Psalm 119:113
I hate vain thoughts: but your law do I love.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
SAMECH.

(113) I hate vain thoughts.—Rather, I hate men who halt between two opinions, following 1Kings 18:21, where the cognate noun from the same root, to divide, appears. Probably we are to think of those among the Jews who were for political reasons favourably inclined towards foreign customs and ideas, and who would not throw in their lot frankly and courageously with the national party.

SAMECH.

Psalm 119:113-115. I hate vain thoughts — Or, wild imaginations, as some render סעפים, a word which signifies the shootings, or branchings of the mind; namely, all wild, roving fancies, in opposition to the truth and solidity of God’s word. Thou art my hiding-place — See on Psalm 32:7. Depart from me, ye evil-doers — I will have no society, friendship, or conversation with you; for I will keep the commandments of my God —

Which your evil counsel or example might hinder me from keeping.119:113-120 Here is a dread of the risings of sin, and the first beginnings of it. The more we love the law of God, the more watchful we shall be, lest vain thoughts draw us from what we love. Would we make progress in keeping God's commands, we must be separate from evil-doers. The believer could not live without the grace of God; but, supported by his hand, his spiritual life shall be maintained. Our holy security is grounded on Divine supports. All departure from God's statutes is error, and will prove fatal. Their cunning is falsehood. There is a day coming which will put the wicked into everlasting fire, the fit place for the dross. See what comes of sin Surely we who fall so low in devout affections, should fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into heavenly rest, any of us should be found to come short of it, Heb 4:1.I hate vain thoughts - This commences a new portion of the psalm, distinguished by the Hebrew letter Samech (ס s), answering to our "s." The word rendered "vain thoughts" occurs only in this place. It is rendered by the Septuagint, παρανόμους paranomous - transgressors. So the Latin Vulgate. Luther renders it "die Flattergeister," the frivolous-minded. The word means divided; a man of a divided mind; a man who has no sure faith in regard to divine things, but is driven here and there; a sceptic; a doubter. Compare James 1:8. Thus it refers not to his own thoughts primarily, as being "vain" or worthless, but to a state of mind or heart in general, where there is no firmness, no stability, no settled view: a state of mind wavering, doubtful, skeptical, in regard to religion. What is implied here in reference to what he loved - by stating (in the way of contrast) what he "hated," - would be a mind which was settled in its convictions of truth, and firm in its adherence to truth; a mind which was steadfast in religion, and not vacillating, skeptical, or uncertain on the subject. This denotes that the psalmist sought such a state of mind for himself, and that he valued it in others.

But thy law do I love - I have no "divided" or unsettled feelings in regard to that. I am conscious of a firm attachment to it. This thought he has repeatedly expressed in the psalm.

SAMECH. (Ps 119:113-120).

113. vain thoughts—better, "unstable persons," literally, "divided men," those of a divided, doubting mind (Jas 1:8); "a double-minded man" [Hengstenberg], skeptics, or, skeptical notions as opposed to the certainty of God's word.

113 I hate vain thoughts; but thy law do Ilove.

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

"I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love." In this paragraph the Psalmist deals with thoughts and things and persons which are the opposite of God's holy thoughts and ways. He is evidently in great fear of the powers of darkness, and of their allies, and his whole soul is stirred up to stand against them with a determined opposition. Just as he began the octave, Psalm 119:97, with "O how I love thy law," so here he begins with a declaration of hatred against that which breaks the law. The opposite of the fixed and infallible law of God is the wavering, changing opinion of men David had an utter contempt and abhorrence for this; all his reverence and regard went to the sure word of testimony. In proportion to his love to the law was his hate of men's inventions. The thoughts of men are vanity; but the thoughts of God are verity. We hear much in these days of "men of thought," "thoughtful preachers," and "modern thought": what is this but the old pride of the human heart? Vain man would be wise. The Psalmist did not glory in his thoughts; and that which was called "thought" in his day was a thing which be detested. When man thinks his best, his highest thoughts are as far below those of divine revelation as the earth is beneath the heavens. Some of our thoughts are specially vain in the sense of vain-glory, pride, conceit, and self-trust; others in the sense of bringing disappointment, such as fond ambition, sinful dreaming, and confidence in man; in the sense of emptiness and frivolity, such as the idle thoughts and vacant romancings in which so many indulge; and, yet once more, too many of our thoughts are vain in the sense of being sinful, evil, and foolish. The Psalmist is not indifferent to evil thoughts as the careless are; but upon them he looks with a hate as true as was the love with which he clung to the pure thoughts of God.

The last octave was practical, this is thoughtful; there the man of God attended to his feet, and here to his heart, the emotions of the soul are as important as the acts of the life, for they are the fountain and spring from which the actions proceed. When we love the law it becomes a law of love, and we cling to it with our whole heart.

Psalm 119:114

"Thou art my hiding place and my shield." To his God he ran for shelter from vain thoughts; there he hid himself away from their tormenting intrusions, and in solemn silence of the soul he found God to be his hiding-place. When called into the world, if he could not be alone with God as his hiding-place, he could have the Lord with him as his shield, and by this means he could ward off the attacks of wicked suggestions. This is an experimental verse, and it testifies to that which the writer knew of his own personal knowledge: he could not fight with his own thoughts, or escape from them, till he flew to his God, and then he found deliverance. Observe that he does not speak of God's word as being his double defence, but he ascribes that to God himself. When we are beset by very spiritual assaults, such as those which arise out of vain thoughts, we shall do well to fly distinctly to the person of our Lord, and to cast ourselves upon his real presence. Happy is he who can truly say to the triune God, "Thou art my hiding-place." He has beheld God under that glorious covenant aspect which ensures to the beholder the surest consolation. "I hope in thy word." And well he might, since he had tried and proved it: he looked for protection from all danger, and preservation from all temptation to him who had hitherto been the tower of his defence on former occasions. It is easy to exercise hope where we have experienced help. Sometimes when gloomy thoughts afflict us, the only thing we can do is to hope, and, happily, the word of God always sets before us objects of hope and reasons for hope, so that it becomes the very sphere and support of hope, and thus tiresome thoughts are overcome. Amid fret and worry a hope of heaven is an effectual quietus.

continued...

SAMECH

Ver. 113. Thoughts -this word signifies thoughts, Job 4:13 20:2, or opinions, 1 Kings 18:21; which being indifferent to good and evil, is here taken in an evil sense, for vain thoughts, as we render it, or for thoughts, or opinions, or devices of men differing from or opposite to God’s law, as may be gathered from the next clause, where God’s law is opposed to these, and as some both Jewish and Christian expositors understand it. Nor is it unusual in the Hebrew text for one and the same word to be taken both in a good and an ill sense in several places; whereof we have one instance in a word of the same signification with this, mezimmah, which signifies a thought, and is sometimes taken in a good sense, as Proverbs 1:4 3:8 8:12 13:16 Jeremiah 51:11; but elsewhere in a bad sense, as Job 21:27 Psalm 10:2,4 Pr 12:2 14:17. The like hath been observed concerning another Hebrew word of the same or near signification, hormah which is taken in a good sense, Proverbs 1:4 13:16, &c., and in an ill sense, as Exodus 21:14 Joshua 9:4 Job 5:13. And the like may be said concerning this word also. But the ancient interpreters understand this word not of things, but of persons, and so it may be understood of men that think evil, that devise wicked devices, or that have false and evil opinions, opposite to God’s law, or tending to seduce men from it. SAMECH.--The Fifteenth Part.

SAMECH. I hate vain thoughts,.... Or thoughts: evil thoughts are undoubtedly meant, no other can be the object of hatred to a good man; they are such as are contrary to the law of God, and forbidden by it, mentioned in the next clause as the object of love, in opposition to these; and which are abominable to God, and defiling to men; should be forsaken, need pardon; and, if not pardoned, will be brought into judgment, and there exposed, and men punished for them. There are multitudes of these rise up in the minds of men, not only bad men, but good men; even sometimes atheistical blasphemous thoughts, as well as proud, haughty, revengeful, lustful, impure, and worldly ones; which, when observed by a good man, give him great concern and uneasiness, and raise a holy indignation in him against them. The word is used for the "opinions" of men; the ambiguous, doubtful, wavering, and inconstant sentiments of the mind, 1 Kings 18:21, and is used of branches, or the tops of trees, waved with the wind to and fro: and may be applied to all heterodox opinions, human doctrines, damnable heresies; such as are inconsistent with the perfections of God, derogate from his grace, and from the person and offices of Christ; and are contrary to the word, and which are therefore rejected and abhorred by good men. The Targum is,

"I hate those who think vain thoughts;''

and so Jarchi and Aben Ezra interpret it of persons, thinkers, or devisers of evil things; and to this sense are the Septuagint, Vulgate Latin, and all the Oriental versions; and which is approved of by Gussetius (k); even free thinkers, such as devise things out of their own brains, and regard not the law, doctrine, or word of God;

but thy law do I love; which forbids and condemns such vain and wicked thoughts, and requires pure and Holy Ones. Or, "thy doctrine"; which comes from God, is concerning him, and reveals his mind and will, his grace and love, to men; the doctrine of Christ, concerning his person, office, and work; the doctrine of the Scriptures, which contain the whole Gospel of Christ, as well as the law of God; the doctrine according to godliness, and which is good, sound, and wholesome, and to be received in the love of it.

(k) Ebr. Comment. p. 564.

SAMECH. I hate {a} vain thoughts: but thy law do I love.

(a) Whoever will embrace God's word correctly must abhor all fantasies and imaginations both of himself and others.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
113. vain thoughts] Rather as R.V., them that are of a double mind, unstable waverers, half Israelites, half heathen. Cp. 1 Kings 18:21; James 1:8.

113–120. Samech. The loyalty of the Psalmist and his hope contrasted with the faithlessness of the wicked and their fate.Verse 113. - I hate vain thoughts; rather, unstable or double-minded men (Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version); i.e. "those who are undecided in religion" (Cheyne). But thy Law do I love (comp. vers. 97, 119, 127, 159, 163). There is nothing "unstable" or ',double-minded" in thy Law. It is clear direct, unmistakable. The eightfold Nun. The word of God is his constant guide, to which he has entrusted himself for ever. The way here below is a way through darkness, and leads close past abysses: in this danger of falling and of going astray the word of God is a lamp to his feet, i.e., to his course, and a light to his path (Proverbs 6:23); his lamp or torch and his sun. That which he has sworn, viz., to keep God's righteous requirements, he has also set up, i.e., brought to fulfilment, but not without being bowed down under heavy afflictions in confessing God; wherefore he prays (as in Psalm 119:25) that God would revive him in accordance with His word, which promises life to those who keep it. The confessions of prayer coming from the inmost impulse of his whole heart, in which he owns his indebtedness and gives himself up entirely to God's mercy, he calls the free-will offerings of his mouth in Psalm 119:108 (cf. Psalm 50:14; Psalm 19:15). He bases the prayer for a gracious acceptance of these upon the fact of his being reduced to extremity. "To have one's soul in one's hand" is the same as to be in conscious peril of one's life, just as "to take one's soul into one's hand" (Judges 12:3; 1 Samuel 19:5; 1 Samuel 28:21; Job 13:14) is the same as to be ready to give one's life for it, to risk one's life.

(Note: Cf. B. Taanth 8a: "The prayer of a man is not answered אלא אם כן משׂים נפשׁו בכפו, i.e., if he is not ready to sacrifice his life.")

Although his life is threatened (Psalm 119:87), yet he does not waver and depart from God's word; he has taken and obtained possession of God's testimonies for ever (cf. Psalm 119:98); they are his "heritage," for which he willingly gives up everything else, for they (המּה inexactly for הנּה) it is which bless and entrance him in his inmost soul. In Psalm 119:112 it is not to be interpreted after Psalm 19:12 : eternal is the reward (of the carrying out of Thy precepts), but in Psalm 119:33 עקב is equivalent to לעד, and Psalm 119:44 proves that Psalm 119:112 need not be a thought that is complete in itself.

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