Reading the Bible as the Offender, Not the Victim (Meditation on Psalm 119:85-86)
The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law. All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!
You know the story. David, guilty of adultery, deception, murder, and many other sins, is in about a year’s worth of dullness. He has drifted so far that he has become apathetic towards the sins he has committed. You may ask how we could assume that David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, could actually be so ignorant and callous. I mean, come on, David had a clear anointing from the Lord, was given a promise of his lineage and inheritance, had already penned divinely inspired Scripture, and was King of God’s chosen people. Is it actually possible that this man could go for so long, being so ignorant of the depths of his waywardness? Could he actually be that blind to his sin?
2 Samuel 12 reveals that this was exactly the state of David. Nathan comes to him, sent by the LORD, and tells him a story. The story is one of sin and injustice, and the Bible says that David’s anger was greatly kindled against the sinner in this story. In fact, David says that the man who has committed this sin deserves to die. What is shocking about David’s conclusion though, is not just that he thought the man was deserving of death because of what he did, but also because of his response to what he did. 2 Samuel 12:5-6 says “Then David's anger was greatly kindled against the man, and he said to Nathan, “As the Lord lives, the man who has done this deserves to die, and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.” David felt the man was especially sinful not just because of the actual sin, but because of the response he gave to his sin. He had no pity, no mercy. There was no remorse, sorrow, or repentance. The man was dull. He was apathetic. Nathan looks at David and says, “You are the man!”
Think about this... the LORD is sending Nathan to confront David’s sin. But the message isn’t just “David you sinned because you committed adultery, lied, and murdered”, but also, “David you sinned, and you continue to sin by showing no remorse, sorrow, or repentance. You have no pity.” This apathetic ignorance is sin.
Read our verses again in Psalm 119:85-86: “The insolent have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your law. All your commandments are sure; they persecute me with falsehood; help me!”
Don’t jump to a conclusion here. These verses beg of us to answer one question: am I the arrogant one digging pits, or am I the humble one trusting in God’s faithful Word for help?
Some of you are reading these two verses and you automatically relate to the one being persecuted. You feel like everyone is out to get you. People are spreading lies. Everyone else is arrogant. Everyone else is at fault. You are innocent, and without blemish. You are reading this and jumping into a victim mentality full of rage, and slandering in your mind, or to anyone who will listen, about everyone who has wronged you. But it may be that you need to pause and hear someone like Nathan say from the LORD “you are that man/woman”. When we read a verse like this we should always pause, and if we are to make an assumption, we should assume that we are the one in need of repentance.
The reality is, that the more sanctified we become, the more we see the gap between our filthy sin and God’s glorious holiness.
Isaiah, in a moment of glorious grace and mercy, is brought into the very throne room of God. Isaiah was living in the midst of wicked people. He could have used this opportunity to relish in his personal invite into the throne room of God. He could have boasted in his supposed greater calling or holiness. He could have pointed and told God about all the pits people were digging for him to fall into. He could have pled his case about all the lies about him, and how he was undeserving of such affliction. But what does Isaiah do? Isaiah 6:5 “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” In the presence of God’s holiness, Isaiah sees his own sin. No one else’s. He sees his own desperate need for mercy. Isaiah was too caught up in the great distance between himself and God because of his sin, that he had no time to complain or compare. Woe is me.
This is how we should respond to these two verses in Psalm 119. Woe is me. Even if you are truly being persecuted and pursued by arrogant, haughty, evil men. Even if the wicked are digging holes all around you and slandering you with falsehood. Respond like David would: ”Help me.” If David was the author of Psalm 119, I could imagine him reminiscing in these verses. The David from 2 Samuel probably would have been outraged by such persecution and called for the heads of all the wicked. But not here. Here, I would imagine that the man after God’s own heart would be reminded that he does indeed deserve death. He may be smeared with falsehood now, but he would be reminded that he is indeed guilty before a holy God. So, what he does is cry for the LORD’s help.
That’s what I want my response to be. Sure, people may be digging me pits. Sure, there may be lies being spread about me. But the truth is, I have dug pits myself. I have spread falsehood. And I am guilty of breaking God’s holy law. Oh God, help me not to be like David in 2 Samuel, but to be like David in Psalm 51. Help me not to be without pity, sorrow, and repentance, but rather help me to plead with you for mercy according to your steadfast love. Lord, I’ve read these verses. I am that man. Be gracious to me. Against you, you only have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight. Create in me a clean heart oh God. Renew a right spirit within me. God help me. God sanctify me. I trust in You and Your faithful Word. And when real affliction comes, may I say just like David, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” (Psalm 56:3-4).