Years ago, I lived in a steel-mill town. On the south side of the town was a large metal hill that we called Slag Mountain. It was the dumping site for impurities that had been discarded in the making of the steel. This massive pile of unwanted metal and rock grew larger and larger. In Psalm 119:113-120, a psalmist prays for spiritual survival. He lives in a pluralistic culture. Opponents lure him towards disobedience to God. The prophet Elijah had chided the people of Israel for “limping between two different opinions” as they tried to worship both Baal and Yahweh, the God of Israel (1 Kings 18:21). The psalmist uses a similar word when he cries to God,
“I hate the double-minded, but I love your law” (verse 113).
The prayer of this section begins and ends with his love for God’s word and fear for God as he grapples with the threat from the double-minded to his own obedience to the Lord. In the middle of the prayer, he prays for God to uphold him:
“Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your statutes continually” (verses 116-117) .
His prayer, grounded in Scripture, is that the Lord will support him so that
– He may survive
– He may hope without shame
– He may be secure
– He may trust God’s commands
He prays that he may overcome the evil-doers who threaten his obedience of God’s law. His prayer may be ours as we encounter calls to compromise values and to change behaviors to fit the mold of a secular society. Like him, we may long to obey the Lord because of our love for his message, but we may also fear being cast onto a spiritual “Slag Mountain”: “All the wicked of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your testimonies” (verse 119). We too pray for survival of faith, for hope without shame, for security in following the Lord, and for the ability to trust God’s promises.
God of refuge, our shield who protects us in life’s darkest days, help us to define and recognize truth when others laugh at the very idea and scoff at us for seeking confirmation. Bolster our hope; help us to obey your will with courage and confidence. Grant us safety. As we navigate through relationships, work responsibilities, and moral choices, we feel as if we are walking across a tightrope over a fear-inspiring chasm. We want to trust and to obey. Strengthen us and mold us into the spiritual steel that remains when the dross has been removed. In Jesus’ name, amen.