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Psalm 119:57-112: The Word: The Comfort in my Affliction Print E-mail
Sunday, 11 January 2015

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Where we turn in affliction reveals what or who we believe to be the source of our comfort.  Many turn to a parent or a spouse or a friend, who can all be good sources of encouragement.  Some turn to food or alcohol or some other vice, which are not so good.  So what about you?  If you need comfort, if you need hope in a desperate situation, where do you turn?  Remember when the Apostle Paul was in prison for sharing the gospel towards the end of his life.  He wrote a letter to Timothy to encourage him and give him some instructions regarding his captivity.  Paul asks for Timothy to bring him some items when he comes to visit.  Anybody remember what he asked for?  When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments (2 Timothy 4:13).  Paul apparently needed a coat because he was cold and some books to maybe help pass the time.  But above all, he wanted the parchments.  What do you think were on these?  There seems to be little dispute that Paul was asking Timothy to bring him the Scriptures.  In his affliction in prison, Paul sought the comfort of the Word of God.  And he is not the first to seek comfort there.

One of the surprises to me in Psalm 119 is how often the psalmist speaks of the Word being his comfort.  I knew that point was made in a few verses, but when I began to study the psalm, I realized that it is a repeated theme throughout.  In fact, one of the main ideas of this psalm is that God has given us the Scriptures to be a comfort to us.  As the writer reflects on the different difficulties that he has faced in life, he remembers how Godís Law was a constant source of encouragement and hope.  He writes in verse 50: This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.  His comfort in affliction came from the promises of Godís Word.  In our time together this morning, I want us to trace this theme through the seven sections of verses 57-112.  In each section we see the psalmist repeating the theme.  So letís consider these.

The wicked ensnare (v. 57-64)

The first section begins with the psalmist calling the Lord his portion.  Look at verses 57-60.  He wants to keep Godís Word because he trusts in the Lord and His direction through the Scriptures.  But what about when the wicked come?  Where does he turn then?  Look at verses 61-64.  Even when he is surrounded by enemies and things look bleak, the psalmist will not forget Godís Word.  Perhaps Paul reflected on these words while in prison for preaching the gospel.  Since the Lord is our portion, we can look to His Word even in the company of our enemies.  Our natural tendency is to forget the promises of God in affliction, but we should remember.

Good that I was afflicted (v. 65-72)

In our second section, the psalmist admits his need for correction from the Word and even thanks God for the affliction that he faced which taught Him Godís statutes.  Look at verses 65-72.  Before he faced affliction, the writer confesses that he had gone astray.  Yet, through the difficulty that the Lord sent, the psalmist was brought to a better understanding of the Word.  We are a bit shocked at what he says: It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes.  What an amazing statement!  His affliction taught him the Word.  And since he prizes the Word even over thousands of gold and silver pieces, he can say that it was good that he was afflicted.  In order for this to be true of us we must prize the Word in the same way.  Do you want to learn Godís Word so much that you are willing to even face affliction to do so?  O Lord, give us a love for your Word like that!

In faithfulness you have afflicted (v. 73-80)

Where does the psalmist believe his affliction has come from?  Look at verses 73-75.  At first glance, we might not like such a statement.  We donít want to believe that God has afflicted us.  We tend to not like that view of God.  Yet, that is what the psalmist says.  How can that be true of our God?  Well, the problem is not so much our view God as it is our view of man.  If we think that we are pretty good and deserving of Godís love, then we have a tough time understanding the necessity of affliction.  But if we believe what the Bible reveals about man, that we are sinful and rebellious and in love with all the wrong things, then we begin to understand why God would faithfully use affliction to save us from ourselves.  When a person loves the things that lead them to Hell, then they are desperate for brokenness and humility.  The Lord faithfully uses affliction in our lives to bring us back to Him and to His Word.  Even in the hurting He is healing.  Like a bone that needs to be reset before it can heal, God uses our suffering to make us whole.  This is evidence of His love and mercy for sinners like us.  Look at verses 76-80.  Godís steadfast love comforts us through the promise of His Word.

When will you comfort me (v. 81-88)?

Even when we know that the Lord will deliver us from affliction, waiting on Him to do that is very difficult.  We begin to ask questions like the psalmist asks in verses 81-88.  Look at those with me.  Again, I love the honesty of the psalmist.  He does not hide his struggle from us.  He does not pretend that faith in God makes waiting God an easy thing to do.  Of course, our faith helps to sustain us so that we can endure, but it does not make everything easy.  Waiting on the Lord is challenging.  We can spend day after day crying out: ĎWhen will you comfort me?í  And there is nothing wrong with such a question.  We want to be delivered.  We want to be comforted.  And we know that it can only come from the Lord.  But I want us to see again what the psalmist is doing as he waits: For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your statutes...They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts.  No matter what, he just keeps coming back to the Word.

Perished in my affliction (v. 89-96)

The Lord is a rock in our times of distress.  When everything seems to be crashing down around us, the Lord is a fortress that stands firm.  His Word is firmly fixed in the heavens.  Look at verses 89-92.  The psalmist knows that the Lord has sustained him through the Word.  Without it, he would have given up and perished.  But through the Word he was able to endure.  So then, how will he respond?  Look at verses 93-96.  He will not forget Godís Word.  The wicked may be looking for any and every way to destroy him, but he will keep meditating on Godís promises.  The Word has kept him safe thus far and the Word will see Him through.

Wiser than my enemies (v. 97-104)

How does the Word actually help us against our enemies?  When our neighbors mock us and our family members call us fools, how does the Word help?  Look at verses 97-100.  The Word gives us wisdom that will help us see through the lies of our enemies.  They tell us that we need to stop wasting our lives being so committed to Christ.  They question God and His goodness in light of circumstances.  They mock our belief in a God we canít see.  But the Word helps us see through these lies.  It makes us wise.  So how do we respond?  Look at verses 101-104.  We guard ourselves from the paths of wickedness by holding fast to the Word.  We delight in Godís truth as sweeter than honey.  The understanding that it provides protects us from evil.

Severely afflicted (v. 105-112)

And so the Word is a lamp to my feet and a lamp to my path.  Look at verse 105.  It guides and directs our steps.  It makes us wise for every decision.  And when we are facing severe affliction, it is our hope for life.  Look at verses 106-112.  No matter what happens, the psalmist remains committed to the Word.  His life may be ever at risk, but he will keep holding on to the promises found in Godís Word. He will not stray from the commandments of God.

The psalmist makes it plain that his comfort in affliction is found in the Word of God.  When troubles come, he runs to the Word and remains committed to the promises found there.  So then, what about you?  Where will you turn in affliction?  My hope and prayer is that you will turn to the Word like the psalmist.  Let me encourage you to do that in two specific ways.

First, when affliction comes, do not forget the Word.  So many people stop reading the Bible when things get hard.  Life gets busy, circumstances get difficult, and our time with the Lord in His Word vanishes.  I sometimes wonder if we are tempting to think something along these lines: ĎLord, I will read your Word if you will take care of this situation for me.  If you will make my life a little easier, then I will read the Word more regularly.í  We may never say that out loud, but sometimes we live like that.  And what is crazy, if what the psalmist says about the Word is true, then the Lord is saying to us: ĎI have provided everything you need to endure this circumstance in my Word.  I have given you every promise you need in Christ.  Through belief in His death and resurrection and promise to return, you can find the strenght you need to endure.í  Brothers and sisters, I plead with you, do not run from the Word in your affliction, run to it!  Christ the Savior will meet you there.  He is the Suffering Servant and He will see you through.  Let Him comfort you through the Word.

Second, when affliction comes, keep obeying the Word.  Again, we must guard ourselves from wrong thinking in the midst of difficulties.  Our enemy lies to us and tells us that we should disobey when things are hard.  He tells us that we will find comfort through disobedience.  But he is a liar.  Comfort is never found in disobeying the Word, but just the opposite.  The psalmist teaches us to keep the Word in affliction and through Christ and the gift of the Spirit, we can do just that.  We can find true, lasting comfort in obeying the Word even in difficulty.  We may be crying out, ĎHow long, O Lord,í with the psalmist, but we are crying out believing that it will not be forever.  The Lord will return for His own, for those longing for Him.  So then, as we wait, as we endure in affliction, may we find comfort in the Word and through obeying the Word.  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Saturday, 24 January 2015 )

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