Psalm 119:65-72, “You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe Your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes. The proud have forged a lie against me, but I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart. Their heart is as fat as grease, but I delight in Your law. It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.”
Upon reflection, the words of the Psalmist seem pretty hard to comprehend. How can we agree with King David when he says, “You have dealt well with your servant…”? Life seems to have dealt harshly, especially when the circumstances have separated families and caused division. One would say, “How can this be God?” Another says, “I hurt so much, this can’t possibly be God!” Well, let’s reason with the thoughts of the Psalmist.
“You have dealt well with Your servant, O LORD, according to Your word.”
Charles Spurgeon said, “The benefit received is generally expressed, “Whatever thou dost for thy servants is good”; they count it so, though it be never so contrary to the interest of the flesh: sickness is good, loss of friends is good; and so are poverty and loss of goods, to an humble and thankful mind.” (Treasury of David, pg. 275)
Our God teaches us not to depend upon the flesh for our supply or peacefulness of soul. Instead, He teaches us to depend upon Him. “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.” (Isaiah 55:2) God’s Word should be our food, not just physical bread and worldly goods.
This principle is understood clearly by the servants of God who have undergone great loss and difficulty of life. I remember the story of one oriental Christian who was arrested for his faith and ministry in God’s Word. He was placed in the most deplorable of circumstances, a dung pit. As he studied his circumstances, he noticed that the guards refused to come around him because of the stench of his clothing and surroundings. He became thankful for the time to pray and have fellowship with his Lord. He prayed for the Word of God to be provided to him and began to notice that it was coming to him page by page. The guards were using it to cleanse themselves, but God intended it as Bread from heaven for His beloved servant.
God sees the difficulty of His children and hears their cries. Just as the children of Israel were prepared for their journey in the wilderness through the afflictions set upon them by the Egyptians, so God uses the afflictions of this life to prepare us for our walk with him. Let us not regard these things lightly, or
as from the enemy. Rather, let us count all things as from His hand who works “all things together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom 8:28)
Before I was afflicted I went astray…
The Scripture refers to the human heart as having wicked and deceitful intent. Even as children of God, we can be fooled by “good” intentions. I have heard many selfish and foolish acts justified by the phrase, “Well, God knows my heart!” Indeed He does! The human heart is easily led down a wrong path because of the deceitfulness of emotional appeal. “I have a good feeling about it, so therefore it is good and right,” says the foolish. Or, “God spoke to me about that, so it’s ok.” Listen then to the words of the Prophet Isaiah, "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) “Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers? Was
it not the LORD, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, nor were they obedient to His law.” (Isaiah 42:24)
In the past I made the mistake of following my own ways, doing what was right in my own eyes and
later regretted not checking it out with the scripture. God is not fooled by our sinful hearts. Instead, He confronts us with His Word through the Holy Spirit who convicts us of sin, righteousness and judgment. (John 16:8)
Hebrews 12 reminds us that God disciplines His children. The “afflicted” in our text refers to the loving hand of God that restrains the sinfulness of our hearts. He stops us in our foolishness. Through affliction He shows us our true intentions. Then, in His mercy He corrects us through His Word. “I know, O
LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Psalm 119:75)
…but now I keep Your word. You are good, and do good; Teach me Your statutes.
After we have been afflicted…after we have been shown the error of our ways, God graciously and mercifully gives us His knowledge. We begin to recognize that our ways are not His ways, therefore we seek after Him. Psalm 39:1 says, "I will guard my ways, lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me."
The Apostle Paul was quite emphatic, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)
When the error of our ways and the humiliation of our sins is ever before us, God’s wisdom becomes plain. We are then enabled to walk after God’s ways; thus honoring Him in obedience to His truth.
"But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God." (John 3:21)
Humility is the key. We must be willing to say that God is right and I must yield. Even when we want something with all of our hearts, we still have to yield. God knows best and He is able to work all things for our good.
Therefore, rest in His ability to provide. Even if our whole life is spent in conflict and difficulty, God is still able to use us. Remember Paul, who spent much of his later ministry in chains. His “prison epistles” are still with us today.
Let’s say then with the Psalmist, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes. The law of Your mouth is better to me than thousands of coins of gold and silver.”
“Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)
The enemy may spend endless energy in condemning us for forgiven sins, but we are more than conquerors through Him who died for us. It is through the purity of Christ that the Father sees us. In newness of life, let us “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 3:14)
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