Incline My Heart to Your Testimonies | Psalm 119:36

Incline my heart to your testimonies,
and not to selfish gain!

Psalm 119:36 ESV

Recently, my wife and I were reminded by the author of one of our daughter’s books that “you don’t need to teach children to do wrong but you do need to teach them to do right—and to trust in the only one who is good—God.”[1] Any parent can, of course, testify to the truthfulness of that statement. Disobedience is natural, while obedience must be fostered. Yet as the psalmist implies within this verse, our children’s hearts are different than our own. We long to have our will done whatever the cost as much as any youngster. Selfish gain is default desire for all of humanity.

Because of this deeply ingrained selfishness, the psalmist recognizes that God must go beyond the leading that he described in the previous verse; rather, the LORD must shift his internal desires, his heart, toward the goodness of God’s testimonies. The same is also true of us. Even with the guidance and goading that God gives to us through His Word, it is still all too easy for us to kick against Him like stubborn sheep. We need also an internal leading, a new inclination of the heart, that we may actually want to walk in the path of God’s commandments and keep His law.

In Christ, this prayer has been answered far beyond what the psalmist could ever have dreamed. Jesus’ accomplishment of our salvation through His life, death, and resurrection fulfilled the words of Ezekiel 36:26-27, which describe a work far more extensive than a shift in inclination:

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

Let us rejoice that our Lord has not merely called us to behavior modification but has given us new hearts through the indwelling Spirit!


[1] Carine MacKenzie & Philip Ross, My 1st Books and More, 28.

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