Psalm 119 'samech'

We’ve made it as far as the fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119 - from verses 113 to 120 prefixed with the letter samech.

These verses, from the ESVĀ®1, interspersed with my comments are:

113. I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.

  • An interesting comparison/contrast being drawn here. I guess the inference is that if one loves the law of God (and the consequence of seeking to be obedient to it) that double-mindedness is precluded.
  • The word rendered ‘double-minded’ is the Hebrew seeph (H5588) and means divided or sceptical so is commonly translated in newer translations as ‘double-minded’ (ESV, NASB, NKJV).
  • The KJV renders this verse as ‘I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love’. Matthew Henry suggests the Psalmist hated vain thoughts in himself (for he was not privy to others thoughts) but the more he loved the word of God, the more mastery he had over these vain thoughts.

114. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.

  • The Psalmist states his dependence upon the Lord as both his hiding place and shield - protection by concealment and by covering.
  • Again we don’t know what specific events have led to these conclusions, but David certainly encountered many situations where he sought concealment and needed a shield - so he recognises the Lord’s providence in keeping him safe.
  • The Psalmist connects the Lord’s protection of him with his hope in the word of the Lord.

115. Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.

  • The Psalmist’s prayer is that the evildoers around him will depart so he can keep the Lord’s commandments.
  • I presume David is aware that he could react or retaliate in a sinful way.
  • It picks up on some of the concepts from Psalm 1 - of not walking in the counsel of the wicked, but instead delighting in the law of the Lord.

116. Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!

  • A one-line prayer for the Lord to uphold David. But it is based upon some promises and premises from God’s word - that David will live, and that the hope he has in the Lord will not be thwarted.
  • David is asking the Lord to fulfil His word to David - presumably a specific, personal revelation about his life or calling or kingship. David can see it slipping away and asks toe Lord to remember His promise.

117. Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!

  • Follows on with similar concepts from verse 116.
  • The Psalmist seeks support and safety from the Lord so that he can continue to ‘have regard’ to the Lord’s statutes.
  • In Matthew Henry’s words, ‘If God’s right hand uphold us, we must, in his strength, go on in our duty both with diligence and pleasure.’
  • It reflects the idea that mankind is sustained by the hand of the Lord, and seeks to respond to God’s grace.

118. You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.

  • Here is a verse that speaks of judgement that will befall all who reject God’s word. For us on this side of the cross that means those who reject Jesus for He is God’s final word for salvation.
  • This verse is the first part of a trio of verses (including verses 119 and 120) on this theme of judgement.
  • The idea that ’their cunning is in vain’ is translated as ’their deceitfulness is useless’ in the NASB and ’their deceit is falsehood’ in the NKJV and ’their deceit is a lie’ in the CSB. However clever or constructive we appear to be, unless it is consistent with God’s word and reflects faith in Jesus then it will ultimately come to nothing.

119. All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.

  • The second verse of the trio making reference to the Lord’s judgement.
  • Many people focus on and cling to the fact that ‘God is love’ as justification for their disdain and sin by thinking that God will forgive all unconditionally because God is love. But the reality, first and foremost, is that God is holy and so His love only permanently rests on those who are forgiven and are thus able to stand in His holy presence. And that forgiveness comes through (in the New Testament era) belief and faith in Jesus.
  • God’s sovereignty and personal human responsibility stand side by side in the Bible. Both are true and at the same time.

120. My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.

  • Completing the trio of verses centred on the judgement of God.
  • The ‘fear of the Lord’ is a common theme or refrain in the Old Testament. Generally it refers not to outright fear but instead to a healthy apprehension or cognisance of the Lord - an appreciation of His existence, nature and expectations.
  • This fear of the Lord flows to fear of the Lord’s judgements. In the New Testament much of this fear can be replaced by/through faith in Jesus, but there is still the requirement to pursue holiness for, as Hebrews 12:14 says, ‘Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.’ We are seen as righteous through faith in Christ, but we are also to pursue and grow in righteousness.

  1. Scripture quotations taken from the ESV. Copyright by Crossway. ↩︎