I hate vain thoughts:
but thy law do I love.
Thou art my hiding place and my shield:
I hope in thy word.
Depart from me, ye evildoers:
for I will keep the commandments of my God.
Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live:
and let me not be ashamed of my hope.
Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe:
and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.
Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes:
for their deceit is falsehood.
Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross:
therefore I love thy testimonies.
My flesh trembleth for fear of thee;
and I am afraid of thy judgments.
We have reached the fifteenth section of Psalm 119 with Samech. This section seems to start off rather harsh. We have tried to teach our kids to not “hate” things like Brussel sprouts. Instead, they dislike them a whole bunch. We just don’t want our kids to hate things. It just seems harsh. But here the Psalmist hates vain thoughts and loves the law. So what are these vain thoughts and why does he hate them? These vain thoughts refer to “a man with divided mind, a man who has no sure faith in regard to divine things, but is driven here and there; a skeptic; a doubter (Barnes)”. He is like the double minded man who is unstable in all his ways that James talks about in James 1:8. This hatred is not toward the man, but it is toward his thoughts. The Psalmist was a man who followed and loved God and to see someone who is skeptical of an all knowing, all giving, all loving God one could not help but to hate their actions. The Psalmist knew where he stood. His faith was unwavering. He loved God’s law. “When we love the law it becomes a law of love, and we cling to it with our whole heart (Psalms: The Treasury of David)”.
The Psalmist goes on to say that God is his hiding place and his shield. This is two different aspects. Sometimes we need a quiet place to hide from all of the “vain thoughts” around us and sometimes we need a shield to help fight those “vain thoughts”. God provides both for him and for us. We can study quiet and peaceably in our homes and we can use those hiding place moments to prepare us to defend God’s law that we love so much. Whether we are using God’s word as a hiding place or a shield, it gives us hope. A hope in which we know our love of the law is not in vain; that we can know His law is truth and not doubt it. Sometimes though, our hope gets cloudy and our thoughts get muddy. “Sometimes when gloomy thoughts afflict us, the only thing we can do is to hope, and, happily, the word of God always sets before us objects of hope and reasons for hope, so that it becomes the very sphere and support of hope, and thus tiresome thoughts are overcome. Amid fret and worry a hope of heaven is an effectual quietus. (Psalms: The Treasury of David)” All we need is a hiding place, a shield, and the hope to see us through.
Our hope will sustain us, but it is so much better to continue in that hope when we are not constantly surrounded by evil doers. Evil doers, those who do not keep God’s law, those who have those vain thoughts, have a way of making us lose our hope or at the very least make it more difficult to see our hope. The Psalmist knows this. He knows evil doers can corrupt a person. He knows it is best to be separate because “he found it hard to keep God’s commandments in the company of the ungodly. He must keep the commandments, but he did not need to keep their company (Psalms: The Treasury of David)”. Oftentimes in our Christian life, we need to choose where to put our hope; in evil doers or in God. What will be the better choice in the grand scheme of things?
In verses 116 and 117, the Psalmist is asking the same thing; uphold me and hold me up. Since he has found a hiding place, a shield, and the hope, he knows who will hold him up in times of trials and temptations. He knows that in God is life and safety and that it is through this hope and continual respect of His law that it is found.
This holding up, however, is not for those who stray from God’s statutes. Those who do not have that hiding place, that shield, or that hope are trodden down. They do not have anyone to sustain them. Their vain thoughts are all false and God has a way of dealing with that. He “puts away all the wicked of the earth like dross” (verse 119). Do you know what “dross” is? It refers to refuse, garbage. Now do not take this the wrong way. God does love every soul so much that He sent His only son to die for us (John 3:16). But it does not mean that we cannot do what He wants us to do and still be upheld by Him. God has laws that the psalmist loves, and so should we, that need to be followed. If we fail to follow them then we can expect punishment. It’s a sobering thought and one we must consider.
The Psalmist definitely had this thought in mind in verse 120. Knowing that God can and will deal with those whom do not keep His law is something to tremble and be afraid of. Do we only keep His commandments out of fear? No, but it is a place to start. If fear of falling into the hands of the living God keeps us walking in His laws then keep on fearing. One day that fear will turn more toward love, but never forget that there is a judgement coming and it depends on where our hiding place is, who is our shield, and where we put our hope.
by Kristina Odom