Psalm 119 Journal - Stanzas 15 and 16
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. 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! 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.
How do I know that the Word of God is as powerful and incisive as the Psalmist claims? Many ways. One way is by acknowledging what God is doing in my heart and mind during the weeks we are studying it together. Another is by observing its impact on my colleagues.
The juxtaposition of personal insights with poetic discourse on Old Testament theology is what drew me to Psalm 119. This stanza echos that schema when it references the relationship between the word of God and the mind (v. 1) and identifies God’s word as the shelter of our soul and defender of our hearts (v.2).
My natural tendency is toward the conceptual and analytic. Instead of drilling into what is going on within the Psalmist as he writes, my first question is more likely to be, “What exactly does the term double-minded mean?” 1 Kings 18:21 uses the term of a person who can’t decide whether to worship God or Baal. James uses the term for a person who is doubtful. It seems the two ideas are interconnected as one can hardly worship something which one does not trust. [As a side note, the Psalmist is not much of a postmodernist. He thinks trust is connected to the intellect as it rules over the emotions.]
Earlier this week, my friend Ken wrapped up this way of looking at it nicely when he wrote:
Our minds, especially the Greek mind, can be said to either have its thoughts centered on the earth/creation/physical or on heaven/spiritual worlds - but not both simultaneously and certainly not in union [a reference to the substance dualism of Plato, and later in time the modernist Descartes].
But according to Dean, the two should not be in a dialectical tension - not two realms of thought but one cohesive union of perspectives [I might have said two ways of apprehending the same reality].
Heaven and earth should speak the same language and work to the same goal. Man's mind was built to work in this manner. So much so that it "ought" to be difficult to determine which of his thoughts come first: the ones about earth or heaven [a reference to the opening of Calvin’s institutes that addresses the integral relation between knowledge of God and of man].
Hence, I hate double-minded men (it violates God's engineering) and love God's law (i.e. His Word) because it is the instrument of the Holy Spirit to transform man's double-mindedness - the renewal of man's mind to what it ought to be
That’s all well and good – provocative even. But what I’m thinking about this morning is how each participant in the roundtable discussions is gleaning something deeply personal from the same text. How God uses his word to meet us individually in the current circumstances of our lives. This is the why, not the what, the Psalmist is writing about. And God is using his word, communicated through the inspired writing of the Psalmist, to show me that I cannot put my confidence in anything else. God has shown me that, in certain respects, I have allowed a ministry he called me into decades ago to take the place of himself. The sinful heart is desperately wicked and it perverts every good gift God gives. Even, or perhaps especially, gifts of his calling and ministry. But, as we turn to his word, God by his spirit upholds us (v. 116), enables us to stay safely on the lighted path (v. 117 & 105), and renews the affections of our heart to resemble his own (v. 117). It is right, and healthy, to be fearful (v. 120) of our inability to keep it.
121 I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. 122 Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the insolent oppress me. 123 My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise. 124 Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your statutes. 125 I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your testimonies! 126 It is time for the LORD to act, for your law has been broken. 127 Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold. 128 Therefore I consider all your precepts to be right; I hate every false way.
We tend to think being a servant is demeaning. That is because we don’t remember we are -I say designed, Ken said engineered - by God with specific purposes in view. The Psalmist knows/feels that being God’s servant (v. 122, 124, 125) is a gift better than sliced bread. It is manna.