Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible with 176 verses. It has for a theme the exalting of God’s Word in the life of believers. Almost every single verse speaks of the Word of God in one of eight different ways: law, testimonies, precepts, statutes, commandments, judgments, word and ordinances. Vv. 1-2 pronounce blessing on those who receive the Bible’s work in their lives.
Little more than one third of the way into the Psalm, the Psalmist brings up the issue of afflictions in three separate verses, vv. 67, 71, 75. Apparently, the Psalmist had been slandered by shameless enemies who wanted to smear his reputation, vv. 69-70. I remember hearing Pastor John MacArthur once say that people-pain can be the worst form of pain. Physical pain sometimes pales in comparison to the pain people can inflict upon us with false accusations and vindictiveness. As the Psalmist reflected upon this, he strung together three, almost consecutive lessons on God’s purposes in afflictions of any type we may bear.
God uses affliction to bring about correction. Verse 67 says, Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. The term for astray means to “sin ignorantly.” It suggests straying off the path by being deceived or led astray. Clearly the Psalmist was a man of God, but he knew that with a fallen nature he was vulnerable to self-deception that would lead to unintentional sin. Unintentional sin is still sin, but it goes undetected so that we can continue in it for a long time. God uses affliction to get our attention, block our path, or make us see ourselves as we really are. Then His corrective Word can do its work on us. I recall a time of self-denial when I rationalized sin in my life. A broken relationship brought me to my knees in repentance and confession. I have been careful about the particular error I fell into ever since.
God uses affliction as a good teacher. Verse 71 affirms, It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The Psalmist moves the lesson one step further. Once affliction has corrected we can now learn the positive truth that we recognize is good. This reminds us of 2 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness. I have sat visiting in jail cells with people whose incarceration corrected their selfish ways. They saw the right way and vowed never to return to the wrong way. Affliction was hard, but ended up being a good teacher. Charles Spurgeon said the book of suffering was the best volume in his library. He learned more from it than any other.
God uses affliction because He is faithful to His children. Verse 75 teaches, I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Faithfulness carries the idea of fidelity or loyalty. It means that God can be counted on to do what is in the best interest of those He loves. Since affliction is painful we assume the God administering it is not good. We may become disillusioned. Haddon Robinson is often called the dean of homiletics professors. His father became ill and prayed for healing. When it didn’t happen, in his simplistic faith he became disillusioned with God. But when advancing age put Mr. Robinson in a nursing home near his son, Haddon visited his dad for lunch every day until he died. Imagine how many people would love to spend one hour every day with Haddon Robinson. That would be worth almost any illness. Mr. Robinson had a faithful God who gave him a great treasure at the end of his life in the daily visits of his son. Only a loyal God would do that.
Your friend, learning thru affliction, Pastor Brian (:-}).