Thy Ways, Lord

I have sworn, and I will perform it, that I will keep thy righteous judgments.
~ Psalm 119:106

I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
~ Psalm 32:5

For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.
~ Psalm 38:18

To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
~ Psalm 51:1-19

He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.
~ Proverbs 28:13

Blessed art thou, O LORD: teach me thy statutes.
~ Psalm 119:12

Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.
~ Psalm 25:4

Good and upright is the LORD: therefore will he teach sinners in the way. The meek will he guide in judgment: and the meek will he teach his way.
~ Psalm 25:8-9

Then hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, and of thy people Israel, that thou teach them the good way wherein they should walk, and give rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to thy people for an inheritance.
~ 1 Kings 8:36

65. Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this, all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness, of which I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance; according to Dr. Manton’s 27th Sermon on Psalm 119. July 26, and Aug.10 1723.
— Jonathan Edwards

An Exposition of Psalm 119:26, by Thomas Manton. The following contains an excerpt from his sermon.


I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me; teach me thy statutes.—VER. 26.
IN this verse you have three things:—

1. David’s open and free dealing with God, I have declared my ways. 2. God’s gracious dealing with David, and thou heardest me.

3. A petition for continuance of the like favour, teach me thy statutes.

First, For the first, ‘I have declared my ways;’ that is, distinctly and without hypocrisy laid open the state of my heart and course of my affairs to thee, note—

Doct. They that would speed with God should learn this point of Christian ingenuity, unfeignedly to lay open their whole case to him; that is, to declare what they are about, the nature of their affairs, the state of their hearts, what of good or evil they find in themselves, their conflicts, supplies, distresses, hopes; that is declaring our ways; the good and evil we are conscious to. As a sick patient will tell the physician how it is with him, so should we deal with God if we would find mercy. This declaring his ways may be looked upon—

1. As an act of faith and dependence.
2. As an act of holy friendship.
3. As an act of spiritual contrition and brokenness of heart; for this declaring must be explained according to the sense of the object of whatDavid means by this expression, ‘My ways.’

First, His businesses or undertakings; I have still made them known to thee, committing them to the direction of thy providence; and so it is an act of faith and dependence, consulting with God, and acquainting him with all our desires. This is necessary—

1. That we may acknowledge the sovereignty of his providence and dominion over all events: Prov. 16:9, ‘A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.’ Man proposeth, but God disposeth, and carrieth on the event either further than we intended, or else contrary to what we intended.

2. We must declare our ways to God that we may take God along with us in all our actions, that we may ask his leave, counsel, blessing: Prov. 3:6, ‘In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.’ There is a twofold direction, one of God’s providence, the other of his counsel. The direction of his providence, that is understood: Prov. 16:9, ‘A man’s heart deviseth his way, but the Lord directeth his steps.’ But then there is the direction of his counsel, and the latter is promised here; if we acknowledge God and declare our ways to him, God will counsel us. And David did thus declare his way upon all occasions: 2 Sam. 2:1, ‘David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?’ It is a piece of religious manners to begin every business with God; to go to God, Lord, shall I do so, or shall I not? to desire him that is Lord of all to give us leave; who is the fountain of wisdom, to give us counsel; and the disposer of all events, to give us a blessing.

3. The declaring of our ways is necessary, that we may be sensible of God’s eye that is upon us, and so act the more sincerely. Certainly it is a great advantage to make God conscious to every business we have in hand, when we dare undertake nothing but what we would acquaint him withal. There are some to whom the prophet pronounceth a woe: Isa. 29:15, ‘Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us? and who knoweth us?’ For the opening of this place, surely none can seriously be so vain, and grow up to such sottish atheism, as to think to hide a thing from God; but they are loath solemnly to draw it forth in the view of conscience, to revive a sense of God’s omnisciency upon themselves. We are said to deny that which many times we forget and will not think of. So that those which hide their counsels from God are those that will not take God along with them. In short, this declaration is not necessary for God, who ‘knows our thoughts afar off,’ Ps. 139:2; not only our words and works, but purposes, before we begin to lift up a thought that way. But this declaration is necessary for us, to increase the awe of God upon our heart, and that we may undertake nothing but what we will solemnly acquaint the Lord with. Well, then, this declaring our ways is an act of dependence.

Secondly, By his ways may be meant all his straits, sorrows, and dangers; and so this declaring it is an act of holy friendship, when a man comes as one friend to another, and acquaints God with his whole state, lays his condition before the Lord, in hope of pity and relief. We have liberty to do so, to tell God all our mind: Heb. 10:19, ‘Let us come with boldness, by the blood of Jesus;’ and Heb. 4:16. The word signifies, with liberty of speech, speaking all to God, your whole state and condition; if you have any sins to be pardoned, any miseries to be redressed; that where you are doubtful, you may be helped by God’s counsel, where you are weak, you may be confirmed by his strength, where you are sinful, you may be pitied by his mercy, where you are miserable, you may be delivered by his power. This is holy friendship, to acquaint God with our doubts, wants, griefs, and fears; and we may do it with more confidence, because we go to him in Christ’s name: John 16:23, ‘Whatsoever you shall ask the Father in my name, it shall be granted unto you.’ It is no fiction or strain, but a real truth. Will Christ deceive us when he saith, Verily? And then whatsoever you ask? You have liberty to go to God for the removal of any fear, the granting any regular desire, or for satisfying any doubt: ‘Whatsoever you ask the Father in my name.’ Our prayers by this means are Christ’s request as well as ours. For instance, if you send a child or servant to a friend for anything in your name, the request is yours, and he that denies a child or servant denies you; so saith Christ, Go to the Father in my name. God cannot deny a request in Christ’s name, no more than he can deny Christ himself; therefore you may use a holy boldness.

Thirdly, By ways is meant temptations and sins; and so this declaring is an act of spiritual contrition or brokenness of heart. Sins, they are properly our ways; as Ezek. 18:25, the Lord makes a distinction between my ways and your ways. God hath his ways, and we ours. Our ways are properly our sins. Now these, saith David, I will declare, that is, distinctly lay them open before God. This is a part of our duty, with brokenness of heart to declare our ways, to acquaint God fully how it is with us, without dissembling anything. It is a duty very unpleasing to flesh and blood; natural pride and self-love will not let us take shame upon ourselves; and out of carnal ease and laziness we are loath to submit to such a troublesome course, and thus openly to declare our ways. Guilt is shy of God’s presence, and sin works a strangeness. Adam hid himself when God came into the garden; and when he could shift no longer, he will not declare it, but transfers the fault upon Eve, and obliquely upon God himself; and ever since there are many tergiversations in man’s heart; and therefore it is said, Job 31:33, ‘If I have covered my sin as did Adam.’ Junius renders it more hominum—after the manner of men; but Adam’s name is used because we show ourselves to be right Adam’s race, apt to cover our sins. The same expression we have Hosea 6:7, ‘But they like men have transgressed the covenant.’ In the Hebrew it is, like Adam; so, if I covered my sin as did Adam, this is the fashion of men. Now, David brought his heart to this resolution with much struggling: Ps. 32:5, ‘I said, I will confess my sins;’ he forced himself, and thrust his backward heart forward by a strong resolution; for we are loath to deal thus openly, plainly, and truly with God, being shy of his presence, and would fain keep the devil’s counsel, and come with our iniquity in our bosom. But though this is a troublesome displeasing exercise to flesh and blood, yet it is profitable and necessary for us thus to declare our ways.

1. Because it is made to be one of the conditions of pardon, and the act of repentance that is necessary to the pardon of sin: Prov. 28:13, ‘He that hideth his sins shall not prosper; but he that confesseth and forsakes them, shall find mercy;’ so it runs. And 1 John 1:9, ‘If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins.’ God’s justice is satisfied by Christ, but it must be glorified and owned by us. So Jer. 3:13, ‘I am merciful, saith the Lord: only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against the Lord thy God.’ God hath mercy enough to pardon all, only he will have it sued out his own way, he will have his mercy asked upon our knees; and have the creature stoop and submit. And David, Ps. 51:3, ‘I acknowledge my transgression.’

2. It is the only means to have our peace settled. If you would not have your trouble and anxious thoughts continued upon you, go open yourselves to God, declare your ways: Ps. 32:5, ‘I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord, and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.’ As soon as David did but take up a resolution, presently he felt the comfort of it. If David had confessed sooner, he had come to his ease sooner. Distress of conscience is continued upon us until this be done; and especially is this found by experience, when great trouble comes upon us by reason of sin. There is some sin at the bottom God will bring out; and until they come to clearness and openness with God, the Lord still continues the trouble; they are kept roaring, and do not come to their peace, Job 33:26, 27. When a man is under trouble, and the sense of sin doth not fasten on the heart, he is not prepared for deliverance; but when it comes to this, ‘I have sinned, and it profits me not,’ then God sends ‘an interpreter, one among a thousand, to show unto man his uprightness.’

3. It prevents Satan’s accusations and God’s judgments. It is no profit to cover our sins, for either Satan will declare them, or God find us out, and enter into judgment with us. It prevents Satan as an accuser and God as a judge.