Psalm 119:21

Psalm 119: An Exposition
Charles Bridges

"You rebuke the proud--the cursed,
who stray from your commandments."

Let the histories of Cain, Pharaoh, Haman, Nebuchadnezzar, and Herod display the proud under the rebuke and curse of God. He abhors their persons and their offerings, he knows them from afar, he resists them, and he scatters them in the imaginations of their hearts. They are especially hateful in his sight when cloaking themselves under a spiritual garb. They say, "Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am holier than you!" But God says, "These are smoke in my nostrils, a fire that burns all the day" (Isa. 65:5).

This sin is most of all an abomination in his own beloved people. Pride influences all who stray from the Lord's commandments. Yet, no doubt, the Righteous Judge will make an infinite difference between errors of infirmity and obstinate willfulness. The confession of the man of God -- "I have gone astray like a lost sheep" -- is widely different in character from the subjects of this awful rebuke and curse: "You reject all those who stray from your statutes, for their deceit is falsehood."

We cannot be surprised at this expression of the mind of God concerning pride. There is no sin more abhorrent to his character. It is as if we were taking the crown from his head and placing it upon our own. It is man making a god of himself, acting from himself and for himself. And it is destructive to our own happiness. Not only is pride firmly rooted in our hearts, but it often rears its head, putting forth blossoms and bearing fruit, even in those hearts which hate and abhor its influence. It is most like its father, the Devil, in serpentine deceitfulness. It is always active, always ready imperceptibly to stain everything we do. When it is mortified in one shape, it rises in another. When we have thought that it was gone, in some unexpected moment we find it still here. Pride can take God's choicest gifts, yes, the graces of his Spirit, and transform them into nourishment for itself.

Let no saint, therefore, however near he may be living to God, however favored with the blessing of his countenance, consider himself beyond the reach of this temptation. Paul was most in danger when he seemed to be farthest from it; and nothing but an instant miracle of grace and power saved him from the snare of the Devil. Indeed, the whole plan of salvation is intended to humble the pride of man by exhibiting his restoration to the Divine favor as a free gift through the atoning blood of the cross. How hateful, then, is the proud man's resistance to this humbling doctrine of the cross, and the humbling demands of the life of faith flowing from it! When we see the Son of God, who took upon himself the form of a servant that he might bear the curse of man, how can pride lift up its head?

Can a sinner -- can a saint! -- be proud? How can he be proud who owes everything to free and sovereign grace? How can he be proud who has wasted so much time, abused so much mercy, so grieved the Spirit of God? How can he be proud who has a heart so full of atheism, unbelief, and selfishness? No, let that very pride itself be the matter of deepest daily humiliation. Remembering our pride may, under Divine grace, prove an effectual means of subduing it in our hearts. We shall overcome corruption by its own working, and meet our adversary with his own weapons. And if this cursed principle of pride be not wholly destroyed, yet the very sight of its corruption, deepening our contrition, will be overruled for our spiritual advancement.

Oh, the blessed purpose intended by the Lord's dealings with us -- to humble us and test us, to know what is in our hearts that he might do us good in the end. Let us not frustrate his gracious intentions or build again the things which he would have destroyed. May we love to lie low -- lower than ever -- infinitely low before him!

Lord, teach us to remember, that "that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in thy sight." Teach us to bless thee for even thy sharp and painful discipline, which is meant to subjugate this hateful pride of our hearts before our Savior's cross!

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