Captive To God's Word

June 19, 2011 Series: Psalm 119 Scripture: Psalm 119:113-120 by Chris Strevel

113 SAMECH. I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.

114 Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.

115 Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God.

116 Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope.

117 Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually.

118 Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood.

119 Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies.

120 My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.

In My Thought Life (v. 113)

The content and direction of our thoughts are vital to our spiritual, mental, and emotional health. They are also indicative of the true state of our hearts (Gen. 6:5; Prov. 23:7; 24:9). What we think about is our true self: our dreams, loves, goals, motives, plans, and desires. What we think about also controls the way we speak and act, for “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matt. 12:34). The word for “thoughts” here means half-hearted, divided thoughts, like a crooked branch at the top of a tree. Because of sin, we no longer grow straight; we are wholly given over to vanity in our thoughts and affections. Now, we are blown about by “every wind and wave of doctrine” (Eph. 5:14); later, we rage like an uncontrollable fire toward the objects of our desire. There is no stability in us, unless it lies in the fact that “God is not in all our thoughts” (Ps. 10:4). And as long as we are enslaved to our vain thoughts, we cannot love God’s word. Corruption cannot delight in the holy voice of God, and we are corrupt in our inmost being (Ps. 51:5). In sovereign grace and mercy, our Father takes pity upon us and delivers us from our depraved desires and crooked thoughts. By his Spirit, he teaches us to hate all the destructive paths in which our thoughts and affections are prone to wander and gives us strength to love his holy truth.

As believers, we want our hearts to be fixed (Ps. 57:2), for “every thought to be brought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). Yet, we find “another law in our members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members” (Rom. 7:23). The best of us oozes with vanity. Wherever we turn, sin creeps into our soul. We close one door; hundreds fly open. Even if our thoughts are not directly evil, we love ourselves, depend upon ourselves, pamper ourselves, and generally entertain all manner of silly, low, ignoble, and foolish thoughts. David senses this in himself, which is the reason he expresses utter disgust for all thoughts that lead him away from meditation upon God’s word and covenant, truth and love. Only God can subdue us unto himself, making us teachable by his Spirit so that our thoughts tend toward the love of his word, so that it is our rejoicing and delight. Understand, however, that there are many obstacles in the way. Whether we consider our flesh, which needs no prompting to launch off into all manner of twisted thinking, Satan’s scheming against us, for he exercises a continual, deceitful war to prevent us from giving ourselves wholly to God’s thoughts, or the world’s vanity, which, despite all our efforts allures and vexes us, we see that our way is very difficult. Have we not found our minds wandering when we sat down to pray and the cares of the day pressing upon us almost as soon as we open God’s word? If the Holy Spirit brings a snippet of his truth in our mind, a legion of vain thoughts arise to choke it out before it can bear fruit. There is nothing more filthy than our hearts. This is the first step toward hating vain thoughts and loving God’s law: facing our true condition and fleeing to our God for refuge and aid. Unless we recognize the vanity of our own hearts, and are deeply humbled by our low and fallen condition, we shall never seek a remedy.

How do I know if a particular thought or train of thinking is vain, crooked? Does it lead me to or away from faith and hope in the Lord, to trust and obey or worry and fear? Am I stirred to pray or to flatter and depend upon myself? Do my thoughts lead me to seek God, setting him always before me, or do they push him away until a supposedly more convenient time? Does the condition of my heart and mind distract me from walking with God and prevent me from meditating upon his word? In my unoccupied moments, where do my thoughts turn? Do they turn to myself, to what I want, or to God and his word? If we are honest, to a man we shall have to admit that many of our thoughts are not only vain and foolish but also hurtful and dangerous. We are embarrassed by them. At the same time, we may hesitate to ask the truly important questions: “Why do I talk as I do? Why do I become angry so quickly, or sullen, incommunicative, and self-absorbed? Why cannot I speak more tenderly to those whom I profess to love? Why am I so distracted from praying, distracted by the world? Why do I find it so hard to love my husband, give myself to him, and find contentment in serving my family? Why do I rebel so against obeying my parents?” We run from such questions because we would rather blame others. We will go to any lengths, however self-deceived or irrational, to insulate ourselves from the searching candle of Scripture. We prefer to grope about for lame excuses in the dark citadel of our autonomy than to bring our true condition out into the light of day. But we must. We cannot love God’s word unless the bleak tower of our vanity is toppled. Why? Love for God’s word cannot co-exist with a vanity dominated life or bear fruit if our thoughts are given to vanity.

Therefore, the greatest battle every believer faces is in his thought life. Our Father is honest with us at this very point. Indeed, the glory of the gospel is illustrious here, for rather than prescribing outward remedies for our fallen condition – follow this path of good works, go visit this guru, wear this outfit, celebrate these holidays: as if true religion consisted primarily in external observances while leaving the inside filthy and darkened – the Lord goes straight to the source of our corruption. He tells us that our problem is that we love vanity, folly, worthless thoughts. We are wholly given over to vanity. When did our slavery begin? The moment we turned away from his blessed word in the Garden of Eden. Therefore, our salvation lies exclusively in a return to the Garden of the speaking God, when our hearts are again enraptured and satisfied to hear and follow his word. Therefore, we must seek his mercy through the Son of God, our only Mediator, to pardon our vanity, his Spirit to effect an inner renewal in us, and his grace to hate our vain thoughts. Yes, there must be a healthy self-loathing of the vanity and corruption of our hearts, which includes our affections, thoughts, and inclinations. This is the reason our Savior said that “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself” (Matt. 16:24). We are to repudiate our vanity, hate it, and fight against it all our lives by putting on the whole armor of God. When we want to covet, we must put on contentment. When we are tempted to complain, we must put on submission to God’s good will and wise providence. When our eyes wander lustfully, we must repudiate our fleshly desires and put on purity as Christ’s chaste virgins. This “putting off” and “putting on” begins with being “transformed by the renewing of our minds” (Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:23). It is not that we are saved by a change of thinking; rather, God saving work penetrates to our inmost selves. By his saving grace, he changes our thoughts, the affections of our heart, the very bent of our soul.

If we have experienced this renewing work, God’s thoughts are a delight to us. “My soul breaketh for the longing that it has unto thy judgments at all times” (Ps. 119:20). We are not so likely to love the world, or the things in the world (1 John 2:15). If we are thinking upon his pure word, Satan’s lies and schemes will become clearer to us (2 Cor. 2:11). We shall rejoice in God’s grace and truth while detesting the remaining corruption within our hearts. If we love his law, all the vanities, injustices, and debaucheries of this life, far from wearing down our resolve to walk with him in obedience will increase our commitment to pursue holiness (Ps. 119:126-127). This is the reason every true, mature, and growing believer seeks to mediate upon God’s word day and night (Ps. 1:2). He does so because he is alive in Christ; he does so that he may survive and overcome in the battle. He feels that God’s word is his only shield from Satan’s attacks and only sword to thrust into the very heart of vanity: Satan’s lies, the world’s blindness, and the flesh’s corruption. Yes, we still need the strong warnings against vanity and encouragement to think only on things that are pure, noble, and of good report (Phil. 4:8), but we have undergone a fundamental change. While we feel many vain thoughts waiting to gush forth, the Holy Spirit has planted the seed of a new nature in us. We see vain thoughts for what they are – and hate them. We repudiate the “sin that dwelleth in us” (Rom. 7:20). Our true ‘I” or self is the vanity hating life of our Savior now dominating our soul (Gal. 2:20). Moreover, since we know that our Savior was crucified because of our vain thoughts, we feel repulsed and disgusted by all within us that still offends the lover of our soul. When we fall afresh into vanity – and there is not one among us who can wholly escape this poison fountain – we run back to him for cleansing. Our consciences are grieved that we have grieved him. Yet, what else can we do but to flee to him as our only refuge (Heb. 6:18)? We also “exercise ourselves unto godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7), knowing that a life dedicated to meditating upon God’s word is perhaps the most fundamental self-repudiation we make in coming to Jesus: “Lord, I hate my old thoughts, my vanity, my narcissism, my lust, pride, and covetousness. I loathe my evil demand to think my own thoughts. Yet, I can do nothing to rescue myself. I fall before you. I want to love your word. Help me to meditate upon it. Give me the ‘love of the truth that I might be saved’ (2 Thess. 2:10).”

Even so, we shall find much in us that resists hating vanity and loving God’s word. While we are no longer “old men,” the old man is not eradicated from us. We feel his cold, clammy, dying fingers groping for any handhold to lift himself up and wreak havoc in us. Loving God’s word, we must endeavor to give ourselves to it more. When I am not occupied with the daily tasks to which the Lord calls me – though even then, as I am able – I train myself to think of God’s word. I carry it with me by hiding it in my heart and bringing it to mind (Ps. 119:11). The more I think God’s thoughts after him, the safer I am. The holier I am. The readier I am to fight off vanity when it rears its ugly head. And when I groan in the conflict, feeling unable to speak, so weighed down as we often are by conflict within and troubles without (Ps. 77:4), I make my cry to the living God. I know my Savior is praying for me that my faith fail not (Luke 22:32). I know the Spirit is interceding for me with groaning that cannot be uttered (Rom. 8:26). When I feel distracted, I rejoice that my Savior is never distracted in his intercession for me, love for me, and commitment to fulfill my Father’s good word and covenant toward me. This is all my hope: that my God has put a love for his word in my heart, that he has declared war against my vanity. He will prevail. I rest in him, praying that he will help me love his word with all my heart and cling to his faithfulness as my sure anchor within the veil (Heb. 6:18).

Running to God for Protection (v. 114)

But will we ever give ourselves to the love of the truth unless we are persuaded of our Father’s love for us, that he alone is our highest good? This is the reason the Holy Spirit through David his mouthpiece declares that “God is our hiding place and shield.” God’s word is more than a book of virtues, manual of philosophy, or family handbook. It is does not contain knowledge for the sake of knowledge, which can only puff us up (1 Cor. 8:1), or “answers” for the sake of personal relief, which will lull us into complacency. No, God’s word is the voice of our Maker and Friend, God and Savior, calling us to enjoy fellowship with him, to be guided and protected by him, to bow before his majesty and make his will our pleasure. Through his word he says to us: “Look, I know you struggle with vain thoughts and can in no way preserve yourself from the weakness of the flesh or the many pitfalls Satan lays in your way. Trust my word; I will guide you and protect you. If you will give yourselves to my word, you shall be preserved from many dangers, for I hide you under my wings as you believe my promises. You are never safer than when you trust in me, whatever you may see with your eyes. Though I call you to walk through the fire, I will be with you as your shield so that trouble will not consume you. I will show you my power in your weakness, which is the very reason I allow you to be afflicted.” This is the way we must view God’s word – as his loving invitation to us to give ourselves to him, forsake all self-confidence, and give ourselves up as willing captives to his word.

When we feel ourselves to be filled with vanity, the Lord hereby calls us to fly to him. He is our hiding place in that he usually protects us from the worst dangers and calamities, even as he did Israel from the plagues that destroyed Egypt, Daniel from the lion’s mouth, his fledgling church from the roaring of Satan, and Paul from the poisonous serpent. To think: that when we trust in God’s word, we are covered by the wings of the Almighty God, who guards over us with all the jealousy and fierceness of a mother hen watching over her chicks (Ps. 91:1) or faithful husband defending his beloved wife (Isa. 54:5). And is this not so much truer and more glorious now that our lives are hidden in the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 3:3)? The very One who is the anchor of our soul within the veil, the Captain of our salvation, the vanquisher of Satan, and the Lamb in the midst of the throne – this same Christ dwells in us by his Spirit. Could we be more secure than under his guardianship? Must not these thoughts lead us all the more to forsake our vain thoughts and seek for the word of this Christ to dwell in us, so that he himself will dwell in us with his unconquerable love and irresistible power (Col. 3:16)? And to think that this line is added after a cry of hatred for the vanity that still dwells within us! Our vanity should push the Lord Jesus away from us, for are we not completely ashamed that he was crucified for the very vanity in which we so often indulge? Yet, so great is his love for us that he invites us to run to him for help, protection, fresh cleansing, even renewal of our love to him and refreshment by tokens of his love to us. When he adds that he will be a shield to us, why else is this said but for us to be fearless in trusting him. Nothing can touch us when we dwell with the everlasting fire as our Shield. He is the Angel that protected Israel from the army of the Egyptians, leading them through the sea and drowning their enemies. He is the Angel that slew 185,000 Assyrians in one night. He is the Son of Man in the fiery furnace. He released Peter from prison. He instilled new life in Paul after he was stoned. Each of these examples reminds us that when the Lord says he will be our shield, this is not a promise that we shall pass through life unscathed. It is his pledge to be with us in every furnace of affliction, valley of dark providence, and flood of troubles. He died for our vanity that he might deliver us from vanity – both our own and the folly of unbelieving men that trouble us. Thus, when our consciences accuse us of vain thoughts, let us remember that no one can lay a charge against God’s elect, for Christ Jesus our Lord has justified us (Rom. 8:33-34). The accuser of the brethren has been cast out (Rev. 12:10). We are justified and protected if we hate our vanity, accept our Lord’s invitation to fly to him, and make his word the love of our lives.

I Cry Boldly (v. 115)

Only the firm and certain confidence that the Lord is our hiding place and shield will give us the confidence to make this bold cry: “Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.” Having God for our hiding place and shield is never a passive affair; it requires active faith in his promises and providence, waiting upon him, and obedience to him. That he would proclaim himself to be our hiding place and shield warns us that we shall find much evil opposing us in this life. There is the overt evil that the ungodly parade before our eyes, with their immoralities, blasphemies, and vocal opposition to God and his word. There is also cunning evil, as in the liberal theologies of feminism and pluralism, which have the appearance of good by claiming the authority of Scripture but are really Satan leering at us. Evil may be indifferent – “You live as you please, and I’ll do the same. Don’t judge me, and I will not judge you.” It may be pleasant, even friendly, as the very open hearted unbeliever who is friendly, polite, and likeable, but who is decidedly opposed to God and his Christ. Whatever evil’s form, we cannot walk with God and love his word unless we separate ourselves from it. Like David, we must be vocal and active, inwardly and outwardly, in opposing it. We must watch against occasions for evil (Matt. 25:41), remembering that Satan’s best and most successful schemes are those in which he appears as an “angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Nevertheless, as sin is opposed to God, we must be opposed to sin in every form. It is not enough, however, to shout down evil. The reason we are so set against evil is that we are determined “to keep the commandments of my God.” “My God” is emphatic, an expression of personal commitment, steadfastness, and determination. We cannot obey God if we are tolerating evil, cozying up to it as close as we feel it to be safe, or insensible to its evil by too long exposure. In our age, evil is so common that few can blush any longer even at the worst blasphemies and sensuality. We are growing so burned out as a nation that evil men no longer feel compelled to mention God at all or interact with the Bible even to contradict it. God is not in our thoughts or words; we seem to have eradicated him from our collective consciousness. While this is not absolutely possible, as God withdraws his common grace from men and nations, evil is normalized.

Our duty in such times is clear: “Come out from among them, and be ye separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:17). Why is our separation from evil a condition of being accepted by the Lord? He is holy; “he is of purer eyes than to behold evil” (Heb. 1:13). He receives us as his sons and daughters on this condition, which he fulfills by the renewing and sanctifying work of the Spirit in us: that we love the good and hate the evil. We are in fellowship with him who is the Light; we cannot walk in darkness and walk with him (1 John 1:7). Such separation seems Amish-like to many in the church. How can we win sinners, they ask, if we are not part of their lives, join with them in areas of supposed neutrality or indifference, even changing our standards, practices, and attitudes to be more welcoming to them? Close association with evil in order to convert evil is sheer delusion. However cleverly we may reason otherwise, “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15:33). We are forbidden to go to them; they may only come to us (Jer. 15:9). The world is won not by the church moving as close to evil as possible, adopting its lesser trappings in the areas of worship and friendship in order to appear less formidable. Yet, the living God is formidable. His heart is open to us, but on his terms, terms he fulfills by his own sovereign grace and sets forth in his inspired word. We may please our neighbors only as far as edification allows (Rom. 15:2), which in practice means that we may carefully associate with darkness only if the relationship allows for light to control the relationship in our words, witness, and walk. If we ask, “How far may I go toward the world in order to gain the world,” we are already compromised, dangerously so. The question instead is: “How far may I separate and still fulfill my light-bearing, light-witnessing responsibilities to the world?” Any relationship with unbelievers or involvement with the world in which we find it no longer possible to speak of Jesus Christ openly or obey God wholeheartedly is an association that should likely be abandoned. The same is true of all business and political associations, for corruption and darkness cling to the world at every level. The moment we lose the ability to shine the light due to the hardness of unbelief, we are to shake the dust from our feet and move on to the next opportunity to share the gospel of our Savior (Matt. 10:14). This does not mean that “we must go out of the world” (1 Cor. 5:10), but we are in the world on the condition of being light in the world. Though we must allow for the progressive working of the Holy Spirit, our specific duty in relation to the world is clear: we are to have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness (Eph. 5:11): no commonality, no attraction, no participation. We are to pursue holiness. The church wins the world not by hiding her light under the pleasing veneer of greater openness, tolerance, and friendliness, but by shining the light the more clearly and specifically the more she sees ungodly men walking in darkness.

Upheld by God Alone (vv. 116-117)

Do we not feel that such courageous separation is wholly beyond us? We should; remember: we are the ones struggling with the vain thoughts, calling to evildoers to depart from us all the while feeling within ourselves the deceptive draw of the flesh toward the very things we hate (Rom. 7:19). Where shall we turn since we feel the world, flesh, and devil pressing so hard against us, our old sinful nature sometimes weakening before their siren call? We must call upon the Lord to uphold us. That David repeats this twice indicates a degree of intensity that we should feel in our own hearts. “Lord, I want to depart from evil; I call out to evildoers to depart from me. But I am struggling; my flesh cleaves to the dust; my soul faints for weariness. Unless you come to my aid, holding me up by your invincible power, I shall fall.” When we call upon the Lord to establish our ways and hold us up by his mighty strength, we must pray for his protection in faith. “According to thy word” recalls all the promises the Lord has made to us for protection and guidance in the world, including his pledge to be our “hiding place and shield.” Has he not promised never to leave or forsake us (Heb. 13:5; Matt. 28:20)? That when we walk through the fire, he will be with us (Isa. 43:2)? That in the darkest place, the Angel of his presence will save us (Isa. 63:9)? Has not he provided us with a full and impenetrable armor (Eph. 6:10-18), calling upon us to be strong in him, promising that the same power that our Father exercised when he raised our Lord from the dead is now at work in us (Eph. 1:19-20)? These promises are ours for the humble asking, but we must be persuaded of our need. Does not David twice ask the Lord to uphold him because he felt that the Lord must keep him, or he would surely fall? Since the battle rages so fiercely around and within us, we must keep God’s promises firmly in our mind. His promises are more necessary for us than our next breath.

And lest we think this is nothing but exaggerated religious enthusiasm, that we do not really need so much help or the battle is not that intense, David adds: “That I may live.” True religion concerns far more than our personal emotional state or feeling better after we have struggled. “To live” assumes that I will fall unless God holds me up. It means far more than a continued heartbeat; it means that in the midst of our struggle against vanity and the pressures of the ungodly, we maintain steadfast faith and love for God’s word. This is life, after all, to know the one true God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent (John 17:4). There is no other life; everything else is an imitation of life, a pretense of life, death masquerading as life. “To live” also assumes that my living is inseparable from his faithfulness to his promises. That is, once we have hoped in God by the power of his Spirit, he will never allow our hope in his power and faithfulness to be put to shame. We may not see any way for him to deliver, protect, and provide for us, but saving faith sees and rests upon God’s very faithfulness. It “endures as seeing him who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27). It sees itself as bearing God’s name, God’s gospel, and God’s promises in the world. He cannot fail me; this would mean that his word failed. This cannot be. Of course, we are sometimes ashamed of our hope, but is this not because we disbelieve God’s promises, depend upon our own strength, and ask for him to help us only to satisfy some earthly or carnal desire that does not promote his honor and kingdom (James 4:3)? Let any thought of God failing us be put far, far from us. God has put the hope of his word in our hearts. This hope will never be disappointed. He will uphold us; he will “keep that which we have committed unto him” (2 Tim. 1:12). Therefore, let us be about believing God’s promises and loving his word, and we shall see him work marvelous deliverance for us, even delivering us from the vain thoughts that are far more dangerous and debilitating than a direct attack from Satan and all his hosts. If we build upon God’s word, if his help is all our hope and confidence, we may be certain that he will deliver and preserve us from all the attacks of the evil one and all the weakness of our flesh.

Yet, notice that it is not only safety that David desires. We would very much like for all to go well, have everything we need, and enjoy a peaceful journey through life. Is this as high as our faith mounts? Do we feel anything of this holy man’s “and I shall have respect unto thy statutes continually?” That is, the reason we desire for the Lord to establish and hold us up must be that we may obey him more. Here is a lesson that confronts us continually. The heart of the godly man does not want the many blessings promised throughout this Psalm so that he may live as he pleases, be free from affliction, or lead a trouble-free life. No, he wants to obey God more fully and love his word more fervently. How marvelous is the work of God in our souls? Can anything but the power of God ever topple the idol of our selfishness and erect in its place a sincere desire for more love and obedience to him? That the reason I want the Lord to uphold me is not so that I have what I want when I want it, but so that my heart will be devoted to him. Is not the lack of such a spirit the ultimate reason for the many failures we have experienced, the lifeless prayers and cold hearts we often feel within us? Is it that we do not really want God, to obey God, as much as we want to have his help on our own terms? This must be our pledge. “Lord, I am besieged by great vanity in my own thoughts and affections. I hate my vanity. You only are my shield and hiding place. Please hold me not so much that I have outer peace and prosperity, or be free from anxiety so that I will not feel so pressed, but that I may obey you. I promise to obey you. Deliver me now from this temptation, help me love my wife more selflessly, spend the time you give me more wisely, or speak more naturally and winsomely of my Savior and his love, so that from henceforth I may be more devoted to you. If your will is for me to suffer, if I need chastening, do what is best for me, but bring me through this season with a more humbled heart, a more dedicated heart, a heart held captive to your word. This is all my desire.” Only the Lord of glory, by his “grace unto grace” (John 1:16) and “grace abounding where sin abounded” (Rom. 5:20-21), can give us such life. Let us seek it from him, for he loves us, and would not let us know of these “exceeding precious promises” unless he fully intended to fulfill them in us for the sake of his Son.

God’s War against the Wicked (vv. 118-119)

Our hearts still quake before the menacing form of evil. When we are careful in thinking about the many enemies we shall face and perils we shall pass through on our way to God’s eternal kingdom, do we not tremble? Sometimes we do not, but this is wishful thinking. If we could but for a moment see the great host arrayed against us, if we could hear the schemes of the wicked rather than simply suspect them, we should faint dead away. Or would we? There is another sight that faith must seize upon, one granted to every humbled heart that senses its own need and believes God’s rich promises. It is not simply the firm confidence that God has a far greater host of angels that surrounds and protects us, though this should steel the nerve of the most fearful. It is our knowledge that this is God’s battle. He fired the first shot when he cursed Satan and declared war against him (Gen. 3:15). And what has been the course of that war thus far? The weakest have “put to flight the armies of aliens” (Heb. 11:34). Women have received their dead back to life (Heb. 11:35). Giants have been slain by stones. Fires have been quenched by faith. Torture has been gladly received rather than renouncing Christ. Unbelieving empires and nations – one after another – that have resisted the claims of the gospel have become ruins. And, above all, the Prince of life has swallowed up death, vanquished, defeated, and bound our chief adversary, and entered his glory. God is faithful, dear one. He has “trodden down,” tossed aside all those raised in opposition to his word: Pharaoh, Ahab and Jezebel, Nebuchadnezzar, Caiaphas, the Herods, Nero. The list of casualties is very long. And why does the Lord put them away? “They err from God’s statutes; all their deceit is falsehood.” What else does this mean but that God judges men and nations in terms of his revealed word, the very Scriptures we possess, that he will have truth and light win out over lies and darkness. We must remember his judgments; they are our comfort. We have his blueprint for governing history, determining the rise and fall of men and nations, in our hand. It is the much-maligned, much-neglected Scriptures. Is it any wonder that there is so much darkness in our land and immaturity in the church? We have God’s own testimony, his pledge; we have his statutes and judgments, his rules for life; we have his word, his own character. And now that he has enthroned his Beloved at his right hand, has he and will he not “put away all the wicked of the earth like dross?” Will he not cause every knee to bow and every tongue to confess – to him who loved us and gave himself for us? God has not spoken in vain. Yes, I know; men of the west mock and ignore God’s word, are persuaded that their Babel will survive, that they have silenced or least finally curtailed the church’s gospel witness and light in the world. But their hubris is not the final word – except for them. The Son of Man has been raised from the dead; the Lamb has ascended with a shout. All men and nations must either weep and mourn in repentance or be away and tossed away in wailing and gnashing of teeth. Yet, our whole confidence and stability lies in seeing, like Stephen, the Son of Man at the right hand of the Father. Then, we can face whatever evils confront us without flinching, for we shall know that the Lamb reigns, and he will be glorious on the earth, exalted, extolled, and very high (Ps. 72:19; Isa. 4:2; Isa. 52:13).

Afraid of Thy Judgments (v. 120)

There is only one response to be made to such glorious promises: “I love thy judgments” (v. 119). “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments.” Rather than being amazed “by sudden fear, or by the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh” (Prov. 3:25), should we not rejoice when we see God put away his enemies? Yes, we shall feel some of the tremors of his march, especially when our lives are too intertwined with the city of man, religiously, culturally, and economically, which is impossible to escape completely but is too often the result of unthinking compromise. Have we forgotten that our citizenship is in heaven, that we are at war, and that we are to expect the city of man to tremble and fall under the weight of its pride and rebellion? Beloved, when we see God judge his enemies, we are to love his testimonies all the more. He has confirmed them. He may wait long with the sons of men, giving them room to repent and the church a season to reap the harvest he intends, for “his longsuffering is salvation” (2 Pet. 3:15). Yet, there comes a time when the cup of his wrath is full. He will pour it out. And when we see it, we should take it as a demonstration of his great faithfulness. He will not be mocked forever. He will not allow his word, covenant, and Son, our precious Savior, to be trampled in the mire of human arrogance and rebellion without there being recompense. Even if we fall asleep waiting for his coming, he will still come. He will ride upon the clouds as his chariots, with a tempest before him, to scatter his enemies. And we too, should tremble before his majesty. Now, it is certain that the Lord is “glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders” (Ex. 15:11). This is sufficient reason for us to tremble before his great glory, especially since we have eyes to see it, feel our sinfulness, and confess that his mercy is our only covering. Yet, do we not also tremble with anticipation, excitement, and adoring wonder at the faithfulness of God in defense of his honor and glory, Son and kingdom? If we do – and believer, nothing is more lacking today in the piety of God’s professing servants than a whole-hearted fear and reverence for the living God – we shall be afraid of his judgments. Here, “judgments” should be taken as it is used through this Psalm as God’s word considered as the declaration of his will. Before the least of them, we should tremble. Even the smallest matters of his word demand our careful attention and meticulous obedience (Matt. 23:23). Is God shaking our nation for the immorality of its debt? We should repent of our unnecessary debt and be content with what we have. Do most rob God of his tithe? We should tithe and commit all that we have to his church and kingdom? Is he shaking the nations for their debaucheries, filthiness, and sordid lives? We should seek greater consecration to his will. This is the way we show ourselves to be his willing captives: when he judges, we repent, trust, and obey. This is the way we love his word: when surrounded with so many vanities, we sincerely hate them, commit ourselves to God’s safekeeping, and hope in his promises. He will never disappoint us. Truth, time, and history are created and governed by him; they will vindicate his word. His willing captives will be blessed; his enemies will be burned in the fire of his wrath.