Verse 4: “who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD”
We come to a screeching halt. If we read the first half of this verse with any sense of the overall picture of Christ as our role model for neighbour-love, we are brought to an abrupt stop. This segment of the Psalm is decidedly the most difficult, on the surface, to apprehend. Despise another creature made in the image of God? Hate one’s neighbor? Surely these are not Christian thoughts. Our scrutiny for treasure from this segment of the Psalm comes to a complete standstill; we must seek God’s face, presence and wisdom if we are to proceed.
Jesus, God incarnate (Word made flesh!), modeled this oxymoron; he commanded, “love your enemies” while also instructing “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.” How can this be?
Perhaps the answer lies in the segment of our Psalm that follows the ‘despise a vile man’ part: “those who fear the LORD”. Fear the LORD. The fear of God is the essential orientation of a person who is in right relationship with God. We accept His sovereignty (the right to rule), His justice (the right to set standards), and His power (the wherewithal to act); we align our own attitudes and actions to please Him, in response to His great love for us. When all this is in order, perhaps the vile man we must despise the most is our own depraved self, gone awry in arrogant and selfish autonomy. Perhaps only by despising this self can we reject the lie of Satan that tells us we can be god. Perhaps our awe filled fear of God is what is required to truly love ourselves and others in the new way—God’s way.
In the book of Job, God is overheard describing his servant Job as “a man who fears God and shuns evil.” He summarizes, “There is no one on earth like him;” –high praise from an all-knowing God.
I’m thinking the fear of God is something I need to prioritize in my life. I need to relentlessly pursue an ever-higher view of Him as I live my life in the grass roots of this earth. I must shun all that tempts me to consider anything less than complete submission to God and His holy ways. This is where the life of His Spirit in me is so essential. Becoming a sanctuary-dweller is no small thing.