Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.
Bob Segar pines in his song, Roll Me Away:
Stood alone on a mountain top,
starin’ out at the Great Divide
I could go east, I could go west,
it was all up to me to decide
In this case, his song is about escapism from the complexity, pain, and frustration of life and his freedom is riding off into the sunset on a motorcycle alone – escaping responsibility and abandoning any relationship that would tie him down.
I like the picture of standing above the noise of the day – looking east and west and choosing. That is God’s gift and power to mankind – to choose. The psalmist here continues to focus on that choice but instead of leaving it to himself to decide – he continues to cry out to God to turn his eyes to God’s purpose – away from the worthless things.
Segar wants to escape from responsibility – the typical passivity of man, that which is displayed by Adam in the garden when he fails to step between Eve and the serpent. One of the techniques used in sales closes is choice – do you want A or B – focusing the customer on only two choices when the available ones are more infinite and the ones he is offering may not even be the crucial ones. In Segar’s song, there is simply oppression to the East and freedom to the West – but the Apostle Paul says in Phil 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. He exercises freedom from this decision – “do I follow Christ or not” and translates them to “do I follow Christ by serving in this world or by serving him in the next” – he does not offer the choice of not following.
As a Christian, we have Christ – period. So our choices are simple. How will we serve him and honor him today? We can turn away from him, but we can’t lose him. So we are free to get beyond this escapism and serve him wholeheartedly because he is our life.
I like this image of climbing above the noise of it all and being able to decide – our quiet times with God are a great way to do that. When we come before God in his word and look up and see from his perspective – we gain clarity over the thousands of noisy choices below. There is all type of talk now days about the choice overload that people must swim in each day – and the insufficiency of training to enable us to deal with that. But most of those choices are marketing lies – “do you want 42″ or a 46″ HDTV?” When we have been up on the mountain with God and have seen Jesus transfigured as our very life and heard God’s voice – the choices of selfish worldly gain become less.
Still, we have to be careful even here. We have the tendency to immediately translate this experience into the creation of an alter just as the disciples wanted to do for Jesus. This doesn’t mean we should avoid serving, just avoid needless alters or traditions as substitutes for the true Christ. God is trying to show us we can relax and be his children – that he has done this – that Christ IS. He is revealing him in us, as us – so we can simply worship in all things and overcome the tyranny of self.
There is another picture on a mountain that I like – that of our Lord as Satan tempts him. In Matthew 4, Satan tempts Jesus from a mountain top offering him all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would worship him. Jesus in his response surrenders choice to the will of God. He does not consider “do I or don’t I” because “it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
Segar muses that he will find freedom but his choice of escapism will only find a meaningless and wasted life. Our Lord surrenders his choice to God’s will knowing there is the freedom in worshipping God and serving him.
Paul says in Phil 3:8-9, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” When we surrender our choice for God’s will, we become free of worthless things and gain Christ.
Father, set my eyes on you – make me single-minded on you. Amen.