05 June 2012

Beholding Vanity

Have I ever mentioned that Psalm 119 is one of my favorite chapters (yes and yes)?  For any who might not be aware, Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible.  Its theme?  The importance of the word of God.  Of its 176 verses, all but 2 make specific reference to God’s word, law, commandments, statutes, judgments, etc. 

Last time through, I noticed one of those verses that I just didn’t remember being there the last 25+ times I read it (only the Bible).  The Holy Spirit used the verse to point out an important truth to me and has been “bringing it to my remembrance” ever since (John 14:26).

The verse is Psalm 119:37.  Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; and quicken thou me in thy way.

When I read that, my mind goes immediately to another important verse -- Psalm 101:3.  I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes: I hate the work of them that turn aside; it shall not cleave to me.

But Psalm 119:37 takes Psalm 101:3 a step further.  It moves past removing from our vision that which is WICKED and challenges us to go ahead and get rid of that which is VAIN. 

My family does not own a TV.  There are a number of reasons for that.  In no particular order, (1) We can think of some much better ways to spend $100 a month than sending it to the cable company.  (2) Most -- as in as close to all as you can get without being all -- of the “programming” (think about that word) is WICKED and unfit to watch.  (3) It’s bad for kids’ brains.  (My wife can supply the details on that one.)  (4) Even if there were a few shows a week that we didn’t think fell under the condemnation of Psalm 101:3, we really couldn’t afford to waste the time it would take to watch them (Psalm 119:37).

I’m not saying that makes us more spiritual.  That’s just what we have chosen to do (or not do).  But in this modern age of technology, who needs a TV.  We have computers.  We have internet access.  Here’s where the Holy Spirit took a scalpel labeled Psalm 119:37 and did a little Hebrews 4:12 “piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and…discern[ing] of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

I may not waste my time and money on TV, but it’s not an infrequent occurrence for me to be studying my Bible or preparing a lesson or just trying to get something productive done when, for no apparent reason, I’m all of a sudden tempted to check the headlines…or check the scores…or check the weather…or read that email that just came in…or see who that text message was from…or (fill in the blank). 

It’s not that there’s anything necessarily wrong with those things.  It’s just that oftentimes, there’s not a lot of substance to them (VANITY).  In Psalm 119:37, David prayed what I have come to recognize as a very good, very needful prayer.  Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity…

Think about it.  How much time do you spend on Facebook?  Compare that to how much time you spend in God’s book.  Could you not be doing more of what’s needful if you weren’t so occupied with what often amounts to vanity?

How many tweets have you sent into the tweetosphere this week?  And how many prayers have you sent up to God’s throne this week?  Would the time spent doing one not have been more wisely invested doing the other? 

How many games do you need on your phone?  How many times do you have to win a game of solitaire in order to feel successful?  How many verses did you memorize last month?  What sins in your life have you waged war against in the recent future?

Do you really need to check the weather…7 times a day?  (Walking to the mailbox and taking a look at the clouds might be a better alternative.)  

Will the outcome of the game be any different because you watched the play-by-play tracker?  

What difference will it really make whether or not you’re up with what’s going on in the news?  (You might find yourself a bit less depressed on the blissfully unaware side of things.) 

Back to the TV thing.  Those hours you spent watching TV last month (try counting them) -- what did you get out of them?  Anything that brought you closer to the Lord?  Anything that strengthened your family?  Anything that made your life better in any way?  

So you got a bit of rest and relaxation.  Nobody can blame you for that.  But there are some other options on the far less wicked (Psalm 101:3) and vain (Psalm 119:37) side of things. 

I’m just saying that with a Bible to learn and a God to serve and family to raise and a church to build up and a world that’s lost and dying and going to hell, we’d do well to spend less of our time beholding vanity.  That is, if you want to press toward the mark (Philippians 3:14) and follow hard after God (Psalm 63:8). 

The verse was a help to me.  Hope it will be a blessing and help to you both now and in the days to come.

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