Psalm 119:113-120: My Flesh Trembles for Fear of You
June 15, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
One of the hardest things for people today to get their minds around is the negative side. We tend to appreciate the positive, the affirmation, the association with what is uplifting—and rightly so. We should emphasize hope and joy and peace and love. No doubt. But, in order to do that, we also need to resist the negative. That is, the evil, the nasty, the vicious, the anti-God and the anti-Christ, the unworthy, the vile—all the forces of darkness.
In this part of the psalm, you find both the psalmist’s pursuit of God’s law, in all its beauty, but also his resistance to that which is anti-God, sinful, and likely to push him away from his relationship with God. The truth is that we need to resist the devil for him to flee from us, and we need to put to death the deeds of the sinful nature. There is a natural downgrade tendency to turn from what is right to what is not right, and the man and woman of God need to not only turn to God’s way, but also to turn away from that which stops them turning to God’s Word.
The psalmist turns away from “the double-minded” (119:113). He does not so closely associate himself with those who are not truly committed to God, those who say they are committed to God but are not (hypocrites), that it could even be said that he did “hate” that. Not in the sense of personal animosity, but in the sense of putting a clear distance between one and the other. He wants the “evildoers” to “depart” from him (119:115).
At the same time, he “loves” God’s Word. God is his “hiding place” and his “shield” (119:114). He asks to be “upheld” according to God’s promise (119:116). He asks God to “hold me up, that I may be safe” (119:117). There is this clear commitment to the positive value and association of God’s Word.
What drives his fleeing from evil and his joint pursuit of God and his Word is one thing: the fear of God. That much undervalued core value of all the wise and godly.
“My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments” (119:120).
Fear is not a virtue that we understand. We think of fear as something like “being a wimp” or (worse) “a right response to that which is horrible.” How could we possibly be meant to “fear God”? But fear is defined by its object. In this sense, you could be said to “fear” a Van Gogh painting. You fear its artistic brilliance. You have a certain kind of trembling before it.
Similarly, you might say that you “fear” the beauty of a mountain range. There is a certain awe combined to the vision of the Alps. The fear of God, therefore, is the right range of awe response to the awesomeness of God. And with such fear of God, two things will accrue: the pursuit of God’s Word and the ongoing fight against the tendency towards sin and evil. Do you fear God?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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