Theme: Blessings of Affliction
This week’s lessons from Psalm 119 show that suffering can bring us closer to God and his Word.
Scripture: Psalm 119:65-88
So far in our study of stanza nine I have been writing about suffering and God’s purposes in it. But I need to say now that affliction is not the most frequently mentioned matter in these verses. The most prominent word in these verses is “good.” There is a very good reason for it. This is the teth stanza. Teth is the first letter of the Hebrew word “good” (tov). So it was a natural thought for the composer of the psalm to use “good” at the beginning of these verses. The word occurs at the beginning of five of them (vv. 65, 66, 68, 71, 72).
Of course, it is not just because the word for “good” begins with the letter teth that the psalmist reflects on what is good so often. It is because this is what he had discovered about affliction. He had discovered that suffering is good when it flows from God’s unvarying goodness toward us. Affliction is not good in itself and it does not usually seem good to us when we are enduring it, but it has a good purpose when God sends it, as he frequently does in the case of his greatly cherished children.
Here are the verses that begin with the word “good.”
Verse 65: “Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD.” This is a general statement, asking God to do good to the psalmist, which God has done and is certain to continue doing. Some writers call this the text for which the rest of the stanza is the sermon. One way God does good is by sending afflictions.
Verse 66: “Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands.” This is an elaboration of the general statement, explaining that the good the psalmist wants is not merely the affliction itself, but rather knowledge of God’s ways leading to good judgment, which he was able to learn because of his suffering. Every believer needs such knowledge and the good judgment that is related to it.
Verse 68: “You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees.” This is the middle verse of the five, and it is most important, pivotal. It anchors goodness in the very nature of God; God is good and he is always doing good.
Verse 71: “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” This verse applies the general goodness of God’s character to the specific matter of the psalmist’s affliction. Since God is good and since he sends suffering, the suffering itself must have a good purpose. This verse is an exact equivalent of Romans 8:28, which we probably know better: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
Verse 72: “The law from your mouth is more precious [good] to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.” This verse returns to the theme of God’s Word, which the writer says is better (the New International Version has “more precious”) even than many thousands of pieces of gold and silver.
Herbert Lockyer recounts a story concerning the largest Bible in the world. It is a Hebrew manuscript weighing 320 pounds and is in the Vatican library. Long ago, a group of Italian Jews asked to see this Bible and when they had seen it they told their friends in Venice about the manuscript’s existence. The result was that a syndicate of Russian Jews tried to buy it, offering the church the weight of the book in gold. Julius the Second was Pope at that time, and he refused the offer, even though the value of such a large amount of gold was enormous. Wrote Lockyer, “Thousands of gold and silver pieces are nothing in comparison with the inestimably precious Word of God.”1
Today we do not have to pay anything to see and even possess multiple copies of God’s Word. But do we value it? In many cases, I am afraid not.
1Herbert Lockyer, Sr., Psalms: A Devotional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), p. 565.
What word is most frequently used in stanza nine? Why?
List the verses that begin with this word. What does each one teach about affliction?
How is knowledge of God’s ways manifested in our lives?
What attribute of God are we learning here?
Reflection: When has it been “good” for you to endure affliction? Are you grateful for all things God has done in your life?
Application: How can you help to get God’s Word to those who do not have it?
Prayer: Thank God for his Word and the access we have to it. Pray that you will value it according to its true worth.
Key Point: Affliction is not good in itself and it does not usually seem good to us when we are enduring it, but it has a good purpose when God sends it, as he frequently does in the case of his greatly cherished children.
For Further Study: Download and listen for free to John Sartelle’s message, “The Goodness of God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)