Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Before and After of Affliction - Psalm 119 (part 8)

"Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I keep Thy Word.
Thou art good and doest good;
teach me Thy statutes.
The arrogant have forged a lie against me;
with all my heart I will observe Thy precepts.
Their heart is covered with fat,
but I delight in Thy law.
It is good for me that I was afflicted,
that I may learn Thy statutes.
The law of Thy mouth is better to me
than thousands of gold and silver pieces."
(Psalm 119:67-72)

In the first two verses of the "Teth" section of Psalm 119 David has reminded us of the good dealings of God with His people - no matter how things may look - and of our need for Biblical discernment regarding that fact. We are so easily led by the whims of this world, by the circumstances of life, and by the fickleness of our feelings. We need to be led by truth - and God's Word is truth.

These next six verses are a great picture of how things are not always as they "feel" to us. David is once again talking about affliction and here he instructs us on its before and after. I can say it no better than Matthew Henry does in his commentary. His words were poignant and I shall simply direct you to them this day.

"David tells first of the temptations of a prosperous condition. '"Before I was afflicted" or while I lived in peace and plenty, and knew no sorrow, "I went astray" from God and my duty.' Prosperity is the unhappy occasion of much iniquity; it makes people conceited of themselves, indulgent of the flesh, forgetful of God, in
love with the world, and deaf to the reproaches of the word.
"Second, David tells of the benefits of an afflicted state: 'Now I have kept Thy word, and so have been recovered from my wanderings.' God often makes use of afflictions as a means to reduce those to Himself who have wandered from Him. The prodigal's distress brought him to Himself first and then to his father."
David has spoken of the good benefit of affliction and that goodness is derived from the goodness of God. He who is good is the Fount from which the beneficial working of hard things flows. "Thou art good and doest good."
The particular affliction that David is addressing in this section of Psalm 119 has to do with the proud and lying tongues of his enemies. "The arrogant have forged a lie against me." They have slandered and scorned him and have sought to destroy his good name. Yet, how does David respond? He responds with trust in the good God who does good and who has always dealt well with him. He will not treat them as they treat him but will seek, by grace, to love his enemies and pray for those who persecute him. Repeatedly David was granted opportunities to pour out vengeance on his enemies - particularly King Saul - but he would not. He would let God's word be His standard. "With all my heart I will observe Thy precepts." That's a lesson we would all do well to learn.

David didn't seek to desecrate those who dogged him and he also didn't give in to the temptation of envying the wicked's seeming prosperity. He considered them to have a "heart covered with fat." Again I turn to Henry:

"The proud are at ease; they are full of the world, and the wealth and the pleasures of it; and this makes them secure and stupid; they are past feeling. They roll themselves in the pleasures of sense. I would not change conditions with them. I delight in Thy law and build my security upon the promises of God's Word. The children of God, who are acquainted with spiritual pleasures, need not envy the children of this world their carnal pleasures."
Let us not delight in the ways of the wicked but in the way of the Word and let us not despise the affliction God has alotted. Beloved, "it is good for me that I was afflicted that I may learn Thy statutes." Have you experienced the blessings that flow after affliction? Trust Him and you will. Once you have you will be able, with David, to rejoice that the Word of God which was learned in the school of affliction has become more precious to you than "thousands of gold and silver pieces."

Thankful for having learned a little bit about the after,


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