You rebuke the insolent, accursed ones,
who wander from your commandments (Psalm 119:21 NRSV).
The psalmist is informing YHWH about something that he already knows. Which is something that probably isn’t really necessary. Which means there must be more to what the psalmist is saying here. Which will be resolved as we discuss the next verse in 7 days. But there are still a few things to say about this verse this week.
The psalmist declares that God rebukes the insolent, accursed wanderers. (Gimel verse #5 begins with the Hebrew verb ga’ar, “rebuke”). Sounds harsh. Yes, but so does a father that sees her 5 year-old daughter chase the ball into the road. Wandering into busy streets or away from divine commands is dangerous. And what makes it worse, we’re prone to wander (Lord, I feel it).
So, a lot of rebuking.
The rest of Psalm 119 makes it clear that following God’s laws results in blessing and a deeper relationship with God. God should want us not to wander. The blessings are the carrot. The rebukes are the stick. We need both. We may like the idea of the carrot better, but the reality is that when we wander, God will yell at us. We might keep wandering, but we can’t blame him.
How does God rebuke us? Among other things: 1) Scripture, 2) Through friends who speak truth, 3) Negative consequences that result from wandering.
God help me listen to your rebuke.