Take away from me scorn and contempt,
for I have kept your testimonies.
Psalm 119:22 ESV
This verse seems to be a natural follow-up to the previous one. Having remembered that God rightly rebukes the insolent ones who bring the LORD’s curse upon themselves by wandering from His commandments, the psalmist now pleads for a different, kinder treatment from the LORD, for he has kept God’s testimonies rather than wandering from them. Yet if the psalmist has kept God’s law, what scorn and contempt is he facing?
The most likely answer would seem to be the insolent wanderers themselves. Indeed, the pattern of history supports such an interpretation. Those who knowingly wander from God’s Word are very often the foremost at casting scorn and contempt upon those who keep it. The obedience of the godly is a perpetual sting in the heart of the disobedient, for the insolent see an outside manifestation of their own inner conscience in the lives of the righteous. This is why Elijah was such a thorn in the side of Ahab and Jezebel. The same with Jeremiah to Zedekiah, or John the Baptist to Herod, or Jesus to the Pharisees. The wicked hate and scorn the righteous because their holy conduct exposes the lie that they continue to them themselves. Therefore, the psalmist is crying to the LORD for relief from the suffering that has come from his own obedience to God’s commandments.
The same is still true today. Obedience to God’s Word does not negate or protect us from all worldly suffering. In fact, in many ways, it may only invite suffering. Yet Christ has told us, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). Indeed, our Lord modeled this for us by bearing the scorn and contempt of our very sin upon Himself at the cross. Let us, therefore, cry to the LORD for relief when reviled for Christ’s sake, yet do so remembering that such scorn is blessedness in God’s kingdom.