Samekh - Fear the Lord
Scripture: Psalm 119:113–119:120
Unfortunately, the audio from this past Sunday did not record properly. For your convenience and edification, we have pasted Pastor Brett's manuscript below:
This stanza of psalm 119 can be broken down into 3 parts:
1. HATE THE DOUBLE-MINDED AND RUN TO HIS WORD (vv. 113-115)
“(113) I hate the double-minded, but I love your law.
(114) You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.
(115) Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.”
2. PRAY FOR GOD’S HELP TO KEEP HIS WORD (vv. 116-117)
“(116) Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
(117) Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!”
3. FEAR GOD’S JUDGEMENTS IN HIS WORD (vv. 118-120)
(118) You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.
(119) All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.
(120) My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.”
1. Hate the double-minded and run to His Word (vv. 113-115)
This first section of the stanza begins with the statement that the psalmist hates someone. And whom does he hate? Verse 113, “I hate the double-minded.” Gesenius’ Hebrew Lexicon says the word double-minded means:
“divided, a person of a divided mind, who, being destitute of firm faith and persuasion as to divine things, is driven hither and thither; a doubter, a sceptic."
This seems harsh. After the psalmist says, “I hate the double-minded”, he says, “but I love your law.” The psalmist is contrasting his hatred for the double-minded with his love for the law.
So, I think we are to understand that he hates not the people, but the way they live, because they dishonor God by being double-minded concerning what He has said in His word. He goes on in v.114, “You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in your word.” God is his hiding place and his shield – what does he need to hide from, what does he need a shield to protect him from? In the context he must mean the influence of the double-minded, because he finishes with, “I hope in your word”. Then in v. 115, “Depart from me, you evildoers, that I may keep the commandments of my God.” The psalmist tells the evildoers, “Get away from me, so that I may keep the commandments of my God.” Evildoers disrupt his ability to keep the commandments of his God!
This section is screaming loud and clear: Avoid the double-minded, and run to God’s word!
The influence of the double-minded will corrupt our ability to keep the commandments of our God. So, how do we “hate the double-minded, but love God’s law”?
Hate is a strong word! What this is saying is that we should strongly avoid anything or anyone who does not love the law of God. Now of course we are to be with sinners, we are to love them, and pray for them, and tell about Jesus. Jesus Himself was called the friend of sinners. So this does not mean never associating with those who don’t love God. But, the scripture here calls for us to never associate with them in a way that influences you to lessen in your love for God’s law. We must hate to be weakened in our keeping of God’s commands. We must hide ourselves in God, hide from those double-minded influences, hiding in God’s words, fixing our hope on God’s words. Very practically, this means to notice those people who are double-minded, and hate their influence upon you.
Do you have friends that are double-minded (divided hearts)?
Are there things you see on TV, movies, social media, that are double-minded (saying we should be moral, but we don’t need to be crazy Jesus freaks)?
Are there things in your life that cause you to be tempted to run after pleasure or money or self-glory, rather than to run hard after knowing and loving God?
The psalmist had those people in his life, and what did he do about it? He hated their influence, and ran to hide in God as His shield, and put His hope in God’s word. God is counseling us in wisdom through this psalm. He is saying, don’t be casual about those people and influences in your life that are double-minded (not just the outright evil ones – the moral ones that say “be good, stay off drugs, stay married, raise your kids right, but you don’t need to be into God or Jesus”). Hate their influence, avoid it like the plague. And run, run to your hiding place in God, putting your hope in His word.
Being double-minded about Jesus Christ is very foolish. He has promised great and lasting rewards for those who follow Him, and awful punishments for those who reject Him. Matthew Henry says:
“Lukewarmness or indifference in religion is the worst temper in the world. If religion is a real thing, it is the most excellent thing, and therefore we should be in good earnest in it; if it is not a real thing, it is the vilest imposture, and we should be earnest against it. If religion is worth any thing, it is worth every thing; an indifference here is inexcusable:”
Remember what Jesus said about the luke-warm? He spoke to the church of Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-21 (who was rich):
“(15) 'I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! (16) So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (17) For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. (18) I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. (19) Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. (20) Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. (21) The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
So in the first section of this stanza, God is teaching us to hate the double-minded, and run to His word! The 2nd section is verses 116 and 117:
2. Pray for God’s help to keep His Word (VS. 116-117)
Notice this is not just a general cry for help. Verse 117, “Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!” Now why is the psalmist doing this? Have you read God’s commands lately?
- love others as much as you love yourself,
- share your money,
- love your enemies,
- be patient, kind, not proud, not self-seeking, keep no record of wrongs,
- husbands love your wives like Christ and give yourself up for her,
- wives submit to your husband out of reverence for Christ,
- children obey your parents,
- Servants (employees), be subject to your masters (bosses) with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.
When we read these commands of God, our hearts are going to have 1 of 2 responses:
1. We can gloss over them lightly, and never really consider actually living out these commands in our actual lives (double-minded – following God in theory, but not in actual practice – not real faith)
2. We can trust God’s love for us, and so believe He knows better than us what is good for us, and so we move ahead to obey His commands, and immediately find that we cannot, and so we pray!
The psalmist, running hard to love God and trust His word, has found that he cannot do it on his own, and he cries out, “hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually”, “don’t let me be put to shame in my hope”. What’s his hope? God’s word! He does not want to be put to shame by not trusting and keeping God’s word. That is how prayer is to be motivated in our lives. Do you feel no urgency to pray? Let me ask you: are you seriously trying to obey God’s word? I have noticed that whenever I get more serious about obeying God’s word, I immediately feel the need to pray, because I need help! I read things like, “let your gentleness be evident to all” (Philippians 4:5 NIV) and “love… is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5 NASB) and I feel the need for help. So, I pray, “Lord, help me!”
This is why Paul can say, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). If we are going to really keep God’s word (Jesus said He came to give us life more abundantly so we strive to keep Jesus’ words because we know that in them lies the richest life of love), and this will require prayer without ceasing.
So in the 2nd section of this stanza we see the psalmist is praying for God’s help to keep God’s word. The 3rd section begins at verse 118:
3. Fear God’s judgments in His Word (vs. 118-120)
Do you see the progression throughout this stanza? First the psalmist hates the way of the double-minded, and runs to the word of God, to really keep God’s word. But then he immediately finds he cannot, and so he prays in the 2nd section, help me to keep your word! And now in this last section, the psalmist considers what happens to those who fail to keep God’s word, to those who go astray from His statutes, they are spurned and discarded, and so the psalmist trembles, afraid of the judgments of God.
Real fear of God’s judgments is a vital part of the Christian life, says the Word of God, from cover to cover! I know I am swimming against the current on this one. Most Christians in America have the view of a Sunday school teacher I had about 20 years ago: we don’t fear God any longer, that was in the OT. Listen to the words of scripture:
Philippians 2:12: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”
Hebrews 4:1: “Therefore, while the promise of entering His rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it.”
That is the New Testament, and that is for Christians! Now I know that many people say, “well when the Bible speaks of fearing God, it means having a reverence for Him”. I do believe reverence is part of the meaning, but I also think the Bible is teaching us to have a true fear of God. Read with me again the last verse in our stanza:
“(120) My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments."
Does that sound like just having reverence? That is more than mere reverence! Some, then, may object: “Wait, isn’t there a verse in the bible that says, ‘perfect love casts out fear!’” Yes, there is, but let’s look at it in context:
1 John 4:17-18: “(17) By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. (18) There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
Notice the end of verse 17, “because as he is so also are we in this world.” We have confidence because we are like Christ in this world. Because there is evidence that our love is maturing to be like His. Ok, so how do we fit together fear of God, real fear of His judgments, with the great love of God? I heard a great illustration by John Piper about 15 years ago to illustrate this through the example of the boy playing ball in his backyard next to the road (I am paraphrasing).
“Suppose you have a father teaching his son how to play with a ball in the front yard next to the road. And the father gets a stern look on his face and says to the son, ‘if the ball goes into the road, DO NOT GO AFTER IT OR YOU WILL GET SMASHED BY THE CAR.’ That is love right? Now, does the son spend all his time crippled by the thought of the ball going into the road saying to himself all the time, ‘oh no, if the ball goes into the road, I will get smashed by a car?’ No, he plays with the ball in the yard and it is only when the ball goes into the road that he remembers the warning and fears going into the road.”
It is the same way with fearing God’s judgements. Fear comes in when we get too close to sin and walking away from His word. Then we remember God’s judgements and we fear Him. Do you see how fear works in the psalmist’s life? Verse 118,
“You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.”
Notice that these whom God spurns (rejects) are those who have gone astray from His statutes, and they have done so very intentionally (their cunning). And notice that their cunning is in vain, it does not work. So the psalmist sees that those who try to be cunning and reject God’s word, are rejected by God. Verse 119,
“All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.”
Then the psalmist sees that the wicked of the earth God discards like dross (scum that surfaces when metal is heated and purified), and says, “I love your testimonies” (for fear of not loving them). And finally, verse 120,
“My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.”
The psalmist is terrified of becoming one who would intentionally leave God’s word through trying to be cunning. How often we hear of this, people who go astray from God’s word in their sexual practices (homosexuality, adultery, pornography,…), business practices (lying, cheating, stealing), and yet say “I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I am a Christian.”
Now I don’t want to cause you to fear wrongly: we all stumble in many ways.David committed adultery and murder, but he repented (it did not continue to be his lifestyle). Are we making war on sins, or have we made peace with our sins? The psalmist is terrified of his heart growing hard to the point where he throws off God’s laws and enters a lifestyle of sin.But we often speak of God’s final judgment. This is right, being by far the greatest thing to be feared. God is also actively making judgments in this life. Let me give one clear example of God’s judgments on Christians, 1 Corinthians 11:28-32,
“(28) Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. (29) For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. (30) That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (31) But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. (32) But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”
Now this is a principle of how God judges Christians in this life, he disciplines us. If you disobey God’s word in your life, Christian, God may judge you to bring you back, and it may be very difficult. Be afraid of not listening to God, for He is strong, and He is love, and His commands are for your good!
So in conclusion, we have seen in this stanza the spiritual life of the psalmist, and every follower of God. We are meant to progress in our faith until we hate the way of the double-minded, and run to God’s word. God is calling us to intentionally hate and stay away from those influences in our lives that tempt us to be double-minded towards God’s word (modeling a morality that says it is ok to not be serious about keeping God’s word). Next the psalmist showed us that this single-minded intention to keep God’s word will lead to prayer – calling out for help to obey God’s word, for it is far too wonderful for us! That is the main purpose of prayer, prayer for help to follow God in His word and find more of the abundant life He has for us. And finally, the psalmist showed us that along with this prayer, motivating our prayers, will be a fear, a real fear of God’s judgments in our lives. We know God is love, and His commands are for our good, and yet we know how weak and foolish we are…and so we are afraid of our own foolish hearts, and so we pray and by His help, follow Him closely!