29 Aug Psalm 119 and Hard Places
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.
In my recent personal Bible reading I was reading through Psalm 119. This the longest of the psalms and the longest chapter in the Bible. Its focus is on God’s Word. The Hebrew use of God’s “law”, His “precepts,” and His “rules” as well as other synonyms, is throughout. This is a Hebraic way of extolling God’s Word as a whole- not exclusively God’s commands in Scripture.
One thing that I found helpful in my reading was the connection of God’s Word to suffering. In the verse quoted above, the psalmist sees a purpose of God in their suffering. It brought them to learn God’s statutes, His Word. I would suspect that many of you, as you reflect on your own suffering, can see how it drove you to open your Bibles. You looked for comfort. You looked for direction. You looked for wisdom. You looked for promises to pray and to claim. God had a purpose in it to drive you to Himself through His Word.
Later in Psalm 119:75 we read, “I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.” Here the psalmist affirms that all God says and does reflects who He is. He is righteous. He is faithful to His promises and to His people. That truth helps the afflicted. To borrow from Sinclair Ferguson, such a person under affliction sees with their ears and not with their eyes. They are intentional to speak truth to themselves about who God is and not judge God based purely on their circumstances.
Psalm 119:92 says, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.” If the psalmist had not taken comfort and encouragement in God’s Word, they would have been crushed by their suffering. This is a call for you and I, in the middle of intense pain, bewilderment, and disappointment to go the Scriptures. One place I commend to you and to myself is Psalm 119. It has much to say those in hard places. As we say each Sunday after the Word is read and the proclamation is made that this is the Word of the Lord, “Thanks be to God!”