4 For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work;
at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
5 How great are your works, O LORD!
Your thoughts are very deep!
6 The stupid man cannot know;
the fool cannot understand this:
7 that though the wicked sprout like grass
and all evildoers flourish,
they are doomed to destruction forever;
8 but you, O LORD, are on high forever.
9 For behold, your enemies, O LORD,
for behold, your enemies shall perish;
all evildoers shall be scattered.
10 You will exalt my horn like that of a unicorn:
I have been anointed with fresh oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the doom of my evil assailants.
12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Why do we avoid the dominant image of work in our era? The human heart is very much like a workplace filled with an amazingly ingenious and complicated set of machinery. It throbs and pounds with the movement of every gear and coiled spring. The powerful, driving vitality of that inner workshop goes on day and night, busily occupied with our dreams and aspirations.
Our hearts can handle this. They are suited for it. Our nerves need to relax, but not our hearts. Think about this: the well-being of our souls depends on this state of affairs. At least, it does as long as all this activity goes according to God’s plan and established order. It does as long as godly thinking controls our hearts. This driving force comes to us from above. It descends to us from Jesus himself. One part engages another so quietly and smoothly that our hearts don’t even notice it. They don’t even think about it. They only consider what needs doing for Jesus’ glory and are sensitive to suffering for his name’s sake.
But we lack the kind of harmony just described. Sad to say, the parts of our hearts no longer work together that smoothly and harmoniously. Satan wants to be the driving power at work in them rather than Jesus. Our gears move more at the direction of the world than that of Jesus. The result is that what was working smoothly becomes rough. What was polished becomes dull and speckled with rust spots. Our hearts cause us pain. The axle squeaks. The springs sag. The gears vibrate. We have the terrible impression that things aren’t going very well for us at all. We sense that things aren’t running the way God planned or wants. The result is that we weep. We cry tears of deep sadness in the hidden workshop of our souls. We yearn to walk in the ways of the Lord once again and according to his sacred plan.
If it comes to that, either in our prayers or without them, and always by sheer grace and never through any merit on our part, we are overwhelmed by the harmony that quietly and sacredly slips back into our hearts. It wipes away our bitterness. And in the depths of our hearts, we jubilantly cry out with the psalmist in his Sabbath rest: “Let God be praised. Strength has returned. I can function again. My horn is exalted like that of a unicorn; I have been anointed with fresh oil.”
With fresh oil! It drips and flows between all the springs and gears in the soul’s machinery. It makes smooth what was stiff and rapid what was sluggish. It causes the whole inner apparatus to work with its intended power and purpose once more. Now we feel that something good is going on again. We are being productive. He who is the inner Source of power in our hearts causes his Spirit and strength to pulsate through the cylinders and valves of our hearts. The result is that something good is designed, shaped, and produced for his kingdom.
Or, if you want to use another image, suppose that there was no opening to the inner parts of your heart. Suppose there was no way for you to gain entrance to the treasure store of resurrection life. But suppose also that your merciful Lord opened that door and brought those treasures into every corner of your heart. As long as there had been no such entrance, you existed only in a state of broken fellowship. It was definitely not in the fellowship that God intended. He really needed to return. But it was broken as far as you were concerned, broken with respect to your soul’s enjoyment, broken in preventing your life from flourishing. Heaven’s windows were closed to you; the door of your heart was closed to heaven. Suppose that you repeatedly tried to force open its jammed bolts and to wrench open its locks, but nothing worked. They wouldn’t budge. That’s how stiff and stubborn they had become because of this world’s damp, cold atmosphere. That’s what prevailed until a good dose of “fresh oil” was applied to what had refused to budge, and until the locks finally allowed themselves to be opened. Then the door was open to God, and he entered your heart again. All the while he had been a faithful watchman. He had kept on knocking. He had called out persistently. Then, when you couldn’t create an opening, God himself did, and he now refreshes you in his abundant love.
Or better yet, brothers and sisters, consider the imagery of Scripture itself. It doesn’t think in terms of a machine or the stubborn bolts on a door. It points to man himself. Wearied by the heat of the eastern sun, he frets and is discouraged by the stench of his own skin. He coldly, impersonally regards himself as disgusting because of the odor it gives off, while the sharp sand stirred up around him stings his parched skin like sharp needles.
Give that man a bottle of fresh oil! Even if it’s not a bottle of alabaster or nard, you would see immediately the eagerness and pleasure with which he pours it out and smears it into his foul, parched, stiff skin. That’s because the miserable fellow is refreshed and revived by the wonder-working power of that oil. The terrible stench of his own skin that revolted even him is replaced by a pleasing, refreshing aroma that strengthens his spirits. Instead of brittle and cracked skin from head to toe, he has skin and muscle that is soft and supple and tender to the touch. The stimulating and reviving effect of that fresh oil penetrating the pores of his skin reaches his limbs and joints. It’s as though its power touches bone and marrow. That’s the power that this divine oil has.
So yes, that’s how it actually, truly goes with those who have become spiritually stiff and brittle. That’s how it goes for those whose stench of death rising from their own hearts had become a loathsome hindrance. That’s how it goes when God, through his merciful Son, is again pleased to create something glorious and to the praise of his grace from the misery suffered by sinners. That’s how it goes when in his most tender compassion he pours the fresh oil of his indescribable goodwill over our dried-out hearts. That’s what happens when Immanuel, God with us, once more becomes real in our inner experience.
Then things become possible again. Then we can do battle again in the struggle shared with the psalmist. It’s the battle of becoming conquerors in him who is already victorious so that we might participate in his victory. Then the anointing with fresh oil is a renewal of our anointed purpose, our calling, and our sacred destiny.
Simply by knowing this, we receive strength for the battle again. The battle takes on a higher purpose whose outcome is guaranteed by our only Surety. What a blessing! It makes God’s children celebrate, stammering: “You, O Lord, are everything; I am nothing!” Those are the sounds of a reconciled, redeemed, and revived heart!
Abraham Kuyper, Ever in Thy Sight: 31 Devotions on the Psalms