Psalm 119:21-23 reads, “Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments. Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies. Princes also did sit and speak against me: but thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.”
As we consider the message of these three verses, a contrast is revealed to us. In this passage we find a contrast revealed between the proud of this world and the servant of the Lord. Psalm 119:21 speaks concerning the proud of this world, saying, “Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed, which do err from thy commandments.” Whereas, the closing portion of Psalm 119:23 speaks concerning the servant of the Lord, saying, “But thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.” First, this contrast can be seen in the definition of their character. On the one had is the category of the proud ones; on the other hand is the category of the Lord’s servants. Clearly there is contrast between pride and servanthood. Second, this contrast can be seen in their relationship to God’s Word. The closing portion of Psalm 119:21 speaks concerning the proud of this world, saying, “Which do err from thy commandments.” Whereas, the closing portion of Psalm 119:22 speaks concerning the servant of the Lord, saying, “For I have kept thy testimonies;” and the closing portion of verse 23 adds, “But thy servant did meditate in thy statutes.” The proud of this world err from and rebel against God’s Word; whereas, the servant of the Lord keeps and meditates in God’s Word. Third, this contrast can be seen in their position in this world. The opening portion of Psalm 119:23 describes the proud of this world as princes. Whereas, the opening portion of Psalm 119:22 indicates that the servant of the Lord was under “reproach and contempt.” So then, the proud ones are often in the position of success; whereas, the Lord’s servants are often in a position of contempt.
Yet in this passage, not only is a contrast revealed, but also a conflict is indicated. The opening portion of Psalm 119:23 indicates that the proud of this world, who are in positions of success, are the very ones who speak against the servants of the Lord, the very ones who pour out reproach and contempt upon the servants of the Lord. So then, there is not simply a contrast between these two categories, but also a conflict between them. However, in this passage there is also a comfort provided unto the servants of the Lord. Although at the present time the servants of the Lord may be in a position of reproach and contempt, spoken against by the proud of this world, yet the servants of the Lord are also in a position to call out in prayer unto the Lord for deliverance. In Psalm 119:22 the psalmist, this servant of the Lord, did just that, praying, “Remove from me reproach and contempt; for I have kept thy testimonies.” In addition, while in the midst of reproach and contempt from the proud of this world, the servants of the Lord also possess the comforting assurance that the Lord will eventually judge the proud and will deliver His servants thereby. Even so, in the opening portion of Psalm 119:21, the psalmist, this servant of the Lord, expressed his assurance, saying, “Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed.”
So then, for the remainder of this message, let us focus our attention upon what this passage says about the proud of this world. In Psalm 119:21-23 we encounter the character of the proud, the conduct of the proud, the contempt of the proud, and the curse of the proud.
The Character of the Proud
The character of these individuals is revealed through their designation. They are “the proud.” They are characterized by pride in heart. Their heart is lifted up with pride against the Lord. There is no fear of God before their eyes. In pride they will not seek after the Lord nor submit unto His will. In pride they are determined to go their own way, to live their lives the way that they choose. They are both pure and wise in their own eyes. They refuse instruction and correction. They think more highly of themselves than they ought to think. They boast of their heart’s desire. They trust in their own wisdom, skill, power, and wealth. They believe that they can never be moved from the position of success. They believe that they will always be able to solve any problem that they might face. They believe that they can get away with anything. They acknowledge no authority over them and no accountability for them. They speak proud things. They speak loftily against the Lord and against others. They speak to honor themselves, to proclaim their own goodness. In pride they will look down with contempt upon others. In pride they will despise and mistreat others. In pride they will stir up strife. In pride they will engage in conflict and contention simply to get their own way. In pride they will selfishly take from others in order to obtain for themselves. In pride they will become angry, bitter, and even violent when they do not get their own way. In pride they are ever covetous of more. They love positions of honor and recognition from others. They hate and avoid serving others. They are self-sufficient, self-satisfied, self-righteous, self-advancing, self-honoring, and self-deceived. This is the character of the proud. And this is the question to be faced – Are we ourselves of this proud character?
The Conduct of the Proud
The conduct of these proud individuals is revealed in the closing portion of Psalm 119:21. Therein the psalmist described them, saying, “Which do err from thy commandments.” They have no interest in a walk of obedience unto the Lord. They are determined to go their own way. They have no desire to submit themselves unto the Lord’s way. Even so, Psalm 10:4 declares, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” The ways of the proud are always grievous in the sight of the Lord, for the proud of this world reject and rebel against the principles and precepts of God’s Word. They will not turn at the reproof of God’s Word. They continue stubbornly in their own way. This is the conduct of the proud.
The Contempt of the Proud
The contempt of the proud is that contempt which they pour out upon the Lord’s faithful servants. In the opening portion of Psalm 119:22, the psalmist prayed unto the Lord, saying, “Remove from me reproach and contempt.” Then in the opening portion of Psalm 119:23, he revealed the source of that reproach and contempt, saying, “Princes also did sit and speak against me.” Again in the opening portion of Psalm 119:51, the psalmist, this faithful servant of the Lord, stated, “The proud have had me greatly in derision.” Yet again in the opening portion of Psalm 119:69, the psalmist stated, “The proud have forged a lie against me.” And yet again in Psalm 119:85 the psalmist stated, “The proud have digged pits for me, which are not after thy law.” In like manner, David stated in Psalm 140:5, “The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah.” Even so, the opening portion of Psalm 10:2 declares, “The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor.” Indeed, the proud of this world “speak grievous things proudly and contemptuously against the righteous.” (Psalm 31:18)
The Curse of the Proud
The curse of the proud is that rebuke and curse which the Lord our God Himself brings upon them. The opening statement of Psalm 119:21 is just this, “Thou hast rebuked the proud that are cursed.” Even so, the opening portion of Proverbs 15:25 proclaims, “The LORD will destroy the house of the proud.” Again Proverbs 16:5 proclaims, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.” Yet again Isaiah 2:10-12 proclaims, “Enter into the rock, and hide thee in the dust, for fear of the LORD, and for the glory of his majesty. The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the LORD of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low.” And yet again in Isaiah 13:11 the Lord our God proclaims, “And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.” Indeed, the Lord our God “resisteth the proud.” (James 4:6) Yet He pours out His grace upon the humble. Therefore, this message should drive conviction into our hearts if we are those who are walking in pride. If we are the proud ones, then we must come to repentance.
Yet this message should also bring comfort unto our hearts if we are those who are being oppressed by the proud. Our Lord’s promised curse upon them is His promised deliverance for us. Even so, in Psalm 12:3-5 the promise is given, “The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things: who have said, With our tongue will we prevail; our lips are our own: who is lord over us? For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the LORD; I will set him in safety from him that puffeth at him.” Again in Psalm 18:25-27 the assurance is expressed, “With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; with the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.”
Posted in Weekly Sermon, Psalms, Serving the Lord, Suffering for Righteousness, Sinful Pride, Rebellion against God, Judgment of Our Lord