Nobody likes affliction. Most of us, if we were honest, would admit that we believe affliction is something that we are supposed to be delivered from, and that deliverance is the goal. However, just as graduation from High school, while our goal, was not the main purpose of going to school; so deliverance, is not always the main purpose for our affliction. The psalmist attached another benefit. Let’s look at it today.
Section 9 (TETH)
Psalms 119:65-72 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.
Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.
Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.
The psalms lays before us a wonderful proposition in this passage. The proposition is this: the affliction, from the hand of God, is good for the Christian. Now, it is true that we do not naturally tend to believe this. However, let’s look at what the psalmist has to say before we make up our minds one way or the other.
He begins by acknowledging that God, in all His dealings, has dealt well with him. He acknowledges that God has acted in complete accordance with His Word in all His dealings. This is the first of two such declarations in this passage. They both come before an acknowledgement of affliction. Therefore, it seems to me that a Christian must first come to grips with the fact that God has been faithful to His Word in dealing with us in our lives, before looking at the specific circumstances. We start with the nature and actions of God rather than judging Him by our circumstances. We should instead view our circumstances through the lens of His good dealings with us. Well…how did the psalmist do this?
He asks God to teach him both judgement and knowledge. In other words; he wanted God to give him knowledge of the truth as well as the discernment to recognize error of both action and thought. Sometimes we tend to wander in our thinking long before we wander in our actions.
Notice how the psalmist characterizes his life before affliction entered in. He says the prior to affliction, he went astray. Ease of life tends to produce a wandering walk. I cannot tell you how true this has been in my own life. When to people tend to come back to church? When do we tend to read our Bibles more? When do we tend to pray more? Always in the difficult times. Times of affliction bring us back to God. Can affliction really be bad if this is the case? As Matthew Henry says, “Affliction is like the thorny hedge that keeps the wandering sheep in the fold.” It isn’t there to hurt him. It is there for his own good, placed there by a loving and good Shepherd.
The psalmist now for the second time affirms the goodness of God and His actions. They are consistent. There is nothing of the question, “How can a good God let bad things happen?” Sometimes this question is intended to impune the actions or character of God. The psalmist started with the right premise. God is good. What He does is good because He is incapable of doing anything contrary to His nature. What he does in according to His Word, which is good. Good, good, good.
Dear reader, a great victory in our lives will come when we are ready to acknowledge that God is good, and does good. Not that all he does feels a certain way, or even look a certain way at the time; but that if God is in it, it is good. This is why Romans 8:28 is true. Those who are the servants of God will see that all things work together for good. Just ask Joseph.
The psalmist next deals with the case of the wicked unbelievers around him. He calls them proud. They are puffed up with the pride of life. Proud in their own intelligence, or rather, in their own ignorance. They have forged a lie against him. They have worked on it. They have perfected it. They have shaped it like a blacksmith in a forge. The psalmist say no reason to even address the specific lie, because it didn’t matter. If he destroyed it, they would simply forge another one. That is what the proud do. The psalmist, rather than that, remained committed to the truth of God and keeping His Word.
He says that their heart is “fat as grease.” What a descriptive term. It brings to minds a glutton who gorges himself without restraint. He eats what he wants, when he wants, and as much as he wants. He is overweight. He knows nothing of discipline.
This is a picture of a lost world, overweight on the sins of pleasure and self deceit, on which they gorge without restraint. They are fat and sassy. They forge one lie after another.
The psalmist on the other hand affirms his delight in the law of God. The wicked scoff and resist anything like law and discipline. They call it legalism. They call it bondage. The psalmist calls it a blessing. This should also be true of the Christian. The world look at God’s Word and scoffs at it. They forge one lie after another against the truth. They are filled up with their own ways. They cannot imagine having to live under the “restrictive” laws of the Bible, and cannot fathom a God who would allow anything into their lives that would cause discomfort, or pain, or distract them from their selfish purposes.
The psalmist, however, could thank God for the affliction for one very good reason. He says that it was good for him that he had suffered affliction, because it caused him to learn God’s Word. Affliction brings humility, and a humble spirit can be taught. The psalmist had wandered. God had brought affliction into his life. He had returned to God ready to learn. The judgement and knowledge he had learned had helped him to stay on the right path.
In fact, the psalmist’s experience of affliction and learning were so invaluable that he claims that the Word of God was now more precious to him than thousands, upon thousands of dollars in gold and silver.
I cannot help but wonder if our attitude is anything like this? How precious is that Book we bring to church on Sunday? All of Psalms 119 is designed to elevate and magnify God’s Word. It is God’s word that is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. We sometimes get away from Its light. Affliction brings us back. How blessed is that Book which can keep our feet from error.
Dear Christian. God is good. What He does is good. That includes affliction. He will deal faithfully with us according to His Word. Praise God for that!
Heavenly Father, we do not always delight in the affliction that enters into our lives. We are even tempted to believe that You would never want us to suffer affliction, but that is not true. Affliction can be for our good. Give us discernment and knowledge. Teach us what is true from Your Word and give us the ability to recognize the error around us, even in our own thinking. The world is set in their wickedness. Give us a heart fixed on Your Word. We acknowledge, Lord, that our afflictions have brought us closer to You, and back on the path You desire for us. We praise you for it, and acknowledge it as good because it comes from You. We ask that You would always deal well with us, according to Your Word. In Jesus name, amen.