Affliction: Psalm 119:65-72

Psalms 119:65-72

“You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord…”

I can honestly say that the Lord has dealt well with me. When it comes down to it, I am often shocked that He has dealt with me at all.  My Creator would be well within reason had He chosen to annihilate me for the rebellion of my youth, yet He patiently waited for me, watching as my youthful fury burned itself out in futility until the time came when I realized that all the worldly wisdom I had embraced was empty, that a life lived for myself by my own invented principles was meaningless.

I was afflicted, both by the choices of others when I was small and by my own decisions as a young adult. Acting in what I believed was freedom, I found myself chained more securely by my choices than I would have been by the God I rejected. He found me there, in utter darkness of soul and thoroughly disillusioned, and He extended forgiveness and mercy. He began to show me the Truth and how to walk in it.

In the most incredible act of love the world has ever known, my King paid the penalty of my defiance with His own blood. Regardless of my state of affairs in this world, how can I not say, “You have dealt well with Your servant?”

Had I not been brought so low, my heart would never have softened enough to allow Him access. It is truly good for me that I was afflicted, and now I know that a life lived according to His statutes is true freedom. Now, I endeavor to keep His word, not out of obligation or duty, but from love and the understanding that my Father knows what I can not. His law is my delight.

Even still, each time my King has allowed some hardship or infirmity to come into my life, it has always proved good for me. Sometimes affliction has uncovered some area of sin that I had blinded myself to, other times it has served to either strengthen my faith or to prove it against some trial.

I do not always enjoy these times of discipline or difficulty, but even in the most grievous of such times, I can now look back and see how each prior instance has led to growth, to a deepening of faith, to a more profound love for my God. I can remember that He always deals well with me.

In times when I feel hard-pressed, I remember that a grape or an olive is a good thing, yet only when they are crushed do they yield their most desirable products.  Neither olive oil nor wine are obtained without bruising the fruit. I do so want my life to be as a fine wine or a fragrant oil to my Lord.

Yes, He has dealt well with me, perhaps especially in allowing affliction.

Lord, teach me, teach us good judgement and knowledge, for we truly do believe in Your commandments. Let us not lose heart when difficulty comes but remember Your goodness and how well You have already dealt with us. May we learn from You and deal well with others, offering Godly counsel and encouragement to those who are going through afflictions now, amen. 

Open My Eyes: Psalm 119:17-24

Psalms 119:17-24
“Open my eyes….”

Though the enemy of our soul would have us believe otherwise, the Bible does contain much that is wonderful and splendid, bringing a sense of awe and reverence to the reader whose eyes have been opened by the Spirit of God. The father of lies wants to keep us in the dark, believing that God’s laws are restrictive and confining, that the Bible is a book of impossible rules.

God would have us know the truth: that it is a record of His tremendous and patient love for the only part of creation that He imprinted His own image upon and yet the only part that decisively rejected Him. He desires to communicate the extent of His love epitomized in Jesus, who came not to abolish the Law but to fulfill it.

However, as Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”

We are, without fail, afflicted by spiritual blindness. It is a symptom of the fallen world, the separation from God that Christ came to heal through His own body. While He walked here, He healed many blind men. He continues to heal spiritual blindness  to this day, restoring the sight of all who echo David’s words from the heart, “Open my eyes that I may behold wondrous things out of Your law.”

May we pray throughout our lives that He will open our eyes continually, that we may see more and more wonders within the Living Word!

In this stanza we also see the recognition of a wanderer, of one who is a stranger in a strange land far from home. Like the psalmist, if we belong to God, then our true home is with Him. For now, we have our work visas; we live abroad to do the work He has sent us to do. Some glorious day, work-worn and tired but filled with joy, we will go Home.

For now, however, we need a communication from Him to do His work properly. He has given us His commandments as a sort of “how-to” manual. It may be just such a desire to perform his task well that resulted in the psalmist’s plea, “Hide not Your commandments from me!”

Oh, that we will also seek out His guidelines for our work! May it be that we, too, will be consumed with longing for the rules of God! The truth of the matter is that our world is not so very different from the world David lived in when he penned these words. He asked that God would remove scorn and contempt, and we will also face scorn and contempt for our dedication to the ways of God.

The trick is not to try to avoid persecution or derision;  not to try to minimize our commitment to God in order to make it look less stark to those who mock and deride. The trick is to find our delight, not in the praise of men, but in the testimonies of our great and mighty God.

This God With Us, this Emmanuel, this vast and ancient Trinity, infinite and yet personal, holy and yet compassionate;  this amazing King of kings is fully capable of inspiring delight. As Charles Spurgeon writes, “Indeed, if I know Him at all, I must love Him.”

His law, His Word is waiting for you, beloved. He has made the good news of Christ Jesus accessible even to the young and the simple, yet His truths imprinted on the pages of the Bible are so profound that the depths of His nature, indeed of His goodness, may never be fully grasped this side of Heaven. To plumb the depths of the Word of God can be a source of intense satisfaction and joy.

Yet even knowing the truth is not good enough. This Word must also be our counselor. We must not only let it fill us with knowledge, but we must also allow it to correct and to guide. It is the map by which we can avoid traps and pitfalls while we sojourn behind enemy lines in this strange and wonderful place called Earth.

In the pages of the Bible, we can find truth, life, and peace. In surrendering wholly to its Author, we can find consummate joy; a joy that will suffice as a shield against the sting of ridicule. We can even find a delight that will bear us up under the anguish of true persecution if we should ever be called to face it.  

All can be borne because we know that our hope lies not in this rapidly changing world we so briefly inhabit but in the changeless, eternal Home we will one day reach at our journey’s end.