What do you think of when you hear the word, “incline?” For a cyclist, they want to know the percent of incline they are going to have to climb. For the student, they may want to develop an inclination to study more or better. For the follower of Christ, they may think of their desire to be more and more disposed to the things of God, rather than following the natural inclinations to do the opposite. Then again, there is the description of God inclining His ear toward His people, so as to engrain upon our minds His leaning toward us as to catch every detail of what is on our hearts.
Let’s begin with the last one first.
Psalm 40:1 (ESV) — 1 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry.
Psalm 17:6 (ESV) — 6 I call upon you, for you will answer me, O God; incline your ear to me; hear my words.
Psalm 88:1–2 (ESV) — 1 O Lord, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. 2 Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry!
How important are your words to God? Consider the illustrative language both in the Psalmist’s expression of what God has done along with His expectation in faith of what God will do concerning his prayer. He inclines toward those who are praying, as in leaning forward to hear intently and not miss one point or even feeling of our request.
The writer of Hebrews described this facet of prayer in a way to assure us that since Jesus, our High Priest, is seated at the right hand of God and is so “tuned in” to our coming to God that he uses a double negative to express the assurance of the positive that we are never without a sympathizing high priest, or as the King James Version puts it, “a priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”
Hebrews 4:14–16 (ESV) — 14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Consider the incline and be encouraged as God disposes Himself to come near to listen and feel your every concern.
On the other hand, consider the incline as you would a student or follower of Christ, praying that you would develop such a disposition toward the things of God and a love for His word that it would permeate your life and your daily conversation.
Psalm 119:112 (ESV) — 112 I incline my heart to perform your statutes forever, to the end.
Of course, in prayer we consider what God’s word has to say about fulfilling such inclinations as we apply good “God given” efforts to develop and fulfill the true desire of our hearts.
Colossians 3:12–17 (ESV) — 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
This inclination to follow and perform the statutes of God is a matter of not just putting on but making sure we put off the tendency or inclination to do what is wrong in God’s sight. Again the psalmist prays:
Psalm 141:4 (ESV) — 4 Do not let my heart incline to any evil, to busy myself with wicked deeds in company with men who work iniquity, and let me not eat of their delicacies!
Again, we get some practical steps toward fulfilling the true heart desires of the person who wants to follow Christ:
Colossians 3:5–10 (ESV) — 5 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. 6 On account of these the wrath of God is coming. 7 In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Consider then how God calls us to incline our ears to Him as He has assured us His ear is inclined to us.
Isaiah 55:1–3 (ESV) — 1 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.
The sheer beauty of hills brings to mind God’s protective hand so that a cyclist or runner may see it as a challenge, but the very challenge is an illustration of how God has us surrounded by the mountains of His grace.
Psalm 121:1–8 (ESV) — 1 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. 4 Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. 8 The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.
Consider the incline.