Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord,
your salvation according to your promise.
Then I shall have an answer for those who taunt me,
for I trust in your word.
Do not take the word of truth utterly out of my mouth,
for my hope is in your ordinances.
I will keep your law continually,
for ever and ever.
I shall walk at liberty,
for I have sought your precepts.
I will also speak of your decrees before kings,
and shall not be put to shame;
I find my delight in your commandments,
because I love them.
I revere your commandments, which I love,
and I will meditate on your statutes.
This section of the psalm opens with two of my favorite words in Hebrew: חסד (hesed) which means “steadfast love” or “mercy” and ישועה (yeshua) which means “salvation” or “deliverance.” As I’ve blogged before, the word hesed describes the kind of loyalty that you have for family. It’s not just mercy in the sense of forgiveness (which is a different word). But it is often translated as mercy because when we treat people with hesed, we are merciful with their shortcomings.
But it’s helpful to remember that hesed has to do with family love because God saves us by making us part of his family as the Bible explains in Hebrews 2 and other places. Psalm 42 says about God that his panim or “face” is “salvation.” We know we are in the safety of God’s family when we can feel His countenance shining on us.
In this case, the psalmist is requesting deliverance from his haters (“those who taunt him,” חרפי). The root word in Hebrew from which we get Satan (שטן) actually means “to accuse.” Our biggest hater is Satan and the haters we face in our lives are doing the work of Satan. I think it’s important to understand that this is the foundation for Satan’s identity. The snake in the garden tempts Eve by accusing God of lying. The way we fall into sin is through becoming cynical about the idea that our Creator loves us and has a plan for our lives.
I don’t know whether you believe in Satan or not. I believe in Satan but not as the cheesy little red man with a pitchfork. Certainly the hellfire preachers with a 2nd grade education have done a great disservice to us by creating a corny caricature of Satan that no thoughtful person could think was real. But there is some sick force or being in the universe that makes cynicism so delightful. There’s a nasty voice in my brain that often ridicules others and other times turns on me in its cruel taunting.
I need salvation from this nasty voice. I wrote my last post about the ugly fame-lust that haunts me in my writing vocation. There are many other hideous things that I’m coaxed into thinking by the nasty voice I call Satan. So how can I be liberated from my taunter?
Through God’s word, according to the psalm. It says, ” I shall have an answer for those who taunt me, for I trust in your word.” In Hebrew, the word for “word,” דבר (dabar), is used in both places. God gives me a dabar for those who taunt
me as long as I trust in his dabar. So it’s yet another reason to love God’s word, because it protects me from the voices of hate and cynicism. As long as “the word of truth” is “in my mouth,” I am protected from being “put to shame.” My soul is going to be a contested battleground until I enter into full communion with God but as long as “my hope is in his ordinances,” I will be victorious.