22 Remove from me reproach and contempt,
For I have kept Your testimonies.
For years I have looked at this verse from the perspective of: “Other people see me in reproach and contempt, remove that from me, Lord.” Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, could relate. She had been barren, which is listed among curses in the Bible, therefore she felt shame and rejection - but God visited her and she became pregnant. And in response, she said:
“Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.” Luke 1:25
Recently I have been considering this verse in a new light. It is amazing how the Bible is a Living Book. Something you have read a thousand times will one day suddenly become a fresh revelation, and God will speak into the very situation that confronts you.
Let’s consider what reproach and contempt are. Reproach means, “to find fault with” or “to express disapproval or disappointment.” Contempt is “the feeling that a person or thing is beneath consideration, worthless, or deserving scorn.”
Perhaps the psalmist is actually saying, “Lord, remove from me these feelings of disapproval and disappointment toward other people. Purge my heart from thinking that other people are somehow less valuable because they don’t meet my standards.”
The two views that I have described of this verse are actually interconnected. Stay with me.
I recently read the sad testimony about a Christian woman who had judged other women that had been divorced. Years later when she found herself divorced, she struggled to accept God’s love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
Why? Because she had passed judgment on a person because of their shortcomings, failures, and/or sin. Then when she stepped into that same situation, she felt the guilt and condemnation that she thought the other people deserved - even though that guilt and condemnation was not from God.
This suddenly sheds light on what Jesus meant when He said:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you use, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matt 7:1-3
I’ve always understood that to mean, “If you judge people, God will judge you. And He will judge you how you judge others.” But that’s not exactly what Jesus said, is it? And that reasoning doesn’t equate when Jesus said that neither the Father nor the Son are judging us:
“For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.” John 5:22.
“For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.” John 12:47
Furthermore, God is the perfect Judge. It’s illogical to think He will lower his standards to judge us by our own imperfect standards. But actually the Father committed judgment to Jesus, and Jesus isn’t judging us - He came to save us!
What is the conclusion, then? Jesus is saying, in effect, “Don’t judge people for stumbling, because when you stumble, you’ll feel the condemnation that you judged others with. If you show mercy, you will be in a position to receive mercy when you need it. And you will need it. And if you really walk in love and grace toward people, you will be in a healthy place to actually help them when they stumble!”
Paul understood this. He didn’t judge anyone, and as a result, when people judged him, he wasn’t affected by it:
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you…in fact, I do not even judge myself. 1 Cor 4:3
Someone tried to condemn my wife once about her past mistakes. She could have shrunk back and said, “you’re right, I shouldn’t try to move forward with my life. I am what I am.” But she didn’t. Instead, the wisdom of God flowed out of her mouth when she calmly replied, “It’s not my past you’re questioning. It’s whether or not the Blood of Jesus is sufficient to redeem my past.”
That’s a great question: is the Blood of Jesus sufficient to redeem your past? To forgive all of your sin?
And is the Blood of Jesus sufficient to redeem ________’s past? To forgive all of your family/friend/neighbor/coworker/acquaintance/passerby’s sin?
Lord, forgive me for judging other people. I’m sorry, I didn’t even realize I was doing it. Thank you for opening my eyes and correcting me. I know there’s no condemnation in this, and that you want me to be free from carrying the burden of finding fault with others. Lord, help me to see myself and others the way You see us. Remove from me reproach and contempt, for I have kept Your testimonies.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.