The insolent utterly deride me,
but I do not turn away from your law.
Psalm 119:51 ESV
In this verse, the psalmist resolves that the derision of the insolent will not turn him away from God’s law. We can safely root his determination in two previous verses. First, we need only to look back to the previous verse, in which he rejoiced that God’s life-giving promise supplied comfort in the midst of affliction. What is the derision of the insolent if not a form of affliction, of persecution? God’s law and promise refer to the same book, the Scriptures.
Second, we should recall verse 21: “You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones, who wander from your commandments.” As we noted of that verse, the rebuke of the insolent is not a conviction that leads to life but a condemnation that forebodes eternal death. They are perpetually accursed because their prideful insolence has led them to reject God’s commandments in favor of their own will and desires. Knowing, therefore, their accursed status surely helps to fortify the psalmist’s resolve not to turn from God’s law, which would be to join them in their insolence. Indeed, Asaph speaks to this principle in Psalm 73, where his envy of the arrogant caused him to nearly slip and stumble. The cure for his envy was given whenever he “discerned their end” (73:17).
While pride is the perennial sin of the human heart, love and devotion to God’s Word is certainly held in derision today by many who happily rejoice in their insolence as though it were a virtue. It can be tempting, in the face of their jeers, to despair and turn away from God’s law, to establish qualifiers without limit for why we hold to God’s Word or to abandon it outright. However, let us remember their end and keep from joining in their wandering away from the LORD’s commandments. And even if they continue to deride us utterly, let us cling all the more to the promise of God’s Word, finding comfort for our souls therein.