RCC in the Word -Week of April 1

RCC in the Word

Week of April 1

Psalm 119.73-104

In the 17th-century, George Wishart, bishop of Edinburgh, was condemned to die. As he stood on the scaffold awaiting execution, he appealed to a custom that allowed the condemned person to choose one song to be sung. Wishart chose Psalm 119, and before two-thirds of the psalm was sung, he received a pardon. His life was spared. It is a good thing, he chose Psalm 119 with 176 verses instead of Psalm 117 with two verses!

In this section of Psalm 119, we receive insight into the personal condition of the psalmist; he is under attack from his enemies and enduring painful affliction. He has many false accusers who speak lies against him (vs 78 and 86). Like a hunter attempting to trap and destroy prey, these proud enemies dig dangerous pits to ensnare the psalmist (vs85). Their attacks and threats and violence are so great they nearly succeed in killing him (vs87). The goal and desire of the wicked was the absolute destruction of the godly psalmist (vs95).  Like Bishop Wishart who faced certain death, the psalmist finds himself dangerously close to losing his life at the hands of his enemies. The reality of death is so near that he cries out in desperation to the Lord. In verse 81 he prays, My soul longs for your salvation.  The word “longs” or “faints” carries the idea of coming to an end. For the psalmist, affliction abounds.

Perhaps, you can relate to the psalmist’s perilous situation. Maybe you can recall a time in the past when you were the target of malicious rumors or hostile lies. Maybe you remember a time when it seemed your very life was slipping away. Maybe you remember a season when your soul was grieved with afflictions. Maybe you remember a time when it seemed enemies surrounded you externally and internally. Maybe you are experiencing some of these afflictions now. Your situation is desperate. Your physical strength is waning. Your soul is weakening.

In the midst of his severe trial, what does the psalmist do? He prays and feeds his soul and mind with the Word of God. He refuses to allow his external circumstances, as difficult as they were, to prevent him from trusting in and holding fast to truth.  As he meditates on the statutes, commands, word of the Lord, he remembers several truths.

1. God is sovereign over every circumstance, even affliction (vs75)

The psalmist acknowledges that even though evil opponents seek to destroy him, ultimately, his trials are under the providential direction of God. In faithfulness, you have afflicted me.  The writer does not accuse God of sin or evil for only a holy God can issue righteous rules (vs75). There is no accusation here of wrong on God’s part. No, the psalmist rests in knowing that he is not the victim of fate. Rather, these afflictions are part of God’s faithful plan for his good. By meditating on the Word, he knows that God is full of steadfast love (vs76) and mercy (vs77). He believes that all of creation is at the disposal of his faithful God (vs 90-91). And, he knows that God has a purpose for his life. In verse 73, he says: Your hands have made and fashioned me.  This is an acknowledgment that the sovereign Lord made him and put him in that place at that time. By meditating on the Word, he is also reminded that his opponents will have their day of judgment. God, the righteous One, will call his court to order. The psalmist does not know when this will occur – when will you judge those who persecute me (84)? – but, he is assured that all of God’s commandments are sure (vs86).

2. The words of man will be forgotten, but God’s Word endures forever (vs89).

As he considers the lies and falsehood being spoken against him, he remembers that only God’s true and infallible word lasts forever. Eventually, his enemies’ words will fade away. They will not stand the test of time. But, God’s Word is established in the heavens. It is unchanging, eternal. Charles Spurgeon writes, “After tossing about on a sea of trouble the Psalmist here leaps to shore and stands upon a rock. Jehovah’s word is not fickle nor uncertain; it is settled, determined, fixed, sure, immovable. Man’s teachings change so often that there is never time for them to be settled; but the Lord’s word is from of old the same, and will remain unchanged eternally.”

3. Though providence be bitter, God’s word is sweeter (vs103)

No matter how difficult his circumstances were, the psalmist found the word of God to be like the sweetest tasting honey. As he faced the worst from man, he feasted on the best of God. Remembering the precious truth of God’s comfort, love, faithfulness, righteousness, gave the psalmist a deep resolve to walk in the path of obedience even in the fire of affliction. As he delighted in the sweet word of God, he was able to drink the bitter cup before him in obedience.

4. Persecution does not permit disobedience

How easy it would have been for the psalmist to throw in the towel and give up his pursuit of holiness in the midst of such affliction. The reasoning is simple, “If obeying God leads to such hardship, then why bother keeping his commands?” This, of course, is not the perspective of the psalmist. Even in the middle of great trial, his deepest desire is to glorify God through obedience. Not only does he want to bring glory to God, but he also seeks to encourage and bless others through his obedience. As onlookers see his obedience in the fire, as they witness his trust in the trial, they will rejoice (vs74) and see a testimony of God’s mercy (vs79). For these reasons, the psalmist chooses obedience – no matter what his enemies may do. They have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your precepts (vs87).  The wicked lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your testimonies (vs95).

As the psalmist walked through affliction, he meditated upon the word of God. As Bishop Wishart stood on the executioner’s block, he focused on Psalm 119. Where will you turn in your time of trial? By God’s grace, you can set your mind on the eternal word of God. And, there, even in the most difficult seasons, you can feast on the choicest of fares as you remember the awesome nature of God, the everlasting truth of his promises and the blessing that comes when you follow his commands.

 

Written by: Jeff Porter

 

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