This section of Psalm 119 might be the most difficult one for me so far. It’s tempting to “clean up” scripture that seems a bit shocking or disturbing. I look up the Hebrew meanings, hoping to find a less harsh definition — something more pleasant. But it’s real and raw and right there in God’s Word. We have to deal with it!
I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
Right off the bat, David started with a cringe-worthy word. Hate. It’s a hated word, especially in our present culture. I checked it out in Hebrew. It means “hate” as in “to hate”. There’s no way around it, folks. What is the object of this hatred? Double-minded people. I looked that up, too. This is the one and only time in the whole Bible this word is used (in Hebrew). It’s a word David was saving for this moment. It means “skeptical, doubtful, divided in thinking”. Also, “two-faced”, “double-dealing”, and “underhanded”.
James said it like this: “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6,8) The Greek word James used is “di-psychos” = two-spirited, vacillating in opinion.
Or in the words of Aaron Burr,
“Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.”
Or in the words of Alexander Hamilton,
“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”
You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
In the midst of such inconstancy all around him, David turned to the stability of God and His word. God Himself was David’s safe place. He found shelter and protection in the Lord. It wasn’t the first time. “You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble.” (Psalm 32:7) Spurgeon said, “It is easy to exercise hope where we have experienced help.”
Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.
David was clear about who he could and could not hang around with. It’s hard to keep God’s commands when in the company of those who insist on evil behavior. Instead of leaving the scene of evil shenanigans, David sent them packing: “Get away from me! Leave me alone!” And he told them why. It is our right and our duty to kick out all sources of wickedness from our midst. “Evildoers make evil counselors, and therefore we must not sit with them.” (Spurgeon)
The distance he has in mind is more the avoidance of partnership than of physical proximity. He wants to avoid sharing their values and being infected by their fellowship. This cry points up an ongoing tension for believers who are in the world but must not let the world’s values get into them. As D. L. Moody is supposed to have said “The ship is in the sea; but woe betide the ship if the sea gets into the ship.” (Christopher Ash)
Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
In this verse and the following verse, David asked to be held up. The double-minded influences would try to bring him down, so he asked God to lift him above the rancor that sucked the life out of him. (Sound familiar?) Aware of the weakness in his own heart, David went to prayer, pleading for the grace of God. “David meant to keep the law of the Lord, but he first needed the Lord of the law to keep him.” (Spurgeon)
Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!
Without the hand of God holding him, David questioned his physical safety and his spiritual fortitude. He didn’t want to be tossed by the winds of popular culture. Instead, he desired to maintain a steady gaze at God’s word — to develop a regular, consistent, daily time studying and meditating on the statutes.
You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.
We know how David felt about double-minded people (v. 113), but here he seems to think God feels the same way. What happens to those who spurn (which means: to reject with disdain, scorn and contempt) God? Does He spurn them back?
Paul addressed this in his letter to the Romans.
“Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity….because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie.” (Ro. 1:24) “For this reason God gave them over to dishonorable passions.” (Ro. 1:26) “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” (Ro. 1:28)
When we choose sin over the goodness of God, we spurn Him. No matter how sly or smart we think we are, that choice will always be futile. If we insist that sin is what we want, God will give us over to it. Thankfully, just as the Father let the Prodigal Son go to a far country to squander the inheritance, that same Father also ran to embrace him when the wayward child turned toward home.
Still, God’s judgment is certain. “Sooner or later, God will set his foot on those who turn their foot from his commands; it has always been so, and it will be so to the end.” (Spurgeon)
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
Yep. God discards the wicked like dross.
Dross: waste matter, slag, or scum left over after melting metal in a furnace; something regarded as worthless or rubbish; impurity.
It may be that the things that are so highly valued in this world (fame, power, money, celebrity status) will become nothing but garbage in the next world. The testimonies of God, on the other hand, will be pure gold in eternity. “But who can endure the day of his coming? Who can stand when he appears? For he will be like a refiner’s fire.” (Malachi 3:2) “Pure gold put in the fire comes out of it proved pure; genuine faith put through this suffering comes out proved genuine. When Jesus wraps this all up, it’s your faith, not your gold, that God will have on display as evidence of his victory.” (1 Peter 1:7)
My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.
David shivered at the thought of God’s righteous judgment. He had goosebumps and the hair on his arms stood straight up. That’s a fitting reaction to God’s power. The word “afraid” means reverence and awe, so for the believer, it sounds like “awe”; for the unbeliever, who defies God with contempt, it will sound more like “AHHHHH”. As beloved children, we don’t need to feel dread or terror in the presence of God, only stupefaction (overwhelming amazement)!
Things I know for sure from this passage:
- Double-minded thinking is to be avoided, as it casts doubt and creates instability.
- We are responsible to keep evil influence from entering our homes and our hearts.
- God holds us up as we place our hope in Him alone.
- I need to discard “dross” from my life and focus on investing in “gold”.
- It is right and good to be awe-struck by God Almighty.