The Basis for Affliction
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles to Psalm 119, that portion of the Word of God we are studying together at this particular time. Keep in mind that we have suggested to you that Psalm 119 is particularly the Psalm of the Word of God in that each of the twenty-two paragraphs present some particular phase of the Word of God by way of practical application in the believer's life. Each one of the paragraphs is presented under one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet because in the original text, each line in that particular paragraph begins with that particular letter.

Notice the paragraph which begins with verse 65, represented to you under the Hebrew letter TETH . As we read, I would like to suggest that you think and see if you recognize that this paragraph tells us that the Word of God is the basis or the key to all affliction in the believer's life.

Psalm 119:

65 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.
66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.
68 Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.
69 The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.
70 Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.
71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.
72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

If you are reading with perception, you will recognize that the practical theme of the paragraph is brought to our attention in verse 67:

Psalm 119:

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.

Then again in verse 71, we read:

Psalm 119:

71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

Acknowledgment of God's Wisdom

I am going to suggest several things to you that I trust will enable us to understand that the Word of God is indeed the key to affliction in the believer's life. The first thing that I would emphasize is the acknowledgment on the part of the Psalmist of the wisdom of God in relation to affliction.

Everybody doesn't think that affliction, trials, and tribulations are a part of the wisdom of God. They question them. They say, “What right does God have to do this to me? What possible good can come of it? Why should it happen to me of all people?”

The Psalmist did not take that attitude. He acknowledged the wisdom of God in relation to this affliction. His acknowledgment consisted of several things. First, let me suggest that it consisted of a twofold reality—a literal reality and a spiritual reality. If you will glance at verse 65, you will recognize the literal reality of the affliction because it was very real. He said:

Psalm 119:

65 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.

This recognizes God's wisdom, but he was not belittling the affliction. He was emphasizing the reality of it. For example, if you will look at the word dealt in verse 65, you might see that it comes from the Hebrew word asah , which elsewhere in the Scripture is translated by the English word bruise .

A bruise hurts, doesn't it? Individuals can be bruised physically; they can be bruised emotionally; they can be bruised spiritually; and when the Psalmist said, “Thou hast dealt well with me,” he could just as well have said, “Thou hast bruised me.” He wasn't making light of what had happened to him. He wasn't dismissing it with a wave of his hand.

Notice the word afflicted , in verse 67 and again in verse 71, as I suggest to you that that word comes from the Hebrew word anab, which could just as well be translated “deal hardly.” You remember the story of Abraham and Sarah and Hagar. You remember that Ishmael was born as an act of the flesh and disturbances were created in the household. Sarah couldn't stand it any longer and she said to Abraham, “Something has to be done.” He said, “You do whatever you want to do,” and when he did, he abdicated his position as head of the household and trouble resulted. Immediately, you read in Genesis, chapter 16, verse 6, that she dealt hardly with Hagar. The phrase, dealt hardly , is a translation of this Hebrew word anab , which is translated “afflicted.”

Let us recognize immediately that when the Psalmist was acknowledging the wisdom of God in relation to his affliction, he wasn't making light of it. He wasn't saying, “Oh, it really wasn't anything. It wasn't too hard to bear.” He said, “I was bruised when it was over. God dealt hardly with me, but God was wise in what He did.” The Psalmist recognized not only the literalness of the affliction, he recognized really what was back of it. In so doing, he illustrates a principle that is often emphasized in the Word of God; and that is, to the surrendered heart, affliction is not primarily pain and suffering. Oh, yes, the pain and suffering is there, but to the surrendered heart, affliction is not primarily pain and suffering. Rather, it is a manifestation of God's gentleness, a manifestation of God's graciousness, and a manifestation of God's faithfulness.

We were thinking about this Hebrew word anab , which is translated “afflicted.” Paradoxically, this word anab in the Scripture is translated by the word gentleness . Turn in your Bibles, please, to II Samuel, as we look at an illustration of how this word anab is translated by our English word gentleness . Look at chapter 22, a passage of Scripture that you have wondered exactly what it meant, but when you read it in the manner in which we are, you will see. Notice verse 36:

II Samuel 22:

36 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great.

If you were to read this verse just as it is, you might not relate gentleness to affliction, but the word gentleness here is a translation of the Hebrew word anab , which is translated affliction , so you could just as well read in verse 36, “Thy affliction has made me great…” Why is the word gentleness related to the word affliction ? Because, Beloved, God does not afflict you and me, as we earthly parents sometimes afflict our children. The Holy Spirit has reminded us in Hebrews, chapter 12, that we as earthly parents may chasten our children out of pure selfishness. We may chasten them without wisdom and understanding. We could be wrong, but God never makes a mistake. Sometimes we chasten our children in a fit of anger, but God never does. God's affliction is always related to His gentleness, and one of the manifestations of the gentleness of God is related to affliction. For though he does administer the rod, and He will, and though it does hurt and though the individual is bruised and the pain is there, there is a gentleness about it to the man who has spiritual perception enough to see it.

Notice the word translated well in verse 65:

Psalm 119:

65 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant…

This word well has an interesting translation in the book of Hosea, chapter 14. This word that is translated well is translated by the word graciously , and when we think of the Psalmist saying to God, “Thou hast dealt well with me,” he is really saying, “Thou hast dealt graciously with me.” Look at Hosea, chapter 14, verses 1-2:

Hosea 14:

1 O Israel, return unto the LORD thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity.
2 Take with you words, and turn to the LORD: say unto him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously: so will we render the calves of our lips.

“Lord, receive us graciously. Lord, don't receive us on the basis of what we deserve. Don't receive us on the basis of anger. Receive us graciously.”

The Psalmist, in acknowledging the wisdom of God in relation to his affliction, said that the affliction was not only an indication of the gentleness of God; it was an indication of the graciousness of God. I wish that you could see that today because all too often when afflictions and trials come into our lives, we are prone to think that God is angry with us and that He has it in for us, that He almost hates us and wants to get even with us, but that isn't true. The reason God permits affliction is His gentleness. The reason God permits affliction is His graciousness, and if you will go back to Psalm 119 and glance down at verse 75, you will hear the Psalmist acknowledging the wisdom of God in relation to something else, for there in verse 75, we hear the Psalmist saying:

Psalm 119:

75 I know, O LORD, that thy judgments are right, and that thou in faithfulness hast afflicted me.

Notice what he said: “Thou in faithfulness hath afflicted me.” I think we all recognize, as parents, that we are unfaithful to our children sometimes. Sometimes there is need for chastening. Sometimes there is need for correction, and if we are not faithful, we don't administer it. Oh, we may be too tired. We may be sorry for them. We may think that we will let it pass this time and maybe it will never happen again. We are not faithful, but God isn't like that. He is faithful and that is the reason he administers affliction. Whenever there is a need for it, He administers it.

I would like to suggest that we notice the reason for the affliction in the Psalmist's life. Here in Psalm 119, verse 67, he gives this testimony:

Psalm 119:

67 Before I was afflicted I went astray: but now have I kept thy word.

There are many reasons for affliction in the life of the believer, using the word affliction in the terms of chastening. There are many reasons for affliction, for chastening, in the life of the believer; and one of them that I suppose is more prominent than the other is the matter of going astray, the matter of wandering off. The Psalmist said, “I have gone astray. I have wandered off and God afflicted me. That is why I came back. God chastened me. God dealt sorely with me. God bruised me, and I am so glad that He did, for if God had not dealt sorely with me, if God had not afflicted me, if God had not bruised me, I might have wandered farther off than I did.”

Can you not see the gentleness of God now? Can you not see His graciousness? Can you not see His faithfulness? Why does God afflict? Not because He hates you, not because He wants to get even with you, but He can see that you are wandering. He can see that you are going in the wrong direction and He must bring you back. You belong to Him. He loves you and He cannot, He dare not, let you wander too far away.

There are any number of reasons the Christian wanders. There are any number of reasons the Christian goes astray, and I would not want to be dogmatic about what I am going to suggest to you now, but I do believe it is suggested. Why did the Psalmist wander? How did he wander? Glance at verse 72:

Psalm 119:

72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

That suggests to my mind that perhaps the reason the Psalmist wandered was that he got his eyes fixed on material things. He got too interested in what this world had to offer. He got so occupied that he intended to have what there was in material goods and, in so doing, he wandered from the Lord.

Turn, please, to Paul's first letter to Timothy for an exhortation along this line that is given certainly in better words than I could begin to give, reminding you that when the Devil causes us to wander, when he puts stumbling blocks in our way, it isn't always related to what society calls “gross immorality.” Sometimes it is a very natural thing. Though it is prosaic and practical, it is there. Notice I Timothy, chapter 6, verse 9:

I Timothy 6:

9 But they that will be rich fall…

This could be read: “…that will to be rich…” Their mind is made up. Notice the verse again:

I Timothy 6:

9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Go back to Psalm 119 as I say, without being dogmatic, that I am of the opinion that the Psalmist fell into these snares. I am of the opinion that he fell into these hurtful lusts. He got too interested in what wealth could bring. God could see it, so He afflicted him. He brought him back.

In acknowledging the wisdom of God in relation to his affliction, the Psalmist not only described the reality of it and the reason of it, but he also describes the rightness of it, and this was why it was effective in his life. Affliction will never be effective in your life and mine unless we are ready to acknowledge the rightness of it. Look at verse 65 again, as the Psalmist said:

Psalm 119:

65 Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto thy word.

I wonder what he meant by that. Of course, we could talk about the justice of it; we could talk about the rightness of it; but I think what the Psalmist had in mind was what the Holy Spirit has emphasized throughout the Scripture—that the Word of God demands that there be affliction and chastening for the children of God.

For example, you are familiar with what is recorded I Peter, chapter 4, verse 18, where the Apostle said:

I Peter 4:

18 And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

It has been pointed out to you before that the word scarcely involves the idea of discipline, so that you could say: “If the righteous are saved with discipline, what about the unsaved?” If God has to discipline children whom He died to redeem, what could you expect in the life of an unbeliever? Discipline is essential.

You recall what is recorded in Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 6, where God reminded us that He chastens every son in whom He is interested and scourges every son whom He receives. If you are God's child, then you can expect God to chasten you. You can expect God to afflict you.

I am often asked why I believe in the security of the believer, and I say, “Why shouldn't I?” Sometimes I am told that if I believe in the security of the believer, I am taking away all the preventive for living a righteous life. People need to think that they will be lost. If they don't, they may pull out all the stops and do everything in the word that they want to do.

Such an attitude on the part of a person would make his relationship to the Lord questionable in my mind, but should such a person be saved, he is misinformed if he thinks he can do what he wants to do. God will not permit it. When an individual receives the Lord Jesus Christ as his Savior and then decides to live in self-will, he is in a more dangerous condition than an unsaved man is because God will not chasten the unsaved. He will judge them, but He will chasten the believer. It is part of our relationship.

In II Samuel, chapter 7, verses 14-15, God gave promise to David concerning his son, Solomon, and He said, “David, I want you to know something. If Solomon pleases me, I will bless him. If he displeases me, I will chasten him, but I will never take my mercy away from him;” that is a perfect picture of what happens to the child of God. The Psalmist said, “You afflicted me because your Word says that You must. You have no alternative, and God, I accept your affliction. You were right in doing it.”

Rightness of Affliction

In verse 71, he mentioned the rightness of his affliction because it was a profitable thing:

Psalm 119:

71 It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.

“Lord, it was difficult for me to obey, but now I have been afflicted and I am learning.” Remember this word learn comes from the Hebrew word lamad , which speaks of learning from experience. It isn't what you learn out of a book. Oh, you can memorize the Ten Commandments, Beloved, and not be better off than if you memorized the Bill of Rights as far as your spiritual life is concerned. It is only when you learn by experience in God's school of experience that things begin to happen.

The Area of Affliction

I would like to suggest that we examine the area of affliction. How was the Psalmist afflicted? It is of interest because oftentimes we feel that affliction is related to physical affliction in relation to the body—the breaking of a leg or the breaking of an arm or the loss of a fortune. We feel that unless it is something drastic, something terrible, it really isn't affliction.

The Psalmist did not suffer that kind of affliction in this instance. Now, he had. He had suffered physical affliction. He had suffered loss of friends and loss of family, but the area of affliction which he describes in this particular paragraph is presented in verses 69-70:

Psalm 119:

69 The proud have forged a lie against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart.
70 Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.

What was the area of affliction? His friends had forged a lie against him. This word forged is a very interesting word. It comes from the Hebrew word taphal , which means “to plaster,” “to hang something on someone and make it stick.” I am always, as I have said before, interested in how often our colloquialisms fit in with the truth of the Word of God. You have heard of mud-slinging. The area of affliction for the Psalmist was a matter of mud-slinging. His enemies were mud-slinging. They were robbing him of his testimony. They were saying things that were not necessarily true, but were creating a problem for him.

I wonder if you have ever thought that criticism, just or unjust, might be one of the ways that God is afflicting you and keeping you in line. I wonder if you have ever thought of idle gossip, mean things that people say about you, could be affliction—God's way of keeping you in line. It was in this case with the Psalmist.

Of course, he got the victory when he said what he did in verse 70:

Psalm 119:

70 Their heart is as fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.

This statement, “Their heart is as fat as grease…” doesn't mean anything to us, particularly, but the words fat as grease come from the one Hebrew word that elsewhere in our scripture, is translated by our English word stupid . So you see what the Psalmist did. When he began to get right with the Lord and the situation was cleared up, he didn't go around worrying about what these folk said. He didn't go around saying that he wished they hadn't said it, and he didn't even try to straighten the thing out. He said, “They're stupid. I'm delighting in God's Word, and when I know that I am on the right track, when I know I am in the place that God's Word would have me, I couldn't care less what these people say. They are stupid.”

My, how different things would be for some of us if we would just recognize the stupidity of some of the people who say some of the things they say when we are trying to do the thing which is right. It would not be such a problem.

This attitude could only be made possible because of the acquiescence on the part of the Psalmist to God's will. Notice, we said we have suggested to you the acknowledgment of the wisdom of God in relation to this affliction. We have talked with you about the area in which this affliction was presented, and now we want to think with you about the acquiescence to God's will.

Acquiescence to God's Will

I said earlier that I wanted to emphasize again that the response of the individual believer to discipline determines its effectiveness. Get that, please. The response of the individual believer to discipline determines its effectiveness in the believer's life.

In Hebrews, chapter 12, there are four attitudes which are possible on the part of the believer to discipline. We won't read the whole chapter; we will just point them out to you. In verse 5, we read:

Hebrews 12:

5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:

We are told that you can despise the disciplining hand of the Lord, if you want to. You can make light of it. You say, “Ah, this isn't anything. This happens to everybody.” You can say, “It will blow over. Time is a great healer.” You can despise it. You can make light of it. You can fail to recognize it for what it actually is. If you do, then you will not have anything happen in your life.

In this verse we are told that you can faint under the disciplining hand of God. You can say, “What's the use? I am just going to give up. I have tried and I have had this difficult time. I'm through; I'm just not going on.” You can faint, and if you do then the disciplining hand of God will not be effective in your life.

In verse 7, we are told that we can endure it. That is, we can stick with it until it is over. We can say, “It will be a better day tomorrow. It can't be bad all of the time.” We can be exercised thereby, for in verse 11, we read:

Hebrews 12:

11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

That is the way to make discipline and affliction effective in your life. You can make profitable use of it. The Psalmist did. Go back to Psalm 119, and you will recognize the exercise of the Psalmist. It is in verse 66, when he said:

Psalm 119:

66 Teach me good judgment and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments.

Notice what he said: “Teach me good judgment.” This very literally rendered is: “Help me to see that this discipline is for my welfare.” The word judgment is translated by the word welfare in Nehemiah, chapter 2, verse 10:

Nehemiah 2:

10 When Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the servant, the Ammonite, heard of it, it grieved them exceedingly that there was come a man to seek the welfare of the children of Israel.

“Help me to see it was for my best interest, Lord. Help me to recognize it for what you intended it to be.”

In Psalm 119, verse 66, you will see also see the word knowledge . The word knowledge here is a different word than is used elsewhere in the paragraph. It does not refer to book learning, as we might think of it today. It comes from the Hebrew word daath , which is translated by the word skill . The Psalmist was saying, “Lord, I want to profit by this experience I have had. I want you to help me to recognize that it was for my best interest that it occurred, and Lord, I want You to use it in my life to cause me to be skillful in relation to things. Make me cunning, Lord. Make me perceptive. Don't let the affliction be wasted.”

Then in verse 68, you will notice:

Psalm 119:

68 …teach me thy statutes.

“Lord, I don't want to make this mistake again. I don't want to go through what I have gone through. It hasn't been enjoyable. I have been bruised. I have been hurt. I don't want to go through it any more. Lord, teach me thy rules. Give me thy safeguard so that I won't go wandering off like I did and it won't be necessary for you to afflict me again.” This is the acquiescence to the will of God. You see, there is no bitterness on the part of the Psalmist. He acquiesces. He says, “Lord, this is good. This is exactly what I needed. Now, help me to profit by it.”

Conclusion

Of course, the real testimony that he gave indicating his complete surrender is found in verse 72, where he said:

Psalm 119:

72 The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.

Ah, Beloved, affliction, discipline, trials become effective in our lives when we are able to say, “Lord, the most important thing in the world to me is what you say. Your Word, Your purpose—that is what is important. Nothing else matters.” You have profited in the affliction.


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