Take away from me their scorn and contempt
for I have kept your precepts (Psalm 119:22 NRSV).
The anticedent for “their” here comes from Psalm 119:21, the insolent, accursed ones who wander from God’s commandments. Not only were they insolent and wandering, they were also insulting and abusing the people like the psalmist who didn’t stray from God’s laws. (This is the 6th verse in the Gimel section. The verse begins with the verb galal, literally “roll away” their scorn.)
Their persecution has put the psalmist in a place of dependence. And once again the prayer is leveraged on obedience. The psalmist believes that keeping divine precepts should contribute to God’s willingness to offer protection from the attacks of the insolent, accursed ones. Precept persecution protection.
We need to be careful not to say God only helps the faithful. There are certainly biblical examples of unfaithful people who pray and God listens (Jonah in Jonah 2; Jehoahaz in 2 Kings 13:4), but there are also many examples of people who pray and God listens because of their faithfulness (Hezekiah: 2 Kings 20:3-6; the prayer of a righteous person who “availeth much”: James 5:16).
The most consistent pattern we see throughout Scripture is that God listens and helps those who pray, whether or not they were faithful or unfaithful previously. If the unfaithful are praying, they are moving in the right direction, and if the previously faithful aren’t, then there’s a problem.
Do you think keeping God’s precepts makes God more willing to protect us from scorn?