Here is where we arrive at meat and potatoes of Psalm 119: the Teth octave. Why do God’s people suffer affliction? Are they not to be rewarded for their love and devotion to Him? What message does it portray to the unbelieving world when God cannot even protect His own from evil and affliction? These are the questions that are tossed around by the wicked and the well-meaning. God has given us understanding in His word that we might begin to experience great comfort in the midst of trials.
God Has Dealt Well With You
Psa 119:65 Teth You have dealt well with your servant, O Yahweh, according to your word.
As we approach the eighth of twenty-two octaves in this glorious psalm, we find the psalmist once again proclaiming the goodness of God. It is important that God’s people offer Him praise and there is no higher praise than to proclaim what God has revealed to us about Himself. It is God who has dealt well with his servant according to His word!
First, take note of the posture of the prayer. The psalmist approaches God as God’s “servant.” There is no misunderstanding here between the creature and his God. We were made to serve the Lord (Romans 12:11), and that begins with our attitude. You know whether you have a servant’s heart by how you respond when someone treats you like one. It is nearly impossible for us, in our flesh, to humble ourselves, but Christ our portion humbled himself, even unto death on a cross (Phil 2:7-8).
Next, note that the psalmist relates what he knows about God back to God’s word. See the repetition of this phrase “according to your word” in our psalm and in reference to God’s promised resurrection of the Messiah! (Psalm 119:9,25,28,65,107,169,170;1 Corinthians 15:3-4) It is not even worth evaluating your life’s circumstances if you refuse to hold them up to the perfect Word of Truth. It is the promises of Yahweh, as contained in the Bible, that we can count on. We, like David and even Jesus, cannot trust God for something He hasn’t promised. This is a root heresy of the wicked health and wealth gospel—counting on God to deliver something which isn’t promised in His Word.
Dear soul, you are still to hope for the best and pray—believing that God can do all things—but you must refuse to set God up to fail by trusting Him for something which may not be His intention to deliver. How many souls have made a shipwreck of their faith in this way? Unanswered prayer is pure soil for the seed of faithlessness unless it has been tempered by “Thy will be done.” Let us plant the seed of our faith in the good soil of trusting God for that which is unseen but promised in the Bible.
Psa 119:66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.
Our posture towards God, once again, is one of humility. The very first sin in the garden included not only the desire to be made wise like God (Gen 3:5) but in a sense, Adam and Eve had to presume that they already knew more than God in order to disobey in the first place. The born-again child of God hungers for the good judgment and knowledge that only comes from God. As we travel deeper into the great prose, we find an enormous amount of repetition of “teach me” (Psalm 119:12,29,33,26,64,68,108,124,135,171) without any complete repetition of a verse. Much could be said here about the unfathomable depth of God’s wisdom as found in the scripture!
But I will say that this is a very brave and faithful prayer! God’s teaching generally comes in one of two ways. Men seem to either believe what God has said at face value through personal study or sitting under anointed preaching, OR we are taught God’s precepts through suffering. Weak men do not put up a fight when God’s word reveals something contrary to their desires. Those who believe they are strong (for we are all weak, 1 Corinthians 1:27) are often brought very low in order that they might be humble enough to receive the plain teaching of God. It is axiomatic that men are either humble or they are humbled. Every knee will bow to the Lord Jesus Christ one day, the most humble of all.
Thus, this prayer is brave because it will almost certainly be answered through affliction. And it’s faithful because it is an acknowledgment that God’s ways are still best. Our psalmist is not ashamed to beg for wisdom from God, and he appeals to the fact that he believes in God’s commandments. The man who is walking in obedience to God exhibits his faith, and it most assuredly the type of man that God will entrust with more than he has already granted him. The man who desires good judgment and knowledge that he may serve God better is much to be preferred over the man who desires these qualities for his own gain. This is why we appeal for knowledge and wisdom according to love and delight in God’s commandments.
Afflicted by God?
Psa 119:67 Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.
The psalmist says that he was afflicted after going astray. He spends half the verses in this same octave defending God’s character (Psalm 119:65,68,71,72). It’s almost as if he is taking pains to address the fact that God could’ve prevented His affliction but that God is good nevertheless. Here is one of those rubber meets the road moments in the Christian life. Do we love God because of the temporary circumstantial benefits He has afforded us or because He is worthy of all our affection? Is our devotion to Him truly rooted in the fact that we’ve been grafted into the Vine, or is our loyalty reserved for when we feel right about Him with our creaturely senses?
The correlation between going astray and being afflicted tells us that the affliction was actually sent by God for the purification of His child. The Lord disciplines those whom He loves (Hebrews 12:6), and none of His adopted sons will avoid His love! When we are found to be going astray, it is God who sends calamity (Isaiah 45:5-7). God has appointed for His saints to experience suffering and affliction because He is good and because He loves them. It is grace upon grace for a sinner to experience the forgiveness of God. How much more to be counted worthy to suffer shame because you identify with His Son (Acts 5:41,1 Peter 4:13-14,16)?
And what is our response to this grace? Shall we sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! The response of the blood-bought sinner turned saint to God’s precious and holy law is a desire to obey. We have a new nature—we are alive in Christ and now we respond to the chastening of the Lord like a child to the rod! Finally, do not miss the picture of our Messiah here. Jesus never went astray, of course, but he was afflicted by God due to our straying, was He not? He was afflicted because we went astray (Isaiah 53:4,6). He BECAME sin who knew no sin—for our sake (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus suffered the affliction which was deserved by those for whom He died and always kept God’s word! All your earthly affliction is meant to remind you that He already paid the full price for you. Rather than viewing your earthly suffering as a sign of God’s dissatisfaction with you, view it as it is meant: to set your mind on Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf in order to provide you with assurance. Rest in that today!
God is Good…So Learn!
Psa 119:68 You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
We have seen the affliction of the Lord exonerated by His goodness. And this is, once again, the key to our joy in this life. God is good and can do no wrong. Notice how the psalmist emphasized God’s being and doing. God is good. That is, goodness is who He is. Everything about God is good. There is no attribute of God that can be divorced from His goodness. And His intrinsic goodness means that all that He does is good. When He created, it was good (Genesis 1:10,31). When God sent plagues on the Egyptians, He was good. When God sent Jesus to die, He was good. In fact, it is a deficiency of creatures that we speak of God as if He was at all governed by time. We cannot help but use terms like “God was good,” when we speak of a past event in time. But God IS, God was, and God is to come (Revelation 1:4,8;4:8)! He is unchangeably good.
Because God is good we once again ask to be taught His statutes. His law and His word are how we learn about His goodness. Sin is defined by James as he who knows what is good to do and does it not (James 4:17). We need to understand that God is good in such a way that He is more than just “not bad” or “not wrong.” Jesus didn’t just “not violate the commandments,” but He also fulfilled all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). That is, every good thing that ought to have been done, Jesus did. We rest in this fact, brothers and sisters! His righteousness has been imputed to His elect, and that is our motivation for our good works that God prepared beforehand (Ephesians 2:10).
The born-again adopted child of God desires to do good all the days of his life (1 Peter 3:10; Psalms 34:12). Just like we master a trade or a skill for our job or so that we might better enjoy a hobby, we devote ourselves to learning God’s ways in response to the grace He has already bestowed upon us. And while we do so, we humbly request that He would teach us, accepting that He is good regardless of how we are made to learn.
See all posts in this series
[loop type=”post” taxonomy=”tag” value=”Psalm 119″ format=”clean” orderby=date order=ASC author=same]