserves not just individual persons, not just a group of people, not just a country, not just a planet, not just a solar system, but everything – that we have anything to teach to that God.
But we think we do. We think our morality is superior to God’s, and so condemn Him for whatever He does or allows: “My God would never do that!” We think our theology is superior to God’s, and so condemn Him for whatever He teaches or believes, “What a primitive thing to do!”
We think we have nothing to learn from God. Not only that, but we stand convinced that we are already good at everything. We need no instruction, no improvement, nothing. What we’d much rather hear or say is, “Oh, no, it’s not that bad at all. Actually, you’re doing quite excellently.”
This only fails to yield to God’s Word. God’s Word says you are so far from excellent it’s not even funny. In another psalm, a man named Asaph stands humbly before God like David and says, “I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.” Paul, speaking as a believer is willing to say, “I know that nothing good lives in me.” In this very psalm, David admits all that he needs to learn and improve: “Remember not the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways.”
I need to be taught. I need to be instructed. My morality is deficient, it seeks only to please myself. My theology is faulty, because I can’t submit my reason to God and take my mind captive to Christ. I want to do things my way. I want the Scriptures to bend to my will, like some wax nose I can pull and poke and twist into whatever shape I desire. I am hopelessly, utterly, woefully, and arrogantly curved in upon myself, spending most of my life gazing at my own navel. I act like an animal, a brute beast. I spend most of my life doing exactly what David told his son not to do in Psalm 32: “Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle.”
This is where I stand apart from God my Savior, apart from His Christ. I am dead in sin, hostile to God, blind. I can’t reason my way to God or by thinking and choosing find my way to God’s side. I am only on my own side.
So God came to my side. Because He is God my Savior. He saw what I needed. I needed something outside of me to focus upon, something outside of me to rely upon. He gave it: His way, His truth, His life – His Son, the Christ!
He forces me to change my pronoun usage. By nature I focus on “I” and “Me” and “We.” But He makes me change to “you,” as in, “You, O Lord!” Look at Psalm 25: “You are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long!”
I recently heard a theologian describe our spiritual condition in this way. We are donkeys (he used a more archaic word for donkey here, but there are children present). Donkeys get ridden. Either Satan rides us, or God rides us. It’s one or the other. If it’s Satan, we’re doomed, because He’s riding us to hell. And joyfully we’d go there, because we see that his fruit appears pleasing to the eye and good for food and gaining wisdom.
But God acts the thief. He breaks into Satan’s home and steals Satan’s donkey. More than that, God, better, Jesus, comes into Satan’s home, ties up this strong man and then carries off his possessions, that is, us. You don’t think of Jesus as a thief? Just read Mark 3 where He calls himself that. Read the Creed again, “And he descended into hell.” He descended not to suffer, but to spike the ball, to show the devil that He had won, and that all God’s promises are true: faith in Christ means righteousness and life, eternal life! No more hell for believers in Jesus! He stole us out from under Satan and made us, as that theologian said, “royal donkeys.”
If we’re just donkeys – senseless, brute beasts – and if we can stand to think of ourselves that way, then we will most certainly be more willing to say, “Show me,” “Guide me,” “Teach me.” Because the Holy Spirit shows us our new rider, a gentle rider. That’s how Zechariah describes our rider, Jesus: “See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey.” This is what Jesus does. Thus we say: “My hope is in you all day long.” Thus we say, “Teach me,” “Guide me,” “Show me,” because in Jesus we’ve seen a God worth listening to, a God worth throwing aside all our own thoughts and feelings for. A God who didn’t spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all. If that God is for us, who can be against us? More, if that’s our God, our Savior, what Word of us wouldn’t we want to hear and beg to follow for the rest of our lives?
Thus today we give thanks. We give thanks for everything, because “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights who does not change like shifting shadows.” So we thank God for family, friends, food, travel, homes, country, etc. But more, as we’ll hear from James in a moment, that “He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth.” Through Christ, God our Savior stole us from Satan, and raised us up from the dead, gave us birth, gave us life, and gives us light, His Word, a lamp to our feet, a light to our path, a path that ends in heaven with Jesus, because of Jesus. Amen.