One of the writers I like to read is an old Scottish preacher by the name of Thomas Boston. He had a vivid imagination, and in one of his sermons, he pictured the soul and the body of a believer engaging in conversation after they are reunited in the resurrection....
School is starting soon. Students are preparing to hit the books again. Some will study to earn a diploma, but no disciple of Jesus Christ graduates from the school of Christian growth. We are all called to learn from Jesus, so now is a good time to ask ourselves: Am I teachable?
My recent study of Psalm 119 revealed a lot about being teachable. As I read it, I found myself asking, Is my heart is ready learn from the Lord?
1. Does God’s Word motivate me to worship?
I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous rules. (Psalm 119:7)
We often have many reasons for studying God’s Word—is worship one of mine? The psalmist says in verse 7 that he wants to learn the Lord’s righteous rules so that he can praise him with an upright heart. He says in verse 12, “Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statues!” The blessedness of the Lord has captured his heart and drives him to study, that he might give God the adoration he deserves.
2. Do I admit when I’m wrong?
Put false ways far from me and graciously teach me your law! (Psalm 119:29)
In verse 26 the psalmist says, “When I told of my ways, you answered me” and then says, “Put false ways far from me” (v. 29). He has opened his heart to the Lord, honestly confessing, and now that the Lord has answered him he is looking for correction from what is false within him. I find it hard to admit when I’m wrong, but it is vital to embrace my limited capacity and value what is right and true over what made sense to me in the past.
3. Do I know my limitations?
Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. (Psalm 119:73)
The psalmist looks to the Lord as teacher because he is his Creator; he knows his dependence is on the Limitless One. While pride seeks knowledge in order to evaluate what is true, a posture of humility asks God for his wisdom and receives understanding with gratitude.
4. Do I believe God can change me?
Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes; and I will keep it to the end. (Psalm 119:33)
Sometimes we harden our heart to instruction because we lack faith that God can change our desires to do his will. We forget that God has promised to give us both his instruction and the power to carry it out (Jude 24). The Father purposes that through his teaching we may grow and learn to reflect the glory of his Son Jesus, and his purposes always come to pass.
5. Do I know the love of my Instructor?
The earth, O LORD, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes! (Psalm 119:64)
We will find it a joy to seek and trust the teaching of the one whose love fills the whole earth. Do I believe that God’s love is written all over his good creation? Do I believe that same love comes to me through his Word? When we see and know God’s love intimately, we can say with confidence: “Deal with you servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statues.”
6. Do I trust the goodness of my Instructor?
You are good and do good; teach me your statutes. (Psalm 119:68)
The psalmist says to the Lord: “You are good and do good” (v.68). This confidence in the Lord’s goodness helps us navigate the more difficult truths of Scripture, when we may be tempted to stray from them by hardening our hearts. We trust his goodness in trials because we have seen the ultimate display of goodness triumphing in affliction at the cross.
7. Do I value the Word of God as the ultimate source of wisdom?
I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. (Psalm 119:99)
The psalmist is not boasting in himself, but joyfully boasting that the Lord’s wisdom is superior to all of man’s wisdom. He holds up all other instruction to the standard of the Lord’s teaching, not the other way around.
8. Do I ask God questions?
My eyes long for your promise; I ask, “When will you comfort me?” (Psalm 119:82)
The psalmist trusts the Lord, and yet he asks hard questions like, “When will you comfort me?” (v. 82), “How long must your servant endure?” and “When will you judge those who persecute me?” (v. 84). These questions reveal a longing for fulfillment of the Lord’s promises, as well as an honest wrestling with God’s timing.
The world is a confusing place. I struggle to grasp hold of the eternal. But Jesus made the way for me to have a living, transacting relationship with the Author himself — hard questions included.
9. What have I learned from my previous lessons?
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. (Psalm 119:71)
One sign of being teachable is the passing of a test. The good student appreciates tests because he knows they reveal evidence of growth and the need for further growth.
10. Am I a servant?
Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes. (Psalm 119:124)
There is a remarkable tie in Psalm 119 between the psalmist’s desire to be taught and his identity as the Lord’s servant. The sum of the law of God is love — love for God and neighbor — while the ultimate expression of love is death to self for the benefit of someone else. The more we grow in knowledge of the Lord, the more we will seek to serve others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. As an apprentice serves alongside the Master as the trade is taught, so we learn by doing, and as servants of Christ we seek to join in the Father’s work.
While I am not the student I long to be, it’s my hope and peace that only Jesus Christ, my Substitute, served his Father perfectly, even taking the time to learn what he surely already knew (Luke 2:46-52). Because of the cross, I have confidence that my sin has been atoned for and the righteousness required by God is mine in Jesus Christ.
He is my help and my salvation, and his Spirit gives me hope that my soul will one day say, “I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me” (Psalm 119:102).