Take away reproach and contempt from me, for I observe Your testimonies.
Psalm 119:22

How often Christians assume that if they are faithful to the things of God and maintain biblical priorities, they will avoid the difficult circumstances in this life. It is true that Christians are greatly blessed by God in this life. But that does not mean that they will be favored by mankind. The psalmist is committed to the word of God, nonetheless, he is living in opposition to many who are slandering him.

The words “reproach” and “contempt” paint a vivid picture of the opposition the psalmist is facing. They would include terms and phrases like dishonor, disgrace, scorn, a lack of respect, and intense dislike. The psalmist would be considered a joke to many and he would be despised.

You know my reproach and my shame and my dishonor; all my adversaries are before You. Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick. And I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.
Psalm 69:19–20

Be gracious to us, O Lord, be gracious to us, for we are greatly filled with contempt. Our soul is greatly filled with the scoffing of those who are at ease, and with the contempt of the proud.
Psalm 123:3–4

In the prayer of the psalmist we find the protection that we need from adversaries. Many who face opposition can only think about the difficult circumstances. While the psalmist prays for God to “take away [the] reproach and contempt,” he finds protection in observing God’s testimonies. In other words, he chooses to focus on God’s testimonies with a commitment to keep them.

H. C. Leupold reminds us that “In spite of enmity in high places the psalmist is calm and of a peaceful frame of mind. It is almost touching to observe that, while the adversaries plot wicked things, he calmly meditates on the statutes of the Lord. They are his life and his delight. In such meditation lies the source of his strength.”1

On one hand the psalmist asks God to take away the reproach and contempt, which is an appropriate prayer. But we get in trouble when we ask God to take the difficult things out of our lives and we choose not to benefit from the provision God has made for us in the midst of the trials. After all, there are certainly times when God leaves us in the midst of our circumstances and He intends to accomplish His eternal purposes as we walk down difficult roads.

This verse is a great reminder of the value of biblical meditation. We must choose what we permit our minds to dwell on. If we spend hour upon hour thinking on those things that can be quite discouraging, we will likely live frustrated and often bitter lives. If we choose to set our minds upon God’s word, enjoying the protection it offers and striving to live in obedience, we will live fruitful lives, in spite of the circumstances.

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.
Psalm 119:97

1 Leupold, H. C. (1959). Exposition of the Psalms (pp. 827–828). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.