65 You have dealt well with Your servant,
O LORD, according to Your word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
For I believe Your commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
68 You are good, and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
69 The proud have forged a lie against me,
But I will keep Your precepts with my whole heart.
70 Their heart is as fat as grease,
But I delight in Your law.
71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
72 The law of Your mouth is better to me
Than thousands of coins of gold and silver.
I sometimes wonder why it is that people need to go through “hell” to learn about heaven. After all, we all go through trials, and while there are a very few who start young with strong faith, most of us end up facing the toughest trials before we come around and really understand the faith of the great figures of the Bible. Perhaps it is because we need to realize our dependence on God, or perhaps we just need that contrast between the depths of our depravity and pain and the heights of God’s mercy and grace.
22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction,
23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory,
24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
If we are to be the vessels of His mercy, it makes sense that we must face trials and affliction from the vessels of His wrath. Those who will receive His glory must choose His Son willingly, knowing that they choose between life and death, between blessing and cursing. And those whom God foreknew would reject Him, He suffers their existence so that His glory might be seen all the more clearly among the elect, the faithful.
In those days before we knew Christ and the divine grace He taught, we did wander in our ways, and we did suffer the immediate, worldly consequences of sinfulness – both our own and others’. I can testify to that all too well. That is why today’s verses from the 119th Psalm are so poignant for me. I can reflect quite clearly upon who I was before – almost as if I were seeing another person’s life – and who I am now in Christ.
In these verses, the psalmist describes his former life as one of going astray, and his new life as being founded on keeping God’s Word. That word “keep” in verse 67 is interesting, because in Hebrew it comes from a root word “shâmar” that means both “to take heed of” and “to hedge in, protect or guard.” When the psalmist says that he “keeps” God’s Word, it means both that he adheres to it and that he preserves it and protects it in his heart.
Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.
It’s not so much that we keep God’s Word in order to gain great reward, but more that when we are faithful we naturally keep God’s law, and so we receive His blessings by leading a better life today and by facing tomorrow with hope in the eternal life promised through faith in Christ. Though others in their pride accuse us of falsehood and wrongdoing, we must remain faithful with our whole hearts. Though others may grow wealthy through their wickedness, we the faithful will delight in God’s law no matter what may befall. Though we suffer affliction and pain, we face tomorrow with hope because we have seen that hope in the Word of God.
25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him,
To the soul who seeks Him.
26 It is good that one should hope and wait quietly
For the salvation of the LORD.
27 It is good for a man to bear
The yoke in his youth.
28 Let him sit alone and keep silent,
Because God has laid it on him;
29 Let him put his mouth in the dust –
There may yet be hope.
30 Let him give his cheek to the one who strikes him,
And be full of reproach.
31 For the Lord will not cast off forever.
32 Though He causes grief,
Yet He will show compassion
According to the multitude of His mercies.
33 For He does not afflict willingly,
Nor grieve the children of men.
“There may yet be hope,” says Jeremiah. Where is that hope? Where can we find it? In God’s Word – in His commandments, statutes, precepts, testimonies, law and judgments. The more we learn about God from “keeping” His Word – by hedging it in and keeping it holy in our lives – then the more we depend upon the hope of God’s mercy and grace. The deeper our affliction, the greater God’s glory when He redeems us.
The psalmist in today’s verses says the Lord has “dealt well” with him “according to [His] word.” In other words, the psalmist says he has seen the reality of God’s promise, that he has received the very blessings he first found in the Word of God. Before he started keeping the Word of God, the psalmist went astray and suffered affliction. But now that he stays on the path of God’s will and Word, he experiences God’s goodness. The psalmist knows quite well what his life was like before, and he much prefers his new life over the old. Where before he may have coveted gold and silver, now the psalmist finds delight and great worth in God’s law. What a contrast, to go from depravity to glory by holding fast to the promises and requirements of God.
We all should be so faithful as the writer of Psalms 119, to be able to say without hesitation, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, For I believe in Your commandments.” (v.66) We should all realize that only God is good and that He does good, and that today’s affliction is just a temporary thing.
2 Corinthians 4:15-18
15 For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory,
18 while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
That “weight of glory” that we have been promised will be a far more easy burden to bear that today’s pains and sorrows. That hope of the glory of God is what makes yesterday’s sin and today’s trials seem so insignificant. And we receive that hope from the gospel of Christ, setting our eyes not upon this world but upon His eternal glory.
The wonder of the Word of God is that we see He is faithful even when we are not, that His mercy and grace are always available to those whom He has selected to seek Him and to whom He has given His Spirit. When we delight in His law, it is not because we seek His favor. On the contrary, we received His favor – His forgiveness for our sins – even before we learned to seek His Word. (Romans 5:6,8) But upon knowing His Son and understanding His amazing mercy, we respond by keeping God’s Word, by seeking His voice above all others in our lives. Therefore, let us be so caught up in His grace that we always seek His Word, so that we might truly come to understand the width and length and depth and height of His unending love for us which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Gracious Heavenly Father, all glory and praise are Yours, because of Your abundant mercies. Transform my life, Lord God, so that I always seek Your will over my own, Your teachings over the world’s, Your glory above all others’. Teach me Your good judgment and Your knowledge. I believe in your commandments, and I pray that You teach me to keep them always. Amen.