IHATE 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.
This octave, whose initial letter is Samech, or S., has been likened to Samson at his death, when he laid hold of the pillars of the house and pulled it down on the Philistines;. Mark how he grips the pillars of divine power, with ‘“Uphold me,’” and ‘“Hold thou me up’”; and see how the house falls down in judgment on the unholy! ‘“Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross.’” This section carries the war into the enemy’s country, and exhibits the believer as militant against falsehood and iniquity. 113. ‘“I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love. ’” In this paragraph the Psalmist deals with thoughts and things and persons which are the opposite of God’s holy thoughts and ways. He is evidently moved with great indignation against the powers of darkness and their allies; and his whole soul is stirred up to stand against them with a determined opposition. Just as he began the octave, verse 97, with ‘“O how love I thy law l’” so he begins here with a declaration of intense love; ]but he prefaces it with an equally fervent declaration of hatred, against that which breaks the law.
The opposite of the fixed and infallible testimony of God is the wavering, changing thought of men. David had an utter contempt and abhorrence for the vain opinions of man’s conceited wisdom; all his reverence and regard went to the sure word of divine truth. In proportion to his love to the law was his hate of man’s inventions. The word vain’” is very properly supplied by’ the translators; for the original word signifies ‘“haltings between two opinions,’” and hence it includes skeptical doubts. The thoughts of men are vanity; but the thoughts of God are verity. We hear much in these days of ‘“men of thought,’” ‘“thoughtful preachers,’” and ‘“modem thought:’” what is this but the old pride of the human heart? Vain man would be wise.
The Psalmist did not glory in his thoughts; and that which was called’” thought’” in his day was a thing which he detested. ‘When man thinks his best, his highest thoughts are as far below those of divine revelation as the earth is beneath the heavens.
Some thoughts are specially vain in the sense of vain-glory, pride, conceit, and self-trust; others in the sense of bringing disappointment, such as fond ambition, unfounded hope, and forbidden confidence in man. Many thoughts are vain in the sense of emptiness and frivolity, such as the idle dreams and vacant romancings in which many indulge. Once more, many thoughts are vain in the sense of being sinful, evil, and foolish. The Psalmist is not indifferent to evil thoughts as the careless are; but he looks upon them with a hate as true as was the love with which he clung to the pure thoughts of God.
The last octave was practical, this is thoughtful. There the man of God attended to his feet, and here to his heart: the emotions of the soul are as important as the acts of the life, for they are the fountain and spring from which our actions proceed. When we love the law, it becomes a law of love, and we cleave to it with our whole heart. 114. ‘“Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word. ’” ‘“Thou art my hiding place’ and my shield? God was his shelter and shield. To his God he ran for refuge from vain thoughts; there he hid himself away from their tormenting intrusion, and in solemn silence of the soul he found God to be his place of sanctuary. When moving; about the world, if he could not be alone with God as in a hiding-place, the man of God could have the Lord with him as his shield, and by this means he could ward off the poisoned arrows of evil suggestion. This is an experimental verse, and it testifies to that which the writer knew of his own personal knowledge: he could not fight with his own thoughts, nor escape from them, till he flew to his God, and then he found deliverance. Observe that he does not speak of God’s word as being his double defense, but he ascribes his safeguard to God himself: ‘“Thou art my hiding place and my shield.’” When we are beset by subtle spiritual assaults, such as those which arise out of vain thoughts, we shall do well to fly direct to the real presence of our Lord, and cast ourselves upon his power and love. The true God truly realized is the death of falsehood. Happy is he who can truly say to the triune God, ‘“Thou art my hiding place’”! He has beheld God under that glorious covenant aspect which ensures to the beholder the strongest consolation. ‘“I hope in thy word. ’” As well he might, since he had tried and proved it.
That which has been true in the past may be trusted for the future. The Psalmist looked for protection from all danger, and preservation from all temptation, to the Lord who had been the tower of his defense on former occasions. It is easy to exercise hope where we have experienced help.
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, reasons for hope, and invitations to hope, in such abundance that it becomes the very sphere and support of hope, and thus timorous and tempting thoughts are overcome. Amid fret and worry a hope of heaven is an effectual quietus. 115. ‘“Depart from me, ye evildoers: for I will keep the commandments of my God. ’” ‘“Depart from me, ye evildoers. ’” Those who make a conscience of their thoughts are not likely to tolerate evil company. If we fly to God from vain thoughts, much more shall we avoid vain men. Kings are all too apt to be surrounded by a class of men who flatter them, and at the same time take liberty to break the laws of God: David purged his palace of such parasites; he would not harbor them beneath his roof. No doubt they would have brought upon him an ill name; for their doings would have been imputed to him, since the act.,; of courtiers are generally set down as acts of the court itself; therefore the King sent them packing, bag and baggage, saying, — ‘“Depart from me.’” Herein he anticipated the sentence of the last great day, when the Son of David shall say, ‘“Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.’” We cannot thus send all evildoers out of our houses, but it may upon occasion be our bounden duty to do so. Right and reason require that we should not be pestered with incorrigible servants or discreditable lodgers. A house is all the better for being rid of liars, pilferers, lewd ‘talkers, and slanderers. Where we can have our own choice of company, we are bound at all hazards to keep ourselves clear of doubtful associates.
As soon as we have reason to believe that their character is vicious, if will be better for us to have their room than their company. Evildoers make evil counselors, and therefore we must not sit with them. Those who say unto God, ‘“Depart from us,’” ought to hear the immediate echo of their words from the mouths of God’s children, who should say to them, ‘“Depart from us.’” We cannot eat bread with traitors, lest we be ourselves attainted of high treason. ‘“For I will keep ,the commandments of my God. ’” Since he found it hard to keep the Lord’s commandments in the. company of the ungodly, he gave them their marching; orders. He must keep the commandments, but he did not need to keep the company of evildoers. What a beautiful title for the Lord this verse contains I ‘“My God.’” The word God only occurs in this one place throughout this lengthened psalm, and then it is attended by the personal word ‘“my’” — ‘“my God.’” ‘“My God! how charming is the sound I How pleasant to repeat!
Well may that heart with pleasure bound, Where God hath fix’d his seat. ’” Because Jehovah is our God, therefore we resolve to obey him, and to chase out of’ our sight those who would hinder us in his service. It is a grand thing for the mind to have come to a decision, and to be steadfastly fixed in the holy determination’” I will keep the commandments of my God.’” God’s law is our delight when the God of the law is our God. 116. ‘“Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live: and let me not be ashamed of my hope. ’” ‘“Uphold me according unto thy word, that I may live. ’” It was so necessary that the Lord should hold up his servant, that he could not even live without it. Our soul would die, and every grace of spiritual life would die also, if the Lord withdrew his upholding hand. It is a sweet comfort that this great necessity of upholding is provided for in the Word, and we have not to ask for it as for an uncovenanted mercy, but simply to plead for the fulfillment of a promise, saying, ‘“Uphold me according to thy word.’” He who has given us eternal life hath in that gift secured to us all that is essential thereto; and as gracious upholding is one of the necessary things, we may be sure that we shall have it. Note, that when David had chased away the evildoers, he did not: therefore feel safe when alone. He knew that he needed to be preserved from his own weakness as well as from other men’s evil examples, and so he prayed for upholding grace. ‘“And let me not be ashamed of my hope. ’” In verse 114 he had spoken of his hope as founded on the word of the Lord, and now he begs for the fulfillment of the promise, that his hope may be .justified in the sight of men. A man will soon be ashamed of his hope if it is not based upon a sure foundation: but this can never happen in our case, since we trust a faithful God. We may be ashamed of our thoughts, and our words, and our deeds, for they spring from ourselves; but we never shall be ashamed of our hope, for that springs from the Lord. We may well be ashamed of our doubt, but we need never be ashamed of our hope. Such is the frailty of our nature that, unless we are continually upheld by grace, we shall fall so foully as to be ashamed of ourselves, and ashamed of all those glorious hopes which are now the crown and glory of our life. This may be the case even in solitude: when evildoers are gone, we may yet fall victims to our foolish fears. The man of God had uttered firm resolves, but he could not trust in his own resolves, however solemnly made: hence these prayers. It is not wrong to make resolutions, but it will be useless to do so unless we salt them well with believing cries to God. David meant to keep the law of the Lord, but he first needed the Lord of the law to keep him. 111. ‘“Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe: and I will have respect unto thy statutes continually. ’” ‘“Hold thou me up ‘“: as a nurse holds up a little child. ‘“And I shall be safe, ’” and not else; for unless thou hold me up I shall be falling about like an infant that is weak upon its legs. We have been saved by past grace, but still we are not safe unless we receive present grace. Our version first translates the word ‘“uphold,’” and then ‘“hold up’”; and truly we need this blessing in every shape in which it can come, for in all manner of ways our adversaries seek to cast us down. To be safe is a happy condition; there is only one way to it, and that is by divine upholding: thank God, that way is open to the least among us. ‘“Hold thou me up’” may also be a plea for elevation of mind. ‘“Nearer, my God, to thee,’” is the same prayer. We would be held up, above self and sin, and all else that grovels; for then are we surely safe. ‘“And l will have respect unto thy statutes continually. ’” Thus, being held up, we obey; and in obeying we are safe. No man will outwardly keep the Lord’s statutes for long together unless he has an inward ‘“respect’” for them, and this will never be unless the hand of the Lord perpetually upholds the heart in holy love. Perseverance to the end, or continual obedience, comes only through the divine power; we start aside as a deceitful bow unless we are kept right by him who first gave us [;race.
Happy is the man who realizes this verse in his life: upheld through his whole life in a course of unswerving integrity, he becomes a ‘“safe man,’” a trusted man. Such a safe man manifests a sacred delicacy of conscience which is unknown to others. He feels a tender ‘“respect’” for the statutes of the Lord, ‘which keeps him clear of those inconsistencies and conformities to the world which are so common among others. Hence he becomes a pillar in the house of the Lord. Alas I we know some professors who are not upright, and therefore they lean to sin till they fall over; even when they are restored and set up again, they are never safe or reliable, neither have they that sweet purity of soul which is the charm of those who have been kept from falling into the mire. 118. ‘“Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes: for their deceit is falsehood. ’” ‘“Thou hast trodden dawn all them that err from thy statutes. ’” There is no holding up for them; they are thrown down and then trodden down, for they choose to go down into the wandering ways of sin. Sooner or later, God will set his foot on those who turn their foot from his commands: it has always been so, and it always will be so to the end. If the salt has lost its savior, what is it fit for but to be trodden under foot? God puts away the wicked like dross, which is only fit to be east out as road-metal to be trodden down. ‘“For their deceit is falsehood. ’” They call it farseeing policy, but it is absolute falsehood, and it shall be treated as such. Ordinary men call it clever diplomacy, but the man of God calls a spade a spade, and declares it to be falsehood, and nothing less; for he knows that it is so in the sight of God. Men who err from the right road invent pretty excuses with which to deceive themselves and others, and so attempt to quiet their consciences and maintain their credit; but their mask of falsehood is too transparent.
God treads down falsehoods; they are only fit to be spurned by his feet, and crushed into the dust. How horrified will those be who have spent all their lives in contriving a confectionery religion, when they see it all trodden upon by God as a sham which he cannot endure I 119. ‘“Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross: therefore I love thy testimonies. ’” ‘“Thou puttest away all the wicked of the earth like dross. ’” He does not trifle with them, nor handle them with kid gloves. No, he judges them to be the scum of the earth, and he treats them accordingly by putting them away. He puts them away from his church, away from their honors, away from the earth, and at last away from himself. ‘“Depart,’” saith he, ‘“ye cursed.’” If even a good man feels forced to put away the evil-doers from him, much more must the thrice holy God put away the wicked. They looked like precious metal, they were intimately mixed up with it, they were laid up in the same heap; but the Lord is a refiner, and every day he removes some of the wicked from among his people, either by making a shameful discovery of their hypocrisy or by consuming them from off the earth. They are put away as dross, never to be recalled. As the metal is the better for losing its alloy, so is the church the better for having the wicked removed. These wicked ones are ‘“of the earth”’ — ‘“ the wicked of the earth,’” and they have no right to be with those who are’” riot of the world’”; the Lord perceives them to be out of place and injurious, and therefore he puts them away, all of them, leaving none of them to deteriorate his people. The process will one day be perfected; no dross will be spared, no gold will be left impure. Where shall we be when that great work is finished? Shall we be treasured with the gold, or trodden down with the dross? ‘“Therefore I love thy testimonies:’ Even the severities of the Lord excite the love of his people. If he allowed men to sin with impunity, he would not be so fully the object of our loving admiration. He is glorious in holiness because he thus rids his kingdom of rebels, and his temple of them that defile it. In these evil days, when God’s punishment of sinners has become the butt of a proud skepticism, we may regard it as a mark of the true man of God that he loves the Lord none the, less, but: a great deal the more, because of his condign judgment of the ungodly. We greatly value those passages of Scripture which are most terrible in their denunciation of sin and sinners. We love those testimonies which foretell the overthrow of evil and the destruction of the enemies of God. A God more lenient would be a God less loving and less loved. Holy hearts love best a perfectly righteous God. 120. ‘“My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments. ’” ‘“My flesh trembleth for fear of thee. ’” He did not exult over the punishment of others, but he trembled on his own account. Such was his awe in the presence of the Judge of all the earth, ‘whose judgment he had just now been considering, that he did exceedingly fear and quake.
Familiarity with God breeds a holy awe of him. Even the grosser part of David’s being, his flesh, felt a solemn dread at the thought of offending One so good anti great, who would so effectually sever the wicked from among the just. Alas, poor flesh;, this is the highest thing to which thou canst attain! Yet this is far better than thy pride when thou dost exalt thyself against thy Maker. ‘“And I am afraid of thy judgments. ’” God’s words of judgment are solemn, and his deeds of judgment are terrible; they may well make us afraid. At the thought of the Judge of all — his piercing eye, his books of record:, his day of assize, his awful sentence, and the execution of his justice — we may well cry for cleansed thoughts, and hearts, and ways, lest his judgments should light on us. When we see the great Refiner separating the precious from the vile, we may well feel a godly fear, lest we should be put away by him, and left to be trodden under his feet. Even his judgments, as we find them written in the word, fill us with trembling; and this becomes to us an evidence of grace. But what will the judgments themselves be when carried into effect? Oh the trembling and the fear which will be the eternal portion of those who run upon the bosses of Jehovah’s; buckler and defy his wrath!
Love in the previous verse is quite consistent with fear in this verse: the fear which, hath torment is cast out, but not the filial fear which leads to reverence and obedience.