Psalm 119:49-52 — Comfort Amidst Affliction

Does God Need Reminders?

Psalms 119:49 Zayin. Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.

The 7th of 22 octaves brings us peace by reminding us again where to turn in those times we need comfort. When we left the “waw” octave, we saw the psalmist testifying before kings and answering “the taunter.” Now, he again turns to prayer.

The best kinds of prayers (from our perspective) are the ones that make requests which God is pleased to grant. Yes, we understand that sometimes God says, “No,” and we trust that is best for us when He does. But it is more exciting when we pray according to God’s will and receive that “Yes” which we have hoped for! And there is no better way to secure that affirmative response from our Lord than to pray according to that which He has promised in His Word.

Dan Smedley

Does God forget? Of course not. So when we say with the psalmist “Remember your word to [me],” we are really reminding ourselves of those things where we have put our hope which God has promised. It is a faith-building exercise to simply name those things that God has promised to those who love Him. Things like future glorification, that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and that His love is everlasting ought to be clung to with all our might.

We find this common in the Psalms. The scripture often employs language of asking God to do that which we know we don’t need to tell Him to do (like “Remember”). It creates a model for how to pray. When we notice words or phrases such as hear, answer me and remember in scripture’s prayers, we should not be shy to pray in the same fashion (Psalm 4:1).

His Promise Produces Comfort

Psalms 119:50 This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.

And why do we cry out to God to remember that which He has promised? It is because so often the promise is future and the present looks grim. It is because sometimes, even when the promise is present, we are not experiencing the fullness of it. Are you justified today? You may say “Yes,” but do you always feel justified? Our inability to see the whole picture combined with our flesh creates the perfect storm for discontentment and faithlessness—and the natural affliction we face simply compounds these sins and provides an environment where they may grow!

Notice that David refers to affliction in such a way that we see 1) that affliction is expected and 2) that affliction is something we are to endure rather than simply escape. David speaks of affliction as a  reality (as opposed to a hypothetical). He does not say “This is my comfort if I am afflicted,” but “in my affliction.” Saints, we are going to be afflicted—it’s a promise (Philippians 1:29). Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). Understanding this truth and consequently expecting tribulation is a first step toward enduring trials when trials come. Where does our help come from? It comes from the Lord (Psalm 121:1-2).

What the psalmist reminds us is that we will often not be delivered from our affliction before some pruning occurs. Psalm 34:19 promises that we will eventually be delivered from our afflictions, as was Christ. And it is that promise which we hold onto when we are enduring affliction. Motivational speakers encourage athletes by saying things like, “Everyone is cold! Everyone is going to go home hurt. You might as well get the trophy!” Christian, can you accept that you are part of a world where sinners and saints alike will endure much suffering? And, if so, can you not cling to God’s wonderful promises of sanctification through your suffering (Romans 8:28), and ultimate glorification (Romans 8:21,25) at the finish—in order that you may enjoy the divine comfort of God now?

And again, we encounter this word “promise” which I think the ESV translators got right. It is God’s promise of eternal life in Christ which gives us life. Not only does this promise give us new life in this world (Eph 2:6), but it is the ultimate promise to undo the curse and give us new a new body for eternity. The creation groans, and so do we…but we have comfort, even if afflicted by our own flesh—because one day we will be free from the curse of sin and death completely—and that’s worth hoping in.

Insolent Derision

Psalms 119:51 The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.

God really hates insolence. In Psalm 119:21 we see that God rebukes the insolent who wander from His commandments. So it is fitting that the children of God do not turn away from His law. The sinner is arrogant and rebellious; the saint is humble and submissive. Humility and meekness are no longer virtues in a society which has given itself fully over to antichrist worldviews, and we are constantly tempted to stop exercising these virtues. One of the primary means the world uses to coax us from these virtues is through the scoffing and derision of our God-hating neighbors.

Toni Reed

But our Lord Himself endured more scoffing and derision that we ever will (and still does), and He deserved none of it. Jesus is the one who came to earth and humbled Himself by becoming obedient (Phil 2:8). If the Son of God is content to be humble and submissive, why don’t we? Our Lord is our example (1 Peter 2:21,23), and we would do well to ignore the remarks of the world and to be more concerned about how He views us. In Peter’s second epistle he writes that scoffers will come and that our only hope will be to trust in God’s promises concerning the future and to know that He has a redemptive purpose behind his apparent inaction (2 Peter 3:3-4).

And like we saw in Psalm 119:46-47, when we are confronted with the temptation to be ashamed of God or His law, our only hope is to continue to trust in God and His Word! Christian, have you ever felt the need to apologize for God? How about when nonbelievers accuse God of evil because He judges His own creation? Or when God has provisions for slave owners in His Word? What about severe penalties for seemingly minor sins in Israel’s civil law? It is precisely because God’s ways are so different from ours that the wicked scoff at Him and His ways. Flee the temptation to apologize for God and to present Him as more palatable to the unregenerate heart—do not turn away from His law and His Word!

Getting Comfortable

Psalms 119:52 When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Yahweh.

Immediately following the affliction experienced, we are brought back to the source of our comfort: God’s rules. We see in verse 39 that God’s rules are good and, as a result, reproach is turned away from us. Here we encounter the goodness of God, yet again. Because we love God, we love His rules and find comfort in them!

Colin Avery

It is a universal truth that any son of Adam who thinks about God’s rules encounters the severity of God and is afflicted himself. God’s holy law is a display of His goodness and justice and holiness, and when a sinner considers these truths he cannot experience any comfort. This is why we seek comfort in sex, alcohol, drugs, money, prestige and whatever else this world offers. We all are afflicted when we experience the absolute standard of God’s holiness. But for the sinner-turned-saint, meditation upon God’s rules—even upon God’s being—brings comfort because of the Holy Spirit whom He has given to us.

Yes, although the insolent afflict God’s people, the very balm provided by God (His rules) to comfort the afflicted is what is used to afflict the arrogantThe salve of God’s rules tells us about the person and holiness of Jesus, and those for whom Christ died cannot help but hear His voice and be made to be still and rest. When Jesus has taken your burden of sin and shame, thoughts of Him and His statutes are ever welcome. When a man or woman meditates upon the fact that Jesus was treated as if He had violated all God’s “rules from of old,” and was comforted not, peace ensues because the peace has been granted to you! When you really consider the truth that if God did not spare His own Son, will He not much more give you all things (Romans 8:32), great comfort amidst whatever this world throws at you is the result.

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