Our Hiding Place in Psalm 119, Samekh

Deadly tornadoes recently ripped through the Midwest, destroying towns and taking lives, leaving a distressing wake of devastation and despair.

If you live in the Midwest, you know there is only one thing to do if a tornado threatens: take shelter. That is why most homes are constructed with a basement. When the tornado sirens wail, we hide out in our basements until the all clear sounds.

Do you feel as if tornado sirens are screaming in your life? Do troubles and trials cause you to cower in your emotional cellar?

Take heart! Believers need not tremble in fear of earthly storms or wicked attacks. God is our shelter and shield.

This fifteenth section of Psalm 119 repeatedly contrasts the deceitful wicked (who will be destroyed) with the faithful righteous (who will be upheld). The Hebrew letter “Samekh” is a symbol of support and protection, concepts implied in this section’s initial verses: 

I hate the double-minded,
   but I love your law.
You are my hiding place and my shield;
   I hope in your word (113-114, ESV).

The believer who loves God’s law can rightly hate those who claim to love his law, but do evil. God is the true believer’s hiding place and shield. Our hope is in his word.

Our longing for freedom from attack has a purpose:

Depart from me, you evildoers,
   that I may keep the commandments of my God (115, ESV).

The desired peace provides opportunity to serve God with an obedient life. The believer who hopes in God’s word will not be shamed and will be kept safe (verses 116-117, ESV):

Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live,
   and let me not be put to shame in my hope!
Hold me up, that I may be safe
   and have regard for your statutes continually!

The believer does not desire rescue for his or her own glory, but all for God’s. God is glorified when we continually obey in every area of our lives.

Although it may appear that the wicked triumph over the righteous, God will not allow the deceitful person to genuinely succeed. God will destroy the wicked.

You spurn all who go astray from your statutes,
   for their cunning is in vain.
All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross,
   therefore I love your testimonies (118-119, ESV).

God spurns those who stray from his statutes. He causes their cunning devices to disappear like the brilliant flashes of showy fireworks that fade into smokey trails. As God refines believers in the fire of affliction, he discards the wicked like dull dross. This knowledge increases our love for God and his word!

The final verse of this section about God’s support and protection reminds us not to fear those who can kill the body, but to fear only him who can destroy the soul (Matthew 10:28).

My flesh trembles for fear of you,
   and I am afraid of your judgments (120, ESV).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 111:10). Fearing him does not mean shaking in worry and concern about your life, but trembling in awe and reverence before his majestic holiness.

Do not worry about the judgments of men; take comfort that Christ has redeemed your life and your eternal future is secure. God is our hiding place and our shield!


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