Meditation on Psalm 119:53-54
Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law. Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.
What a statement! Hot indignation seizes me! What in the world does that mean? Well, this word is used only 3 times in the Bible. The word has a lot associated with it: a fierce wind, a famine, something horrible and terrifying. But perhaps the best definition you can find is horror. William Plumer says that this horror is “terror mixed with detestation.” It is utter fear mixed with downright hatred. The Psalmist is not mincing words here. He says that there is a horror that is coming upon him like a bitter negative 20 degree wind in Liverpool, NY. It is chilling to the bone. But it doesn’t just come and go. The word implies (as stated before) a famine. Well, when someone is starving, typically you don’t go through waves of hunger, but rather you are constantly filled with an unquenchable knot in your stomach that longs for food. This is what is happening here. The Psalmist has this fierce, bitter, and unending wind of fear and hatred gnawing at his soul. And why? What is the cause? What is blowing this wind? It is the wicked. But not just the people. No, but the wicked’s complete rejection and abandoning of God’s law.
The reason this is so intense for the Psalmist is because in his regenerate state he has found the Word of God to be the table in which he feasts on eternal joy, unquenchable hope, and unexplainable peace. In fact, the Psalmist loves these statutes so much that he sings them. They are his songs! Take my one year old daughter whom I love for example. I think about how she came into my life just last year and how I have grown to love her, serve her, and delight in her. She has changed my life. She consumes my thoughts, my decisions, my words, my songs. Now imagine a group of people comes up to my sweet daughter and spits in her face and walks away slandering and threatening her. They mock my daughter and treat her like the most appalling waste of life. Hot indignation would seize me. And not just because of who these people are, but rather what they have done. Not just that they have rejected something, but that they have rejected what I love so much. That is what the Psalmist is saying. He is full of horror, not simply because of the wicked, but because the wicked are rejecting the epitome of glory.
The Psalmist is sojourning. He is probably in exile. A pilgrim in a foreign land. Probably the land of the wicked he is talking about. Think back to my illustration. Can you imagine these same people who spit on my daughter and are rejecting her then taking me away from her and making me live with them where they continually mock her and reject her? Oh how I would be overcome with horror, and fear, and terror. Like a bitter cold that is relentlessly chewing away at my body. My mind would think of my daughter. I would remember the moments I was with her. I would think about her voice. I would ponder her ways. I would sing the songs I used to sing with her. These moments would be the only joy I had in this evil place. This was the Psalmist living in exile, and most likely among these wicked men. Away from the sanctuary. Away from his people. Outside the gate. But the law of God was engraved on his heart, and therefore as he meditated on God’s law he responded with delight through song.
This is the balance needed for believers. This is the tough paradox. That we are to be the most joy filled people, and yet we must be the most sorrowful. We are joyful and sing glorious songs of God’s law because we have been saved through Christ. We are now justified before our holy God who sees us through Christ righteousness and is sanctifying us to become more like Christ in our actions and our affections. And yet at the same time, we live in the midst of evil men who hate God and hate His law. Not only that but we know, and look on with great sorrow, that they will spend an eternity under God’s wrath if God doesn’t sovereignly intervene and save them. What joy. And yet, what sorrow.
William Plumer says “We cannot be too tenderly or deeply concerned for the case of the wicked. It is frightful to contemplate. The dishonor they bring on God, the misery and scandal they bring on their fellow-men, the anguish and ruin they bring on themselves, are really more terrible than any has ever conceived them to be. In the eyes of every regenerate man iniquity is a wonderful and horrible thing.”
Calvin tells us that the fear of God ought to kindle a holy indignation in our heart. This Psalmist deeply detested all ungodliness and making light of sin and evil. Regenerate people grow in their taste for holiness and continue to lose the desire to feed on wickedness. And since we are pilgrims in this world, we need God’s Word to guide us, God’s Spirit to seal us, and God’s promise of sanctification to lead us safely home.
I pray that God gives us great sorrow for those who are under His wrath. May we pray without ceasing that God would graciously save them. I pray that we grow in our hatred of evil. May we hate every trace of it that lingers in our own regenerate life. I pray that as we walk as sojourners on this earth that we would abide in, delight in, and obey God’s Word. May we sing the Word of God and long for the day that we will see Him face to face, worshipping Him for all eternity.