34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law;
Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart.
I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize the importance of that word. It means, “to perceive the intended meaning of.”
And interestingly, it’s not strictly a faculty of the mind. It is possible to read the Bible 12 hours a day for 50 years and never understand it.
That is, apart from God’s grace. Thus the prayer: “give me understanding.”
It is something that God has to give you. There is some kind of spiritual transaction when we relate to God directly in which He illuminates His word. Let’s consider what the New Testament says to this effect.
After Jesus’ death, His disciples were scattered. Understandably. Here they thought that He was the Messiah, come to establish the kingdom of Israel, so they left families, businesses, and more to follow Him. Then He gets himself crucified. To say they were devastated is an understatement.
Imagine devoting your entire life to someone or something - and then having the rug pulled out from under you. It’s not easy to comprehend what they went through. They knew they could be killed also, so they went into hiding.
But Jesus had tried to explain this to them before it happened. Several times. He said to them,
“Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying. Luke 9:44-45
I mean, how could they not understand that? “I am about to be betrayed into the hands of men.” What could be more simple?
It’s rather ironic - to have difficulty understanding how they couldn’t understand.
But we can put ourselves in their shoes. See, they had been waiting for the Messiah for thousands of years. Isaiah had prophesied hundreds of years prior, and declared that when the Messiah came, He would remain forever:
Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever. Isaiah 9:7
So the image they had in their minds of the Messiah did not connect with the image that Jesus was trying to paint of Himself - that He would die and rise again. They simply did not understand.
That is, until He rose again. After His resurrection, He appeared to the disciples, and explained once again:
Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Luke 24:44-45
Wow. He opened their understanding, so that they could comprehend the Scriptures.
Even the disciples who walked and talked with Jesus had to have this spiritual revelation of the word of God released to them, otherwise they could not understand why Jesus died and rose again.
We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to some and foolishness to others - but to those who understand, this is the power of God and the wisdom of God 1 Cor 1:23-24 (my paraphrase)
Father, thank You for Your grace. Thank You for teaching me, and for giving me understanding. Holy Spirit, please give me a greater understanding of who Jesus is, of what implications His death and resurrection have in my life, and open my understanding so that I can comprehend the Scriptures.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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