Remembering God in Our Affliction

Dear fellow travelers,

Psalm 119 is memorable in many ways, including that it is the longest chapter in the Bible, with 176 verses.  But the Psalm was also designed to be memorized in Hebrew, with 22 stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  In Hebrew, each stanza has 8 lines that each begin with the same letter.

It is also memorable for its topic: a lengthy meditation on God’s law and its positive, multi-faceted qualities.  The Psalm uses 8 words to describe God’s law, and all 8 appear in 5 of the stanzas while every stanza has at least 6 of them. [1]

However, in addition to meditating on God’s law, at least 7 verses also refer to affliction and/or its benefits in one way or another:

This is my comfort in my affliction,
            that your promise gives me life.” (verse 50)

Before I was afflicted I went astray,
            but now I keep your word.”  (verse 67)

It is good for me that I was afflicted,
            that I might learn your statutes.”  (verse 71)

I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous,
            and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me.”  (verse 75)

If your law had not been my delight,
            I would have perished in my affliction.”  (verse 92)

I am severely afflicted;
            give me life, O LORD, according to your word!”  (verse 107)

Look on my affliction and deliver me,
            for I do not forget your law.”  (verse 153)

Why the repetition?  By repeating the idea of affliction in this Psalm, the writer wants to make one more thing memorable: in our affliction, God is faithfully present, giving us life, teaching us, and reminding us of His goodness.  His steadfast love remains, even when this broken world and our own sinful condition present endless difficulty.

The law cannot save us, and affliction in this world is difficult, but “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  (Romans 8:28-29)

What God uses all things for, and what He has predestined, is that His people will be conformed to His holiness: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6). Even affliction, in God’s hands, contributes to our development in holiness.

As J.I. Packer sums up these verses from Psalm 119 in his book, Rediscovering Holiness, “God’s faithfulness consists in his unwillingness that his children should lose any of the depths of fellowship with himself that he has in store for them. So he afflicts us to make us lean harder on him, in order that his purpose of drawing us into closest fellowship with himself may be fulfilled.”[2]

Whatever our affliction, God will deliver us and bring us to glory. Amen.

[1] According to the Reformation Study Bible
[2] Packer, J.I.  Rediscovering Holiness (1992), P. 268.  I “miraculously” discovered this quote within ½ hour of posting this blog, then had to add it, and repost.

One thought on “Remembering God in Our Affliction

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s