We are on a journey to expand on some of the practical applications of God’s word to our life. In a previous post (read it here), I listed eight:
The word produces a reverence for God.
The word makes us wise.
The word gives us direction for life.
The word gives us peace.
In this blog, we are considering that God’s word revives and strengthens us when we are discouraged.
Psalm 119:25,28 – My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word. … My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your word.
What nuggets of wisdom can we dig out from the treasure of these verses?
We see that both verses refer to the soul. What is the soul?
The Hebrew word is nephesh, and it refers to our inner man which is the seat of our emotions, passion, thought, will and character. It is the self-life, that which makes up your personality. I like to think of “soul” as the part of us that connects with other living creatures – human and animal. Every person has a soul, which God creates as He knits us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 139).
In contrast, the spirit of a man is that part of us that is able to connect with God, which He brings to life at salvation. An unbeliever’s spirit is dead until God regenerates (makes alive again). We are born with a spirit that is disconnected, without spiritual life, because of sin. (Ephesians 2:1).
Our soul and spirit (dead or alive) is contained in our physical body, our flesh, which is unredeemed (mortal, fallen), and will remain that way until our resurrection. Paul talks about us as being made up of these three parts – body, soul, spirit in I Thessalonians 5:23.
So…the first thing we need to understand is that we are speaking of our soul.
Our soul cleaves to the dust.
Dust is the Hebrew word aphar, and means exactly what it says … dust (as powdered or gray); hence, clay, earth, mud:—ashes, dust, earth, ground, morter, powder, rubbish.
To cleave is the word dabaq, and means to adhere to, to stick to as if glued, to be attached to.
We came from dust, from the earth. Dust makes up our physical body. Here we see the relationship between our body, soul, and spirit:
Genesis 2:7 – Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
God took the dust and formed our body, then breathed life (His Spirit) into us and we became a living soul. So, at creation, Adam was perfect in all ways – his physical body, his soul and his spirit. We know what happened, however, and because of sin, the life of the Spirit went out from Adam – the death that God warned would come from eating the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17) was spiritual death, as well as physical death.
I believe Adam and Eve were left to navigate the rest of their human life by their soul, just as today all unbelievers live. God’s Spirit was no longer indwelling them. The Spirit would not indwell man again until after Jesus paid the sin debt by His death, bringing the opportunity for new spiritual life by His resurrection. The Spirit returned to indwell man at Pentecost (Acts 2). In the Old Testament, God’s Spirit was alive and well, and active in the affairs of God’s faithful people. At times He would visit upon them in a very physical way, but He did not continually indwell them.
So what does all this have to do with Psalm 119:25? My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word.
For the psalmist, he was living the “soul-life” without the benefit of the indwelling Spirit. He longed for the presence of God. To “cleave to the dust” is to adhere to the physical. Is it not the tendency of our soul – our emotions, our will, our thoughts – to be led by this physical, tangible world, to be driven by the physical needs of our body? It is our human nature to live only for this present, temporary world. We are motivated by our flesh. We cleave to the dust.
The psalmist longed for the “quickening” or “reviving” of the Spirit of God. Only God’s Spirit can revive, which means to restore to life.
As believers today, with the Spirit of God indwelling us, when does our soul need to be revived?
When we find ourselves cleaving to the dust.
How do you know if your soul is cleaving to the dust?
What do you think about?
What do you love?
What are you passionate about?
How’s the state of your character?
What decisions of the will are you making?
We know we are in need of revival, of a fresh encounter with the Spirit of God, when our lives are centered on our soul – when we are led by the “self-life” of our own emotions, will, passions and thoughts, rather than by the Spirit of God.
How does this revival take place?
According to Your Word.
The Spirit of God uses the Word of God to revive us.
The Word of God shows us the truth about ourselves. It reveals our emotions, our passions. It corrects our thoughts. It challenges our will. When we read God’s Word, with an attitude of obedience and faith, God’s Spirit quickens our spirit and makes it alive to the Word.
Hebrews 4:12 – For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
Remember, Psalm 119 is written in a poetic style, with an 8-verse section for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Our key verse (25) is the beginning of an entire section. To better understand what the psalmist is teaching us our about soul-life and our spirit-life, we need to read the entire section (verses 25-32).
My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word.
I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; teach me Your statutes.
Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders.
My soul weeps because of grief; strengthen me according to Your word.
Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law.
I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me.
I cling to Your testimonies; O Lord, do not put me to shame!
I shall run the way of Your commandments, for You will enlarge my heart.
Do you see the struggle the psalmist is experiencing, as his soul draws him towards the physical, the self-life driven by his passions, emotions and human will? His “soul weeps” because of grief, which means heaviness, or sorrow. He is overwhelmed by this spiritual battle between what is good (the spirit life) and evil (the natural, or soul life). He asks God to teach him, to make him understand.
How does the psalmist experience victory in this struggle?
I have chosen the faithful way!
I have placed Your ordinances before me!
I cling to Your testimonies!
He knows that it is a choice. God has given Him ordinances, laws and testimonies to which he can cling. God’s Word is what will revive him.
What is more discouraging to a believer than recognizing our own human tendencies to live focused on our self, driving by our emotions and passions? But we have the Spirit of God indwelling us, to enlighten and revive us! By living according to God’s Word, our souls do not have to cleave to the dust!
One final observation. Look at the psalmist’s conclusion of hope: I shall run the way of Your commandments for you will enlarge my heart.
To enlarge is to broaden, widen, make roomy.
The heart also refers to the soul.
I believe the picture here is that as we choose God’s Word and God’s ways, He broadens our soul, filling it up more and more with His Spirit. The Spirit literally takes us over, invading the secret places in our soul that we don’t even realize yet are in need of Him. This is how He forms the image of Christ in us.
What a beautiful, encouraging picture of God’s work in human hearts!
We do not have to be discouraged when we fail Him – as we struggle against our unredeemed flesh, driven by the tendency we are born with to live a “self-fulfilled” life rather than surrendering to Christ. As we submit to His Word in obedience and faith, His Spirit will revive us – and shape in us the life of Christ.