The fearfulness of the God whose Word we live by
The fifteenth stanza of Psalm 119 is an unexpectedly confronting meditation on the fearfulness of God.
The divided I hate; but your law I love.
My hiding place and shield is You; for your word I hope.
Leave me, evil-doers, that I may keep God’s commands.
Hold me up as you promised, that I may live; let me not be ashamed in my hope.
Sustain me, that I may be preserved, and continually contemplate your statutes.
You reject all who stray from your statutes; for their deceit is a lie.
You consider as dross all the wicked of the earth; therefore I love your decrees.
I tremble before your fearfulness; I am afraid of your judgments.
This is not the kind of uplifting spirituality that is popular today, in the church as much as outside it. This is an experience of God as the mighty one, who is a hiding place and shield precisely because he is terrifying and fearful. This is faith in the midst of battle, conflict, assaulted on every side by opponents, forced to shout down their assaults under pressure: “their deceit is a lie!” This is faith which has forced itself to see the truth in the face of temptation and challenge, and to remind itself of the grim consequences. It would be easy for the Christian reader to write this stanza off as unnecessary for New Covenant faith. But I think that would be premature. There are grim warnings in the New Testament, too; and there is no safety for anyone who finally wanders away from the Word of God. For He is fearful, and his judgments terrifying.