Hating Ambivalence: Psalm 119:113-120

Psalms 119:113-120

I hate the double-minded, but I love your law. . .  Psalm 119:113


If you are anything like me, you may wonder a bit each time you recite the first portion of this week’s passage: “I hate the double-minded…”  What about hating the sin but loving the sinner?  I have given this a lot of thought.

Two things come readily to mind. First and foremost, David was human, and the Psalms express a wide range of human emotions, honest and heartfelt but not always Godly. As we know, the underlying current of this whole psalm is passionate love for the Scriptures and for God Himself.

I cannot know, of course, but I think that these words are intended not so much as a judgment call on double-minded men but rather an expression of how zealous the psalmist is for undivided loyalty to his God.

Secondly, I cannot help but see the human tendency to generalize in David’s words. We all do it here or there because frankly, it is easier. For example, I’m sure many of the world’s people back in the late 1930s and early 1940s could have said just as broadly, “I hate Nazis,” when what they actually detested was more precisely the practices of the National Socialist Party: the persecution, oppression, violence, and disregard for human life.

I tend to believe David’s expression of hatred for “the double-minded” is similar. He probably does not actually despise men who are ambivalent, for certainly that would include his own sweet self at times. It is most likely the practice of double-mindedness that he deplores.

And for good reason. The idea behind the double-mindedness that seems to be conveyed here is a playing of both sides of the field; not necessarily of agonized indecision but of the refusal to make a decision, like a person who will not take sides in a conflict or sporting event until they are sure they can choose the winning side.

James, too, sharply rebukes this tendency of divided interests or instability in his epistle, even admonishing such people to “purify your hearts, you double-minded,” (see James 4:8, also James 1:7-8).  Double-mindedness is abhorrent, though like all crimes against the Almighty, I firmly believe we must loathe it most in ourselves.

However, I do not wholesale buy into the current propaganda that says if I disagree with the actions of another, I am hateful or judgmental.  By that logic, Hitler would have been as much in the right as those he persecuted! No, I can recognize sin in others without condemning them. It is part of our calling — to admonish each other, or as Hebrews 3:13 puts it, “to exhort one another… so that none… may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

Jesus,  in the same discourse where He warned us not to judge lest we be judged, also taught that we can recognize false teachers by their fruit (see Matthew 7). We are not to judge, but neither are we to be blind to sin in the world around us. Admittedly, this is a tricky path to tread; narrow enough that a false step will find us walking not on the path to life, but near it.

This is why we so need the lamp of God’s word to shine in our lives and our own hearts, illuminating the dark and secret areas of our own iniquitous thoughts so that they may be cast out and destroyed. For this very reason, it is vital to cultivate our personal relationship with the Most High, spending time in His Word and learning to hear and respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He now restrains our tongues from self-righteousness, now prompts us to speak in God-exalting boldness.

Now more than ever, we need the holy fear of God that David recorded at the end of this stanza so many years ago.

You are my hiding place and my shield, I hope in Your word… My flesh trembles for fear of You, and I am afraid of Your judgments. Psalm 119:114, 120

A holy reverence for God, a true and honest fear of the Almighty, brings with it a loathing of sin — all sin. If we could say, like David, “My flesh trembles for fear of you,” we would also detest any traces of duplicity or unbelief wherever they may occur simply because they dishonor our King and because they serve as a blockade between Him and the people He came to save.

But there is good news, because in Christ we have hope. By His sacrifice, we are forgiven and do not have to fear His judgments, though I believe that even in Christ, we would do well to be mindful of them! We can make Jesus our shield against the evil without and against the evil within, hiding even our footsteps in His as we follow carefully in His steps down the narrow path. And we can tell others the good news that, while we all are guilty of ambivalence, the sacrifice of the Lamb of God is enough to redeem us from it!

Oh, our God and Sovereign! Please forgive both us and our nation for our disrespect and for haughtiness before You. Teach our hearts to fear and love You as we ought, for we know that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Teach us to hate ambivalence and to flee from it; forgive our unbelief and help us to overcome it. 



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