Saturday, September 22, 2018

Knit My Heart

Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart to revere your Name.
Ps 86:11

I have always loved this verse of Psalm 86. My heart is distracted by so many things, sort of like Martha in the kitchen. It is a prayer for a heart whose attention is no longer divided among getting the bulletin copied, writing a sermon, paying the bills, caring for a house, keeping the car running, pleasing this or that person, and honoring God. "Give me an undivided heart to revere your Name," I pray.

And that's an excellent prayer to pray all day any day. But apparently it's not quite the prayer I think it is—at least not the prayer prayed in Psalm 86:11.  The Geneva Bible comes closer to the true translation (but still not close enough) with

Teach me thy way, O Lord,  and  I will walk in  thy truth: knit mine heart unto thee, that I may fear  thy Name.

The NRSV prays for a heart that will be able to do something (revere God's Name) once it has been united within itself. But the Geneva Bible prays for a heart enabled to do something (fear God's Name) because it has been integrated into the object of its desire (God).

The discrepancy in the two translations isn't in the difference between fear and revere. I think the old word fear would probably be better represented to the modern world as revere. The difference is that in the older (Geneva) translation, there's no notion that a heart not integrated into God is even able to revere God. The assumption is that in order to worship, we must first be bound up in the object of our worship.

So which one's right? Well, a literal translation of Psalm 86:11 from the Hebrew would be:

Teach me your way; I'll walk in your truth. Unite my heart to the fearing of your Name. (I've chosen a somewhat awkward construction for that last part to emphasize that the Hebrew word used [לְיִרְאָה] is a verb.)

The prayer, therefore, isn't for a heart that is pure unto itself, meaning it is in an undivided state and therefore able to worship. Nor is it even really for a heart attached to God. The prayer is for a heart that is actually integrated into its desired action. It's almost as though the heart of a child of God has ceased to be a noun at all, because it has been integrated into the action of worshiping God's Name. Thus, I am praying that, even my heart at rest, it will be beating in service to the One who created it.

Guide me along your paths, Lord, that I may walk in the light of your truth. May my heart be at peace only when it is integrated into worship of all that you are: Creator, Savior, and Sustainer. Amen.

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