Evermore Hold & Hide Me In Thy Truth

A brief study of Psalm 119:113-120, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 22 Nov 2013


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” (Psalm 119:113-120).

Imagine being caught in the thick of an ancient battle. The enemies are all around you. Swords are clanging loudly. Arrows are flying wildly. You have nowhere to run. You must fight, or you will die. What would be in your mind in such a situation? No doubt, fears and doubts will assault your soul even as you fend off the enemies.

The 15th song of Psalm 119 is given for us to sing in union with Christ our King in such a situation: only that the battle is not physical but spiritual. It is a battle against temptations and sinful influences that afflicts the soul. It is a song by which we may call out unto God for Help.

We may entitle this song, “Evermore Hold and Hide me in Thy Truth.” This song is demarcated by the Hebrew letter Samech (s). It is instructive that the letter is used for the words “hiding place” (rt,se, sether) in verse 115; “uphold” (Jm's;, samak) in verse 116; and “hold” (d['s;, saad) in verse 117. These are, no doubt, the words that we would use in our prayers when we are faced with the ferocity of an intense spiritual battle.

As this is a prayer, it is difficult to discern a logical structure. Notwithstanding, we can consider it in four parts.

·   The 1st two verses (vv. 113, 114) are addressed to God to express our loyalty to Him and to ask for His protection.

·   The 3rd verse (v. 115) is addressed to “evildoers” to affirm that we will not be moved.

·   The 4th and 5th verses (vv. 116, 117) are again a call to the LORD to uphold and strengthen.

·   The 7th verse to the end (vv. 118-120) extols God for His justice and holiness.

1. I am Thine, Protect Me

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

The word translated “vain thoughts” (¹[ese) signifies a branch. So Calvin suggests that the picture painted is that of a tree whose branches grow in different directions. So vain thoughts refer to confused thinking or ambivalence, half-heartedness and a divided heart. Some commentators hold that the psalmist is referring to the thoughts of the wicked. But I agree with Matthew Henry that “[David] does not mean that he hated them in others, for there he could not discern them, but he hated them in his own heart.”

This was true of David. I don’t think that the thought of the Greater David was ever confused. He had full control of His faculties, but He would be tempted to such confused thinking and rightly hate them in contrast to His love of God’s orderly law.

Such must be the attitude of the child of God too. We are pulled in all directions by sinful desires and temptations. When we were of the world, we revel in those thoughts and may even pride ourselves of thinking way outside the box. But when we are converted, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds and we begin to love the law of God and the structure it brings to our lives. So indeed, the words “I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love” may rightly express the musing of our hearts.

However, we cannot really escape vain and confused thoughts while we are in this world. They spring upon us from within, and they assault us from without. There is a battle raging right in our heart for our heart.

Where do we find relief? Where do we find help? Our help is in the LORD, verse 114—

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

God is our Protector and our Shield from the confused thoughts and lies that threaten to slay us and rob us of a life of purpose and meaning. He does not put us in a cave to protect us. Instead He Himself is our hiding place and our shield. He, as it were, protects us in the hollow of His right hand, and cups us with His left hand. “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” says Isaiah (Isa 26:3). God by His Spirit inoculates us from all wicked thoughts that would toss us to and fro and at the same time works in us a peace that the world does not understand even in the midst of the raging battle.

Thus strengthened and assured of the LORD, we may confidently say to the wicked who confront us…

2. I am His, Depart from Me

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

Evildoers are workers of iniquity. “Depart from me ye evildoers” is the same as “Depart from me ye workers of iniquity.” These are the words which our Lord would, at the last day, say to those who call Him Lord, Lord, but live lawless lives (cf. Lk 13:27; Mt 7:23).

But today we must unite with Him to say the same thing in song. “Evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Cor 15:33). So the influence of evildoers in our lives will always tempt us to stray from the Lord. Hence, we must keep away from them. However, we cannot do so passively. If we do not let evildoers know we do not enjoy their company, they will continue to come to us so that by and by we begin to be influenced by their ways.

So we are given to sing even to call the wicked to depart from us and to tell them of our resolution to keep the commandments of our God.

This resolution is important for us for we are prone to wander. Therefore, let us vow before God so that God will help us when we stray. This resolution is also important for the wicked to hear, for else they will take us lightly and will think nothing of trying to corrupt us by their evil ways.

However, this charge and resolution is not enough, for there is a spiritual battle and not merely a simple interplay between children of light and the children of darkness. We must not only resolve to cling on to the Lord, we must have the Lord hold us to Himself or we will easily be swept away. So in the third part of this psalm we are given to sing…

3. I am Thine, Uphold Me

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.

Except the Lord upholds me, I will perish. If I perish my hope will be proven delusive and vain. Except the Lord hold me up, danger will threaten to overwhelm my soul and I will be liable to topple over into sin. Therefore, Lord, hold me up and hold me tight that I may not be swept away in sin.

The fact is I cannot fight the battle against sin and temptation alone. Even our Saviour who was tempted at all points like as we are resorted to prayer when He faced strong temptations. How much more we must pray. How much more we must cry unto the Father to prop us up when we are weak and weary and ready to give up under the constant assault of the wicked one and his cohorts.

Let us pray that we may continue to fight on, having respect unto the statutes of the Lord continually and fighting on because of our respect, for if we lose respect for the word, we will stop fighting.

But let us pray with hope knowing that God is just and holy. For thus are we given to sing…

4. Thou art Just & Holy

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.

The wicked are those who have strayed from God’s law. Their deceit is falsehood. This sounds like a tautology. But it is really an emphasis. It is false, empty and vain. It is without value. God therefore would judge them. He would trample them as one tramples upon dust. He would cast them away as a refiner blows away dross.

The wicked, in other words, are not tolerated by the Lord. They will not go scot-free under His government. This is quite unlike the governments of the world whose laws are often transgressed with impunity. God’s law will always be upheld and transgressors will always be dealt with according to the full extent of the law. Under the government of God, justice will always be perfected. It is a matter of sooner or later; and how. For the elect, justice was dealt with at the Cross. Christ was punished to the full-extent of the law for our sin. The reprobate, on the other hand, will be punished for all eternity.

For this reason, we can love God’s testimonies (v. 119). Thus we are given to sing: “therefore I love thy testimonies.” We love God’s law because it is not ambivalent and half-hearted. It is firm and sure. It is worthy of being loved and obeyed.

But at the same time, it is to be feared and revered as God is to be feared and revered, verse 20—

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

God is nigh unto us and He will hear our cries when we call unto Him to protect us or to shield and deliver us from those who love not His laws.

But we must not forget that man must always fear God. Even our Saviour feared God. So we read in Hebrews 5:7, that He…

…in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.

Our Saviour is the God-Man. Therefore let us remember that He takes up the Psalms as the Second Adam, the covenant head of the Church. That it is as Man that He sings the words of this song. Thus, it is as Man that He feared.

Man must always fear and revere God no matter how closely we have been embraced in the love of God. Thus the final words of this song must not only be the words of our Saviour, but our words: “My flesh trembleth for fear of thee; and I am afraid of thy judgments” (v. 120).

Conclusion

This is the 15th stanza of Psalm 119. What a privilege it is to be beloved by God despite our failures. We do not deserve His love. Indeed, we deserve His wrath because He is holy and just. But we are covered by the righteousness of God’s son, and the Spirit of Christ has begun a good work in our heart.

This work that is begun in our heart is what gives us a sense of exasperation as we are confronted with such as walk in unbelief in the world. Hence, this psalm is given to us that we may sing in union with our Saviour when the battle within and without is sore upon our heart. We may sing it as a prayer that the LORD will hold and uphold us and protect and shield us in the battle that is raging due to sin and temptations.

May we sing it prayerfully and gratefully! Amen.

—JJ Lim