Psalm 119:69-72 — More Affliction?

Smearing With Lies

Psalms 119:69  The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts;

Photo by Reagan Nicole on Unsplash

We’ve seen throughout Psalm 119 that the psalmist is no stranger to affliction. He is humble, honest, and strives to serve the Lord with all his heart. He proclaims this again in the second half of this verse (but with my whole heart I keep your precepts). So it is no surprise that worldly men—insolent, proud, boasting, irrational beasts—smear him with lies. Indeed, it is the only way to smear the elect of God (1 Peter 3:16), for God’s servants strive to live lives which are above reproach. Worldlings have no choice but to make up falsehoods (Psalm 119:78) about God’s people when they keep His precepts with a whole heart.

And Who else is the fulfillment of this but the Christ Himself? Do you recall that “many” bore false witness against Him in order that He might be crucified (Mark 14:56-57)? God is not opposed to humble men, but to the proud (1 Peter 5:5;James 4:10). In a pathetic retaliation against the Almighty, proud men opposed even God’s own Son. Conspiring to murder an innocent man is wicked in its own right, but to smear Him with lies in order that you may feel virtuous about your evil is unthinkable. But thanks be to God for Jesus Christ our Lord who endured cruel and unjust treatment while keeping God’s precepts with His whole heart. You, dear saint, enjoy the reward for His Righteousness through imputation if you have believed.

Fat Hearts

Psalms 119:70  their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.

Referring to “the insolent,” David/Jesus cries out to God to hear him in his distress. The evildoers that seek his life have hearts that are dull (Is 6:10) like fat. It is as if their center of emotion is so overcome by fat no senses can get to the nerves. They are merciless as they dole out punishment to God’s servant (Psalm 17:10). God has put enough of a conscience in even some of the most wicked men such that the devices they torment others with seem to have some limit, but not so with David’s aggressors, nor the Lord Jesus’. Their tools and mechanisms of hate know no bounds, and they lack the ability to relate to their victims.

Jeffrey Dahmer murdered 17 men and boys over a period of 13 years before he was caught in 1991. He was a serial killer who openly admitted his crimes. **

Our world still has a special place for psychopathic killers. Those who lack empathy and, apparently, any conscience are despised even by the heathen. Yet it is this type of person whom God describes as the oppressor of the righteous. Insolent, proud, and arrogant, men who are dull of heart crucified our Lord, and they’ll crucify His saints too, if given the chance—and your average heathen will cheer them on while signaling his or her virtue in regards to something like saving trees or animals. And a primary reason Jesus was killed is that His works were righteous (1 John 3:12), and for that same reason His followers have no reason to hope for better treatment (John 15:20). Delighting in God’s law will bring you persecution, but is also the expected fruit of your persecution. Holding fast during times of trial provides comfort to the weary and unassured soul.

Reflections on Afflictions

Psalms 119:71  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.

Tom Pumford

James tells us to count it all joy when you meet various trials because these trials lead to your perfection (James 1:2-4)There is something about affliction that draws even the stubbornest of saints toward their God. Most of us can say in retrospect, yes I am glad that “such and such” happened because if not I would not have drawn near to God. God is gracious to always be sanctifying us; even when we don’t know the purpose of our suffering, we can be confident it is for good. Not only that it is for good—but for our good.

And what is better than God’s statutes? We have already seen the psalmist extol them throughout this wonderful chapter (Psalm 119:54,16,112). God’s statutes refer to His laws, commandments, decrees, and ordinances. Statures prescribe “minimum and maximum” levels to our behavior. God’s statutes teach us both what is right to do and what is wrong to do. Conversely, God’s statutes explain what would be wrong to fail to do and what is right to avoid doing. God’s law contains commands that are positive (love your neighbor) and negative (you shall not steal). And while we receive revelation through the Bible, it seems to be statutory that God impresses these truths on our hearts and minds through the fire of affliction. We are sick with sin and God’s prescription is affliction leading to wisdom.

Nothing Compares to You

Psalms 119:72  The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

As we move out of the furnace of affliction, we learn the true heart of a saint. David wrote of God’s rules: “more to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; (Psalm 19:10a) and here he reiterates this cardinal truth. There is no question that God’s law is valuable. But by comparing it to the greatest wealth this fallen world has to offer, David reminds us just what we must be willing to sacrifice for it. Jesus said no man is worthy of me who clings to earthly treasures rather than following me (Matthew 6:19-20;Mark 10:29). The law of God’s mouth, His revealed Word, is similarly valuable. Jesus is the Word incarnate, and we can rightly see that His law and Word are of more value than anything this world has to offer.

Jacek Dylag

This is why we must be willing to sacrifice for the gospel of our Lord Jesus. In a world of compromise, Christians who will stand firm on God’s law despite financial distress or even ruin are a breath of fresh air. Not all of us will be called to make a major sacrifice for our faith, or be sued out of house and home for refusing to cave in to a reprobate culture. But we are all daily faced with decisions to obey God in ways that will prove to be less immediately prosperous. Having integrity at your job may mean you end up passed over for a promotion or are hated by your less honest colleagues. Taking care of your family instead of investing all you can into your dream career may mean a lower salary or less prestigious position. But obeying God’s law is better than all the money in the world.

Do you seek God’s law like it’s better than thousands of gold and silver pieces? That is, do you plumb the depths of scripture and search for its meaning like you would a buried treasure* (Proverbs 2:4)? Do you put as much effort into Bible study as you do into your schooling which is intended to help you make money one day? Are you as interested in knowing God and His law as you are in having financial wisdom? The way you treat God’s Word each day is your indicator light. Do a self-evaluation now, dear Christian, and decide if your check engine light is on, indicating your need to dive back into a more earnest study of God’s law and Word.

* Hat tip to Dan Phillips for this analogy from God’s Wisdom in Proverbs.

** From, an article that seriously calls into question Dahmer’s alleged Christian conversion.

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