Your hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn your commandments.
Long ago a laconic moralist gave this summary of wisdom, "Live as you were meant to live." This sentence recognizes the fact that there is a purpose the discovery of which is man's first anxiety and the accomplishment of which is man's supreme aim. Now, our Bible tells us that we have to do God's will, to serve God, to glorify God, to do good, to do right, to find and to keep in the truth. I think the significance of these phrases will appear if we consider some workmanship of man in relation to its maker's purpose. At South Kensington there is a clock made above 500 years ago under the hammer of a Glastonbury monk. It has measured out the moments of fifteen generations of men That piece of mechanism has done and is still doing its maker's will. It has served its maker's purpose. It fulfils his praiseworthy intention and so praises him. Every stroke of its pendulum is to the glory of the Glastonbury smith. It keeps (so to say) its maker's commandments. What he meant it to do it has done well and truly. Think of this clockwork of the brain, this delicate mechanism of thought and feeling. Year in, year out, the restless wheels of desire and feeling, of thought and passion, play into one another and mark results on the solemn dial of life. Matters may be so mismanaged as to put the machinery into a whirl of wild confusion. It is, on the other hand, possible to secure such inward adjustment, such balance, such regulative control, such true impulse, as to make the soul a splendid harmony and the life a utility which men acknowledge with reverence and benediction. With God's work, as with man's, the essential thing is to be true to the Maker's purpose. There is a commandment — a Divine intention to which every one must be true. "Thy hands have made me, and fashioned me; give me understanding of Thy will and commandment." Somewhere, at the outset of human story, God did give this knowledge to His creatures. Along the line of the Jewish people that knowledge came in a pure stream — pure compared with its deep pollution as it ran through other histories. Man's necessary life-knowledge has two branches. If for the general understanding of religion it is essential to throw the soul directly upon God, much more is that necessary for particular understanding of our individual perplexities. Take the case of the captain of a ship. Education and experience have given him general knowledge of the capabilities of ships, of the ways of sailors, of navigation, of coast-lines, storms and signals. These are the mariner's alphabet, and correspond to the Christian's general knowledge of God and life of the Saviour and the soul. But imagine the ship's captain on a voyage to a new port, in a new ship, with a fresh sort of cargo and a strange crew. His ship gets into storms, or among icebergs. There are break-downs and accidents to ship and tackling. Besides his general sailor lore the captain obviously requires presence of mind, tact, resource, the gift to see what needs to be done, and what can be done in every new emergency. Such readiness for the event corresponds to the Christian's application of religious truth to the perplexities of his personal career. About the generalities of religion we are fairly informed. We know what is right and what is wrong. We understand the perils of temptation and we know the grace of God. We know the ways of the world, and we know the truths of Holy Scripture. All this is our miscellaneous sailing-lore. But every day we make a new voyage and venture, in which sudden accidents may happen. Storm or collision may come. We may find ourselves confronted by new circumstances, and we want the quickly-acting instinct of Christian temper so as to be able to say " none of these things move me." Can we meet difficulty with patience? Can we take failure with hopefulness? Can we be meek and yet strong, pleasant and yet good, gentle and yet firm? Can we so pass through things temporal as to fail not of things that are eternal? For all this we need more than general knowledge of Divine truth; we require that the power of Christ shall rest upon us. Give me understanding, that for each act and for each step I may know Thy commandment. Nor is this the end of the matter. There are emergencies and perplexities which form a class by themselves. We come to places when it is hard to know which is right — the way on the right hand or the way on the left hand. Infallibility does not belong even to the man whose soul is nearest to God. Insurance against ever making a wrong decision, or taking a wrong step is not gained by the most Christian sincerity and faith. Through all his campaigns the Duke of Wellington never made a serious mistake. Sometimes good men show similar wisdom in the conduct of life's stern warfare, but there is no guarantee for this clear and precise practical judgment. Often you must "Do the sum to prove it." Do it carefully. Do it honestly. Do it for the most part on your knees. The rest is with God. "They cry unto the Lord in their trouble and He delivereth them out of all their distresses." "If any man lack wisdom let him ask of God." Keep near to the source of light and direction, not merely in the acts and offices of devotion but in all the sincere aims of daily conduct.
Parallel VersesKJV: JOD. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments.