Psalm 119:117-120 — God Discards the Dross

Safe With God

Psalms 119:117  Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually!

One of the common traits all children of God share is that of weakness. It is only the humble who come to God in the first place (James 4:10), the poor in spirit have no room for boasting (1 Corinthians 1:29). So is it any wonder that the cry of our hearts is “Hold me up”? We have no power or strength of our own. It is God who holds us in His hands (John 10:29), not the other way around.

Note the purposes for which David beseeches the Lord to hold him upThat I may be safe. Firstly, David recognizes the creature-Creator distinction. His very being is completely dependent upon the sovereign Lord. David’s safety from enemies, affliction, snares, and even disease and sickness are all in the hands of His God. We pray for safety even though we know it isn’t necessarily promised because that is part of our human nature. We are made in God’s image and by nature we desire life. God is Life. He gives life and it is a rare man or woman who doesn’t do all they can to preserve their own. For all the riches in the world, most natural men would trade just five more minutes if they knew their end was coming.

Secondly, David desires to be safe from even himself. No one knows their own sin better than a redeemed man who still recognizes the need to battle his flesh (Romans 7:20). We are bombarded on all sides, but the enemy from within is the one we loathe the most and have the least success putting off. We can tell evildoers to depart (Psalm 119:115), but the most offensive evildoer will always be with us while we are on this side of Heaven. Thus, we pray with King David that we would be held up by our most powerful and holy God that we may have regard for his statues continually. Our sinful flesh desires to sin continually, why should we take a break from mortifying it? May God give us minds and hearts that grow in holiness and give us a footing of assurance we can stand upon!

God Spurns All Who Go Astray

Psalms 119:118  You spurn all who go astray from your statutes, for their cunning is in vain.

“Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it.” Jonathan Edwards1

God’s holy hatred for sinners is pure and so much more terrifying than we tend to want to think about. The KJV says, “Thou hast trodden down all them that err from thy statutes,” and the sense is truly terrible. There is no mercy for the wicked when God’s judgment comes. Therefore, we must all the more earnestly tell sinners of the mercy of God which can be found today. And we must never diminish the terror of the Lord. The heathen will rage (Psalm 2:1) and the weak of heart will accuse us of fear-mongering, but there can be no compromise when we preach the wrath of God because to tone down God’s hatred for sinners has the practical effect of diminishing Christ’s love for sinners, as well.

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If God’s wrath is anything but infinitely terrifying, then Christ’s sacrifice is no big deal. In fact, why punish the Son of God in such a bloody and shameful manner (Isaiah 53:5,10) if sin isn’t so bad after all? God spurns ALL who go astray. There will be a spurning and no sinner will escape his judgment unless he or she is found hidden in the Christ who suffered as a propitiation by his blood. Even the most cunning of God’s enemies will ultimately be found and judged, and their sentences will be executed.

But sin and Satan lie to the pagan mind which is blinded by the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). Consider Psalms 36:1 ESV  “Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated.” And 2 Corinthians 11:3 ESV (emphasis mine) “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” Cunning-ness is never spoken kindly of in scripture, and we need to be prepared to avoid it (2 Corinthians 4:2 ESV) “But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” Cunning will be the ultimate vanity. It’s the worst type of pragmatism, as it fails to even achieve the desired end it promises.

The Wicked Are Like Dross

Psalms 119:119  All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies.

God spurns and trods upon his enemies, but ultimately discards them like dross. Notice the scope of His judgment: “All the wicked of the earth.” The eyes of Yahweh are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good (Proverbs 15:3 emphasis mine). There is no escaping the Omniscient One!

The psalmist is speaking of God’s purification. He will one day rid the world of all evil, the curse will be lifted, and his righteousness will be established.

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Proverbs 25:4 ESV  Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel; 5take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.

The dross refers to the impurities which obscure the true beauty of the gold or silver. As the elements are put to the fire, the pure remains while the dross is brought to the surface (1 Peter 1:7). The wicked flee when no one pursues; how much more when the heat is on? As the silversmith has no need for dross and casts it aside like garbage, so will the Lord discard the wicked.

How then should we live? Therefore, I love your testimonies. When we consider the ultimate end of the wicked, we turn aside from worldly goods and pleasures and turn to the objective testimonies of God. We trust in His Word and we love it. Dear Christian, you must resist the temptation to apologize for God! How many times have we heard well-meaning Christians try to explain God’s testimonies prefaced with an “I’m sorry”? Too many! We are obligated to believe everything God has said, and when we find God’s ways not sitting well with us, we can be sure that the problem lies with us. Everything God does is pure, righteous, holy, good, wise, and perfect. His judgment for sin, although it seems severe to the sinner, is an exhibition of His splendid and blemish-free love for holiness and purity. Search your heart to see if there is any evil way in you. When you find yourself reluctantly accepting a revealed truth, beg God to be merciful to you and open your eyes that you may behold wondrous things from His law with a godly heart.

Fear God

Psalms 119:120  My flesh trembles for fear of you, and I am afraid of your judgments.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” (2 Corinthians 5:10-11).  When we consider the greatness of God and His righteous judgments, a sober mind will respond with fear and trembling. There is nothing cozy about the destruction of sinners. We may understand academically that all the wicked must be discarded like dross and that all those who stray from his statutes are to be spurned, but these truths strike fear in our hearts for a few reasons.

Firstly, we are reminded that our own sin separated us from God prior to our conversion. Although salvation is granted to us, we are never to take it for granted. There is a sober-mindedness we are commanded to have, and regular contemplation of the condemnation we deserve is the right dose of medicine to cure us of the temptation to think of God as too chummy. Secondly, we recognize that apostasy happens, and we are never in a good place if we think of ourselves as beyond it. The heart is deceitful and desperately sick and is apt to convince sinners that they are already justified, if given the chance. This is why we make our calling and election sure, working out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Finally, our flesh trembles for fear of God and His judgments because we love our neighbor (Matthew 22:39). Our hearts are made new by the Holy Spirit and one of the primary effects is that we now possess a genuine love for our fellow man. Although marred by sin, we can see the imago Dei in even the most wicked of our brothers-in-Adam, and we humbly desire to see him made into our brother-in-Christ. God’s judgments are terrifying, and even though we have had those judgments diverted by His Son, we fear for our children, our parents, our neighbors, coworkers, and even our friends from church. We should tremble at the thought of God executing justice on sinners and do all we can to snatch them out of the fire (Jude 1:23;1 Corinthians 9:22). May we have the courage to act before it is too late.


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