God’s Word for You
Psalm 119:39 Take away my disgrace
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, June 11, 2023
39 Take away my disgrace which I dread;
for your judgments are good.
There is more than disgrace to dread from God. There is his judgment and the punishment we deserve. Our poet avoids the word “judgment” here in the first line because he uses the term judgment in the gospel sense as he does throughout the Psalm.
Most translations say “dread” in the first line, just as I have done. This is the verb yagor, as in Deuteronomy 9:19, “I feared the anger and wrath of the Lord,” and Deuteronomy 28:60, “all the distresses of Egypt that you dreaded.” There is a related word that is the noun “dread, terror” used throughout Jeremiah and in other places.
Dread comes upon us over our sins because God is consistent throughout his word: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Therefore we are all guilty as a human race without any exceptions. But then personally we all confess: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). Therefore I personally must acknowledge my sins. And we can’t help but agree with the Bible’s writers who say: “No one living is righteous before you” (Psalm 143:2). “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). And finally: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The dread of hell and of eternal punishment is terrible, unlike anything else that anyone can imagine or describe. The agonies of hell are far worse than any of us can imagine.
Luther puts this into cutting words but he includes comfort for us: “The flesh in which we daily live is of such a nature that is neither trusts nor believes in God. It is ever active in evil lusts and devices, so that we sin daily in word and deed, by what we do and fail to do. By this the conscience is thrown into unrest, so that it is afraid of God’s wrath and displeasure. So it loses the comfort and confidence derived from the gospel. Therefore, it is always necessary that we run here and receive consolation to comfort the conscience again.”
The cry of the poet, “Take away…,” preaches the gospel to us, because God answers this cry with his own Son. We have no reason to expect anything from God but his judgment, and yet “He gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). “I will heal their waywardness and love them freely, for my anger has turned away from them” (Hosea 14:4).
That God would turn his wrath away from us! He remains holy and he retains his justice in this, because even though we deserved to be condemned to hell, Jesus stepped in and took our punishment upon himself. God made the only one who was without sin to be sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). On the cross, Jesus was punished for each and every one of our sins. Because of the crucifixion of Jesus, the whole world has been declared to be not guilty of our sins. People either believe this or they don’t, but our faith does not change the fact of the crucifixion. Our faith simply apprehends the results of the crucifixion for ourselves, and we remain bound to Christ through faith, whereas the unbelief of those who reject Christ lets all his benefits slip through their fingers as they remain bound to their sins through their unbelief. “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood” (Romans 3:25).
God’s holiness and his goodness remain whether an unbeliever is condemned on account of his unbelief, or whether a believer is saved on account of his faith, “for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). And as Jesus also said, “Whoever does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16). So we praise God for our faith, and we stand in awe of his mercy, that he would offer his grace to sinners like ourselves. Who deserves his love less than we do? Yet he loved us “with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), and he has prepared a country for us (Hebrews 11:16), and a city for us (Revelation 21:10), and a room for each one of us (John 14:6), in Paradise.
Pastor Timothy Smith