As we leave the Teth octave and enter Yodh, we see the psalmist following up a section primarily devoted to affliction with a portion expounding on the attributes of God. Everything about God is perfect and good and is our proper meditation in this life, resulting in the peace that surpasses understanding and comfort while suffering. Let’s focus our minds on who Christ is as we traverse verses 73-76.
Psalms 119:73 Yodh Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments.
Understanding and acknowledging that God is our Creator is out of style today. We cannot suppose it was ever popular for the heathen to think this way, but if Scripture is to be our guide, a focus on God as Creator as well as proclamation of God as Creator is evidentiary. The Bible itself speaks of God in Genesis: “In the beginning, God created…” This is what some call an undeniable presupposition. That is, apart from thinking within the framework “In the beginning, God created,” nothing we do or say will make any sense.
God Himself reiterates this point when giving the law to Moses, establishing the Sabbath Day. For in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day (Exodus 20:11 emphasis mine). When asked what God he serves, our brother Jonah replies, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear Yahweh, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9 emphasis mine). When Paul preached in Athens it was how he introduced God: “The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,” (Acts 17:24). We have no precedent for avoiding this core doctrine of our faith in our own lives or our proclamation of Christ to the world.
What is the result of rejecting this self-evident truth? Uselessness. Paul warns us in his epistle to the saints in Rome: (Romans 1:18-21) 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Note the pattern: first men deny God as Creator, then their minds become futile. But what about those who affirm the truth of God as Creator and praise Him for it? For us, there is only grace, and we are right to call on our Lord to supply grace even to be able to learn His commandments, for unless God should reveal it to us, all knowledge is concealed from the creaturely.
Psalms 119:74 Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word.
Spurgeon said, “Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you’re not saved yourself, be sure of that!” It is the burden of every true Christian to take part in the Great Commission. The making of disciples of all nations. When we think of David praising God with these words: Those…shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word, we see a picture of the saints gathered, rejoicing in the salvation of even one soul. Jesus repeats this sentiment to His disciples in a parable.
And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:6-7).
God is glorified when sinners are saved because it magnifies the mercy of God in His forbearance, the grace of God in His forgiveness, and the justice of God in the propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Ergo, those who love and fear God rejoice when a sinner repents; not only because a sinner was saved and trusted in God’s Word, but because God is glorified.
More than that, when we understand this verse (as well as verse 75) through the lens of Jesus being the speaker, we see a truth that cannot be denied. Those who fear God (the redeemed) shall rejoice when they see Jesus. It isn’t that they are seeing David or some unnamed sinner. It is the sight of our Lord Jesus that causes us to rejoice because He has hoped in God’s word. There was never a time Jesus didn’t uphold the authority, inerrancy, and sufficiency of Scripture…and that is cause for rejoicing. Why? Because it is the unbreakable Scripture and the perfect obedience of Christ Jesus that is our only hope.
Psalms 119:75 I know, O Yahweh, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
For most of my life, I have heard that Psalm 119 is “that psalm about God’s Word.” But as I read and memorize octave after octave, what I find is that this psalm is also very much about the affliction of God’s people. Many are the afflictions of the righteous (Psalm 34:19) and in this world, you will have tribulation (John 16:33). Rather than interpret this as depressing, this fact is meant to bring joy to Christians as they realize that they are not alone in this world. When you, dear saint, face overwhelming tribulation, do you not find it comforting that you are neither the first nor the last? Is it not of insurmountable sympathy that the Son of God Himself endured affliction for your sake? And so we find ourselves, once again at the crossroads of sovereignty and suffering. How we view our affliction is a direct result of our theology of God.
And it is with Yahweh and his righteous rules that the psalmist begins this argument. There is no doubt that David, Christ, and every one of us hates affliction by nature. We are designed to desire comfort. That there will be no tears in Heaven (Revelation 21:4) is a maxim even those who do not know Christ can sing with certainty. Only warped minds make affliction their goal. So when we encounter affliction, we must view it under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty. As we saw earlier, God is our Creator—we don’t live in a random-chance-universe. Everything that happens to you happens as part of God’s decree. So how do we reconcile bad things happening with a good God? The answer begins (at least in part) by recognizing the futility of the question itself. Psalm 119:75 and the Bible teach us that 1) God’s rules are righteous and 2) when saints are afflicted, He is still faithful.
That is to say that it is precisely because God is good that we experience affliction. Because God is faithful to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:17), we must suffer. Because God is not a liar, saints will face tribulation in this world (1 John 3:12-13). As the result of the Father’s unfailing love toward Christ and His bride, those who hate Christ will also hate His Body and Bride and treat her shamefully. We, the church, are the image of the invisible God in this world, the Body of Christ. The heathen rage (Psalm 2:2-3) against God but can do nothing to bring him harm. But the church, the tangible evidence of the God of Scripture is fair game. Do not be deceived, brethren, friendship with the world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Conversely, friendship with God will result in enmity with the world! Rejoice (James 1:2) that your affliction is evidence of God’s sovereign unfailing love toward you in Christ.
Psalms 119:76 Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
As we near the center of the Yodh octave, the gears switch. Up to this point, this octet has been full of declarations of truth about God and reality. It was veritable praise leading to a series of supplications. It is a good thing for prayer to begin with praise to God followed by our requests. Too often we saints call upon God in our time of distress only making requests of God but not praising Him. “But God knows my heart,” you say…but out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks! Your heart’s disposition toward our Lord must always be one of recalling His righteous character and good works, and then your supplications will be proper. It isn’t that God needs to hear you praise Him as much as that praising Him is what is best for you, even when you have something you need to bring to the throne of grace.
So it is with that in mind that David makes his supplication. He wants comfort, and he specifically asks the Lord to let the steadfast love of God comfort him. It should be well-understood by now that suffering is appointed to the Christian (Philippians 1:29). Affliction is not a sign of condemnation (read Romans 8), but is part and parcel of the process of sanctification. The existence of suffering requires purpose. What is the most common question we hear? “If there is a God, why is there so much suffering?” And it is here that we adopt the doctrine of sovereign love directed suffering. Saint, if you are in Christ Jesus today, your suffering is not in vain, in fact, it was designed specifically by our perfectly loving God who controls all things for your best!
Note that David doesn’t ask to be delivered from his affliction, but rather that he would be comforted such that he might endure it. It is right and good to ask for deliverance from the afflictions this world hurls at us, and God often provides an escape. But His grace is sufficient for thee (2 Corinthians 12:8-9) even when He doesn’t (Daniel 3:17-18). The most fondly looked upon saints in history built themselves up in the faith (Jude 1:20) through their own suffering which led to earnest prayer. And they, like the faithful ones of Hebrews 11, looked forward to God’s promise to his servant to endure. It is the hope of Heaven that allows weak vessels to remain faithful during suffering. It is the promise that God will not lose any of His sheep that provides the strength to do good in the midst of evil. And it is the comfort we find in God’s steadfast love toward us that motivates us to be still and know that He is God when the only hope we have is that He will do all that He has promised, even when all earthly evidence appears to the contrary.
Set your mind on things that are above us!
See all posts in this series
Psalm 119:1-4 — Blessed!
Psalm 119:5-8 — Blessed!
Psalm 119:9-12 — Purity is the Objective
Psalm 119:13-16 — Declare and Delight!
Psalm 119:17-20 — Open My Eyes!
Psalm 119:21-24 — The Comfort of God
Psalm 119:25-28 — Thirst and Life
Psalm 119:29-32 — Shame Shifting
Psalm 119:33-36 — Seeking The Way
Psalm 119:37-40 — Behold God's Promise
Psalm 119:41-44 — Answering the Taunter
Psalm 119:45-48 — A Wide Place
Psalm 119:49-52 — Comfort Amidst Affliction
Psalm 119:53-56 — Righteous Anger?
Psalm 119:57-60 — What's Your Portion?
Psalm 119:61-64 — Companionship
Psalm 119:65-68 — Afflicted by God
Psalm 119:69-72 — More Affliction?
Psalm 119:73-76 — Sovereign Creator
Psalm 119:77-80 — May God Supply!
Psalm 119:81-84 — Our Whole Being Longs for God
Psalm 119:85-88 — They Have Dug Pitfalls
Psalm 119:89-92 — Established
Psalm 119:93-96 — Limited Perfection
Psalm 119:97-100 — Elevated Wisdom
Psalm 119:101-104 — Sweeter Than Honey
Psalm 119:105-108 — Freewill, Oaths, and More Affliction
Psalm 119:109-112 — Sorrows, Snares, Sons, and a Savior
Psalm 119:113-116 — My Hiding Place and My Shield
Psalm 119:117-120 — God Discards the Dross
Psalm 119:121-124— Deliverance
Psalm 119:125-128— God's Law > Everything on Earth
Psalm 119:129-132 — Into The Light
Psalm 119:133-136 — Does Your Love Bring You To Tears?
Psalm 119:137-140 — Zeal + Ignorance = Worthless Religion
Psalm 119:141-144 — Assurance of Perseverance
Psalm 119:145-148— Meditate on the PROMISE
Psalm 119:149-152 — Be Comforted For God Is Near
Psalm 119:153-156— Christ Alone Delivers
Psalm 119:157-160 — We Are In A Battle
Psalm 119:161-164— Do You Hate Falsehood?
Psalm 119:165-168 — Cause → Effect
Psalm 119:169-172 — Eruption of Praise
Psalm 119:173-176 — Seek Your Servant Like a Lost Sheep