The Step of Discernment
Dr. Joe Temple

Review

Open your Bibles, please, to Psalm 130 where we read:

Psalms 130

1Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.
2Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.
3If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
4But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.
5I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
6My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.
7Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
8And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

You realize that Psalm 130 is one of a number of psalms we have referred to as the “Pilgrim's Staircase.” In our last lesson we took the step which is described in Psalm 129, the Step of Discipline. We suggested that in every believer's life there comes an opportunity to suffer under the disciplining hand of God. We pointed out to you that all disciplining should result in the peaceable fruits of righteousness.

Now we are ready to stand upon the Step of Discernment as it is described for us in the psalm we have just read. Discernment is the natural result of those who look properly at the disciplining hand of God. We often understand things after we have undergone discipline that we never understood before.

Four Mental Pegs

As we stand upon the Step of Discernment with the psalmist, I want to give you four words which I believe will serve as mental pegs upon which we can hang the thoughts that I want to leave with you as we examine how the psalmist felt about discernment. The words are: anguish, apprehension, anticipation, and advice.

Anguish

The anguish of the psalmist is found in verses 1 and 2 where he says:

Psalms 130

1Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD.
2Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

The anguish of the prophet is portrayed in his condition described in these words which we have just read. You will remember when the psalmist began this spiritual staircase, he stood upon the Step of Distress and he cried unto the Lord and the Lord delivered him.

The psalmist learned something many of us don't realize. Just because we've been in distress at one time and the Lord delivered us, that is no indication that we will not be in trouble again. I have heard it said, and you have too, that if you just come to the Lord Jesus Christ you'll never have any more trouble. That isn't true, Beloved. You will have the trouble, but you will have someone to stand with you in the trouble.

Anguish Because of Condition

Beloved, the condition of the psalmist was a serious one; he was “in the depths.” I do not know exactly why he was in the depths, which means that he was in deep trouble, but perhaps it was because of the discipline through which he was going. The anguish of his heart could very well have been related to the plowing of his back.

If you have endured the disciplining hand of God, you know that sometimes the trouble is so great you don't think you can stand another day of it. You have to do what the psalmist did. You have to cry out to the Lord.

A Cry to God

I suggest to you that the anguish that the psalmist felt was not only related to his condition, but it was portrayed in his cry. Look at verse 2:

Psalms 130

2Lord, hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

Nearly every word in this paragraph is pregnant with the depth of trouble in which the psalmist actually was. Notice again in verse 1 he says:

Psalms 130

1Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O LORD. [Jehovah]

Every letter in the word “LORD” is capitalized. But when the psalmist begins the second verse the word “Adonai” -my master-is used.

Psalms 130

2Lord, [Adonai] hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications.

For practical purposes, we might say that in verse 4 the psalmist begins his prayer with the usual formality, but in verse 2 he forgets about the formality. He forgets about whether he is praising everything exactly right. He is crying out, “My master, I need you. I must have help.”

Continuous Prayer

The voice that was lifted to God out of the depths of despair was not only a loud one because of the deep desire of the psalmist's heart, but it was a continuous one. Folk often ask me, “Are you supposed to keep on praying about something?” You are not supposed to keep on praying from the standpoint of vain repetition, but Beloved, you are supposed to keep on praying either until the answer comes or until you have the assurance that it will come.

Sometimes God gives the assurance, but you have to wait six months to a year before you can see it. After He has given you assurance, you can go ahead and pray about something else, but don't ever quit praying until the answer comes. God expects continuous prayer.

In verse 2 the psalmist is saying, “Lord, consider what I am now saying to you. Lord, understand what I am trying to tell you.” Do you ever pray and feel like you are not making God understand? Do you ever pray and say to yourself, “I'm trying to pray, but I don't know if He understands it or not.”

Well, if you have done very much praying you have felt that way, and I want to encourage your heart today. It is all right to say, “God, understand.” but while you say that, rest. Rest on the promise given in chapter 8 of the book of Romans.

Romans 8

26……for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

The literal translation of this verse is “with words which cannot be understood.” Boiled down to simple language, that means that the Holy Spirit says to us in so many words, “Now, you may not know what to say, but I know. Don't you worry, I'll say it right.” The Holy Spirit loves to do that for us, and we can rest in that kind of praying from day to day.

Apprehension

I said that I did not know the reason for the psalmist's anguish, but I would like to suggest to you that one reason for his anguish could have been the apprehension that is revealed in verses 3 and 4. Notice, please, verse 3:

Psalms 130

3If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?
4But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

Can you sense the apprehension in verse 3? Can you sense the relief in verse 4? The apprehension to which I refer is related to the old subject of sin and salvation, because there is so much controversy and confusion related to it. Preaching doesn't seem to help it; it even makes it worse.

Perversity

Look with me at these verses and perhaps a blessing will be suited to our hearts. Notice the word “iniquities.” It is one of many words used in the Bible for sin. I rather like it, because I think it is the root of the whole thing. This word “iniquities” can be translated “perversity.” That is our problem, Beloved. When we would do good, evil is present with us. The things that we would do, we do not; and the things that we would not do, that we do. That is perversity.

We are told in this passage of Scripture, as the psalmist expresses his concern about guilt related to perversity, that some people feel that God somehow holds you as you might hold someone's feet to the fire and makes you squirm every time any kind of sin comes into your life.

Let me ask you a question. Do you feel that God is watching over you with a great big whip and the first time you do something that is wrong He says “Zap,” and then smiles about it? Then He raises the whip again and waits until you do something and then down comes the whip again. Is that the kind of God you are thinking about?

Man's Inability

Let me suggest that we examine the words of the psalmist in verse 3 again:

Psalms 130

3If thou, LORD, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?

Notice the word “mark” in this passage. It describes the sort of thing I have tried to illustrate for you. If God is going to act that way in relation to your sin, if God is going to demand a pound of flesh for every transgression, then answer the next question. Do you notice what it is? “O Lord, who shall stand?”

The psalmist is saying, “If God treats us that way when we sin, then who shall stand?” Look at the word “stand” as I remind you that it is a translation of the Hebrew word amad , which is also translated by the word “endure.”

Listen, to me Beloved. There is so much confusion in our world today. If the Lord markded iniquity, no man could endure. If the Lord marked iniquity and demanded a pound of flesh from you, then there would be no eternal life. If you are somehow expecting to gain the mercy of God, if you are expecting somehow to gain the favor of God by griting your teeth and clenching your fists and trying to live right, you are not going to last anyway. You might as well throw the whole thing overboard and forget it. “Who shall stand?”

God's Provision

Now someone may say, “Do you mean to tell me that God just ignores sin?” No, I don't mean that. God won't take His pound of flesh from you, but sin had to be paid for, and because it was paid for we can breathe a sigh of relief with the psalmist as we read in verse 4:

Psalms 130

4But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.

Thank God for that forgiveness. Forgiveness is made available to every individual who wants it. Beloved, don't live in the fear of sin, but live rather in the fear of forgiveness as the psalmist says in verse 4.

I say, live in the fear of forgiveness. It has been pointed out that in the Welch Revival of 1905, a Welch revivalist paraphrased this verse during the whole revival with the words, “There is forgiveness with Thee, enough to frighten us.” I rather like that.

I am awed at the forgiving power of God. I stand amazed at the forgiving power of God. Beloved, I am assured of His forgiveness today. This is where the discernment comes in. You wonder if God will forgive you and if God can restore you, and then you realize that He can that He does.

Anticipation

Let me tell you what you should do. You should wait in anticipation. That is our third word, “anticipation.” You should wait in anticipation for what He is going to say to you. You need to discern the message in the discipline. Otherwise it is all wasted. Notice verses 5 and 6:

Psalms 130

5I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.
6My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

The psalmist says, “Now that I know that I am forgiven, now that I know that I am restored, and now that I know that I don't have anything to fear, I am going to wait for the Lord. I am going to hope in His Word. I am going to wait for the Lord. I am going to hope in His Word. I am going to wait for the Lord and wait for the message from His Word more than the watchman waits for the morning as he goes about his duties at night.”

Waiting Expectantly

Notice the word “wait” as I remind you that it is a translation of a Hebrew word which means “to look expectantly.” When you are waiting for the Lord, you are not just sitting around tapping your feet and saying, “I have five more minutes here.” Beloved, that kind of waiting doesn't do anything and that is not what God is talking about here. God is saying to you, “When you wait for Me, look expectantly.” When you wait for the Lord, you are looking up and you are saying, “Lord, what good thing do you have for me now?” Look, expecting to receive something from the Lord.

Waiting Patiently

You don't only look expectantly, but you wait patiently as well. Sometimes the thing which you are anticipating doesn't come as soon as you would like for it to come. Part of the waiting is to wait patiently. Let me encourage your heart by telling you to occupy yourself as the psalmist occupied himself while you are waiting.

Hope In His Word

Look again at the verse and notice what the psalmist did:

Psalms 130

5I wait for the LORD, my soul doth wait, and in his word do I hope.

“While I am waiting, I am hoping.” Look at the word “hope” as I remind you that it is a translation of a Hebrew word which means “to trust.” You see, our word “hope” involves a certain idea of uncertainty. The word “hope” in the Scriptures doesn't mean “uncertainty.” While you are waiting, look expectantly, wait patiently, and hope in His Word. Trust in His Word; do not trust in the circumstances.

Waiting Longingly

May I suggest to you that the psalmist not only waited expectantly, patiently, and trustingly, but he waited longingly. He waited with a real desire. Look at verse 6 again:

Psalms 130

6My soul waiteth for the Lord more than they that watch for the morning: I say, more than they that watch for the morning.

Have you ever been a lonely night watchman all by yourself? Oh, how you wanted the morning to come. You really desired it. This is what is before us here, Beloved. I ask you another question now. How badly do you want the thing you want? Are you longingly waiting for the Lord to do for you the thing He said He would do?

A Word of Advice

It is an amazing thing how in the psalms we jump from one scene to another. We are supposed to use our head and know that the prayer had come, the anguish was absolved, the apprehension was allayed, and the anticipation was fulfilled because in verses 7 and 8 we have the psalmist giving a word of advice. He stood upon the Step of Discernment until he could understqand and discern God's will and purpose in relation to his trial and his trouble, and then he was ready to give the advice. That is the last word that you find in verses 7 and 8.

An Unfit Source of Advice

Let me digress a moment. This is why it is so important for you to stay in fellowship and to discern God's working in your own life. You must help other folk. You need to be able to advise other people, and a man out of fellowship is not a fit source of advice. A man never discerning the hand of God in his own life is not a fit source of advice. Don't give advice unless you know what you are talking about. Don't take advice unless you know where you are getting it. You can get some mighty poor advice these days.

Plenteous Redemption

Notice verses 7 and 8 again:

Psalms 130

7Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption.
8And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Notice everyone is advised to trust the Lord. Let all Israel trust the Lord! Notice the encouragement to trust which is given in verse 7:

Psalms 130

7…. for with the LORD there is mercy [that we are aware of] , and with him is plenteous redemption.

I love that. That word “plenteous” is a unique word. It is a translation of the Hebrew word rabah . The only other place that it is found or used in the Bible is describing a man who wants to make a big bonfire. He puts on some wood and then adds more and more wood. He just heaps it up. He wants to have a big fire. Well, Beloved, that is the way redemption is in relation to you. There is plenty of it. God has heaped it up. There is emough for all.

May I suggest that in verse 8 there is not only enough for all, but I suggest that He redeemed all from iniquity–not just some, but all. So whatever your need is today, there is more than enough to meet it if you will let God do it.


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