“I have set the Lord always before me”
In Psalm 16:8, we read of the Psalmist’s declaration that he has kept the Lord always before him.
Practically what would this look like in our day?
Setting the Lord before oneself is akin to meditating upon Him. This oft-neglected practice involves literally setting the mind upon God, thinking of Him, His attributes and character, His commands and deeds, or how He has worked in our lives.
In his book, The Grace and Duty of Being Spiritually Minded, Puritan John Owen provides 3 objects of meditations upon God on which we may draw our minds.
The first is the being and existence of God. Owen calls this the foundation of “all our relation and access unto him”, the “first object of faith” and the “first act of reason”. Allowing our minds to be drawn upon the fact that God exists is the foundation of all our meditations. Among other things, its chief concern is to combat atheism, whether doubts may be welling up in our minds or whether practically we live as though God does not exist.
The second is the omniscience and omnipresence of God. To this, Owen adds, “we cannot take one step in a walk before him unless we remember that always and in all places he is present with us.” God’s omniscience means that He is all-knowing. He not only knows our day to day happenings, but He knows our thoughts, our hearts, and our motivations. His omnipresence refers to His existence in all places simultaneously. Whether in our most joyous of days or our darkest of hours, we may take comfort in knowing that He is there. Reflecting upon these attributes of God together provide a great hedge against temptation to sin. Considering that He both knows our thoughts and is present with us during temptation, and even sin for that matter, is a great motivation to flee them.
The third is the omnipotency of God. On this final object of meditation, Owen writes, “It is utterly impossible we should walk before God, unto his glory, or with any real peace, comfort, or satisfaction in our own souls unless our minds are continually exercised with thoughts of his almighty power.” God’s omnipotency means that He is all-powerful. God is not, contrary to many modern beliefs, engaged in a battle with Satan, sin, or evil. He has no equal and their is no opposition that is not already under the sovereignty of God, submissive to His power. Consider this, even Satan, as in the case of Job and Peter (including the other disciples) must seek permission before afflicting God’s people. This meditation is a great comfort, knowing that all things are in His powerful hands which serves to specifically combat fear and anxieties in the face of affliction.
By setting the Lord always before us it serves as a spiritual exercise that strengthens our faith, restrains against sin and temptation, and comforts us in our times of distress.
But, setting the Lord before us takes effort, you simply cannot in any fashion perform this duty while coasting or vegging out. There are no off days or vacation days in Christianity. It is an active duty, nevertheless the product of grace working in the heart.
Let us desire and then delight to have the Lord set ever before us. And may our meditations be done unto the glory of God for the good of our souls.
We conclude with a final word from Owen
“Men may be in the performance of outward duties; they may escape the pollutions that are in the world through lust, and not run out into the same compass of excess and riot with other men: yet may they be strangers unto inward thoughts of God with delight and complacency. I cannot understand how it can be otherwise with them whose minds are over and over filled with earthly things, however they may satisfy themselves with pretences of their callings and lawful enjoyments, or that they are not any way inordinately set on the pleasures or profits of the world.
To ‘walk with God,’ to ‘live with him,’ is not merely to be found in an abstinence from outward sins, and in the performance of outward duties, though with diligence in the multiplication of them. All this may be done upon such principles, for such ends, with such a frame of heart, as to find no acceptance with God. It is our hearts that he requireth, and we can no way give them unto him but by our affections and holy thoughts of him with delight. This it is to be spiritually minded, this it is to walk with God. Let no man deceive himself; unless he thus abound in holy thoughts of God, unless our meditation of him be sweet unto us, all that we else pretend unto will fail us in the day of our trial.” Vol. 7 pg. 378-379