Psalm 119:113

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 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, Psalms 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 man'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 he 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; others in the sense of emptiness and frivolity, such as the idle thoughts and vacant romancing 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.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 113. -- I hate vain thoughts or, the evil devices; or, the double hearted imaginations; or, the intermeddling, counter coursing thoughts: that is to say, that kind of practice of some men, that sail with every wind, and seek still to have two strings to their bow. The Hebrew word doth properly signify boughs Or branches, which shoot up perplexedly or confusedly in a tree. --Theodore Haak, 1618-1657.

Verse 113. -- I hate vain thoughts. In those vacant hours which are spared from business, pleasure, company, and sleep, and which are spent in solitude, at home or abroad; unprofitable, proud, covetous, sensual, envious, or malicious imaginations, occupy the minds of ungodly men, and often infect their very dreams. These are not only sinful in themselves, indicating the state of their hearts, and as such will be brought into the account at the day of judgment; but they excite the dormant corruptions, and lead to more open and gross violations of the holy law. The carnal mind welcomes and delights to dwell upon these congenial imaginations, and to solace itself by ideal indulgences, when opportunity of other gratification is not presented, or when a man dares not commit the actual transgression. But the spiritual mind recoils at them; such thoughts will intrude from time to time, but they are unwelcome and distressing, and are immediately thrust out; while other subjects, from the word of God, are stored up in readiness to occupy the mind more profitably and pleasantly during the hours of leisure and retirement. There is no better test of our true character, than the habitual effect of "vain thoughts" upon our minds -- whether we love and indulge them, or abhor, and watch and pray against them. -- Thomas Scott, 1747-1821.

Verse 113. -- I hate vain thoughts, A godly man may have roving thoughts in duty. Sad experience proves this; the thoughts will be dancing up and down in prayer. The saints are called stars; but many times in duty they are wandering stars. The heart is like quicksilver which will not fix. It is hard to tie two good thoughts together; we cannot lock our hearts so close, but that distracting thoughts, like wind, will get in. Hierom complains of himself; "Sometimes," saith he, "when I am about God's service, I am walking in the galleries, or casting up accounts." But these wandering thoughts are not allowed: "I hate vain thoughts," they come as unwelcome guests, which are no sooner spied, but turned out of doors. --Thomas Watson.

Verse 113. -- I hate. Every dislike of evil is not sufficient; but perfect hatred is required of us against all sorts and degrees of sin. --David Dickson.

Verse 113. -- Vain thoughts. The word is used for the opinions of men; 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 son and offices of Christ; and are contrary to the word, and which are therefore rejected and abhorred by good men. --John Gill.

Verse 113. -- Vain thoughts. Hebrew, "sedphim", halting between two opinions. See 1Ki 18:21. Hence it signifies sceptical doubts. --Christopher Wordsworth.

Verse 113. -- Vain thoughts. Our thoughts are set upon trifles and frivolous things, neither tending to our own profit nor the benefit of others: "The heart of the wicked is little worth;" all their debates, conceits, musings, are of no value: for all their thoughts are taken up about childish vanity and foolish conceits. "The thought of foolishness is sin" ( Proverbs 24:9 ); not only the thought of wickedness, but foolishness. Thoughts are the firstborn of the soul, the immediate issues of the mind; yet we lavish them away upon every trifle. Follow men all the day long, and take account of their thoughts. Oh! what madness and folly are in all the musings they are conscious of: "The Lord knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity" ( Psalms 94:11 ). If we did judge as God judges, all the thoughts, reasonings, discourses of the mind, if they were set down in a table, we might write at the bottom, Here is the sum and total account of all, -- nothing but vanity.

The sins that do most usually engross and take up our thoughts are,

First. Uncleanness. Speculative wickedness makes way for active: "Hath committed adultery...in his heart" ( Matthew 5:28 ). There is a polluting ourselves by our thoughts, and this sin usually works that way.

Secondly. Revenge. Liquors are soured when long kept; so, when we dwell upon discontents, they turn to revenge. Purposes of revenge are most sweet and pleasant to carnal nature: "Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually" ( Proverbs 6:14 ), that is to say, he is full of revengeful and spiteful thoughts.

Thirdly. Envy. It is a sin that feeds upon the mind. Those songs of the women, that Saul had slain his thousands, but David his ten thousands, they ran in Saul's mind, therefore he hated David ( 1 Samuel 18:9 ). Envy is an evil disease that dwelleth in the heart, and betrays itself mostly in thoughts.

Fourthly. Pride. Either pride in the desires or pride in the mind, either vain glory or self conceit; this is entertaining our hearts with whispers of vanity: therefore it is said, "He hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts" ( Luke 1:51 ): proud men are full of imaginations.

Fifthly. Covetousness, which is nothing but vain musings and exercises of the heart: "A heart they have exercised with covetous practices" ( 2 Peter 2:14 ). And it withdraws the heart in the very time of God's worship: "Their heart goeth after their covetousness" (Eze 33:31).

Sixthly. Distrust is another thing which usually takes up our thoughts -- distracting motions against God's providence. --Thomas Manton.

Verse 113. -- Vain thoughts. Let us see what vanity is. Take it in all the acceptances of it, it is true of our thoughts that they are "vain."

  1. It is taken for unprofitableness. So, Ecclesiastes 1:2-3 , "All is vain," because there is "no profit in them under the sun." Such are our thoughts by nature; the wisest of them will not stand us in any stead in time of need, in time of temptation, distress of conscience, day of death or judgment: 1 Corinthians 2:6 , "All the wisdom of the wise comes to nought"; Proverbs 10:20 . "The heart of the wicked is little worth," not a penny for them all.
  2. Vanity is taken for lightness. "Lighter than vanity," is a phrase used, Ps 62:9; and whom is it spoken of? Of men; and if anything in them be lighter than other, it is their thoughts, which swim in the uppermost parts, float at the top, are as the scum of the heart. When all the best, and wisest, and deepest, and solidest thoughts in Belshazzar, a prince, were weighed, they were found too light, Daniel 5:27 .
  3. Vanity is put for folly. So, Proverbs 12:11 , "vain men" is made all one with men "void of understanding." Such are our thoughts. Among other evils which are said to "come out of the heart" ( Mark 7:22 ), afrsvcnh is reckoned as one, "foolishness"; that is, thoughts that are such as madmen have, and fools -- nothing to the purpose, of which there can be made no use.
  4. Vanity is put for inconstancy and frailty; therefore vanity and a shadow are made synonymous, Psalms 144:4 . Such are our thoughts, flitting and perishing, as bubbles: Psalms 144:4 , "All their thoughts perish."
  5. Lastly, they are wicked and sinful. Vanity is Jeremiah 4:14 yoked with wickedness, and vain men and sons of Belial are all one, 2 Chronicles 8:7 . And such are our thoughts by nature: Proverbs 14:9 , "The thought of foolishness is sin." And therefore a man is to be humbled for a proud thought. --Thomas Goodwin.

Verse 113. -- But thy law do I love Ballast your heart with a love to God. Love will, by a pleasing violence bind down our thoughts: if it doth not establish our minds, they will be like a cork, which, with a light breath, and a short curl of water, shall be tossed up and down from its station. Scholars that love learning will be continually hammering upon some notion or other which may further their progress, and as greedily clasp it as the iron will its beloved loadstone. He that is "winged with a divine love" to Christ will have frequent glances and flights toward him, and will start out from his worldly business several times in a day to give him a visit. Love, in the very working, is a settling grace; it increaseth our delight in God, partly by the sight of his amiableness, which is cleared to us in the very act of loving; and partly by the recompences he gives to the affectionate carriage of his creature; both which will prevent the heart's giving entertainment to such loose companions as evil thoughts. --Stephen Charnock.

Verse 113-114. -- When David was able to vouch his love to the command, he did not question his title to the promise. Here he asserts his sincere affection to the precepts: "I hate vain thoughts: but thy law do I love." Mark he doth not say he is free from vain thoughts, but he "hates" them, he likes their company no better than one would a pack of thieves that break into his house. Neither saith he that he fully kept the law, but he "loved" the law even when he failed of exact obedience to it. Now from this testimony his conscience brought in for his love to the law, his faith acts clearly and strongly on the promise in the next words, "Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word." --William Gurnall.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Outlines Upon Keywords of the Psalm, By Pastor C. A. Davis.

Verse 113-120. -- Vain thoughts contrasted with God's law. The believer takes sides (Ps 119:113-115); prays for upholding in the law ( Psalms 119:116-117 ); contemplates the fate of the followers of vain thoughts ( Psalms 119:118-119 ); and expresses the godly fear thereby inspired ( Psalms 119:120 ).

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 113. -- The thought of the age, and the truth of all ages.

Verse 113. --

  1. The object of hatred.
  2. The object of love.

OR

  1. Love the cause of hatred.
  2. Hatred the effect of love. --G.R.

Verse 113. -- Vain thoughts. What they are. Whence they arise. The mischief they cause. How they should be treated. --W.H.J.P.

Verse 113. -- How the believer --

  1. Is troubled by vain thoughts. A frequent and painful experience:
  2. Does not tolerate vain, thoughts. Some, suffer them to lodge within; he is anxious to expel them.
  3. Triumphs over vain thoughts. By his love to the law of God. His prayer is --
"With thoughts of Christ and things divine,
Fill up this foolish heart of mine." --W.H.J.P.