You have dealt well with Your servant,
O LORD, according to Your word.
Teach me good judgment and knowledge,
For I believe Your commandments.
Before I was afflicted I went astray,
But now I keep Your word.
You are good, and do good;
Teach me Your statutes.
The proud have forged a lie against me,
But I will keep Your precepts
with my whole heart.
Their heart is as fat as grease,
But I delight in Your law.
It is good for me
that I have been afflicted,
That I may learn Your statutes.
The law of Your mouth is better to me,
Than thousands of coins
of gold and silver.
How should we respond when we feel mistreated? This is a question that springs out of Psalm 119’s 9th stanza, and it is a troubling situation to face. Persecution is something that American Christians know little about, and we truly ought to thank God for His wonderful grace in giving us the freedoms we enjoy, but any true believer who stands up for truth must naturally stand opposed to the common wisdom of the world and will face at least ridicule and scorn, if not open persecution for his stand. It may be tempting to try and gloss over the truth in order to make it more palatable to those who disagree with us, and it is definitely natural for us to want to get along with everyone, even those who are critical of the Word of truth. But when we try to accommodate those who do not like to hear the plain truth of God’s word, or try to avoid persecution by presenting Scripture in an easier-to-swallow form, we fail to receive the benefits of enduring scorn and affliction for our commitment to the truth.
What exactly are the benefits of affliction, and why on earth would we choose to endure it rather than avoid it? The Psalmist offers his own insight based on his experience in this stanza. We first learn to more fully appreciate God’s faithfulness, as we experience His ongoing presence in accordance with His promise (v.65; cf. Heb. 13:5). Second, we acquire a greater desire for godly wisdom and discernment, as we realize that all true judgment and knowledge are sourced in Him and received by His word (v.66; cf. Jas. 1:5). Third, we experience the molding of our character in righteousness, giving us the endurance to stay on the path of obedience and follow the example of the One who does right because it is His nature to do right (v.67-68). The fourth and fifth benefits are both found in the change of our focus from earthly things to heavenly things. In v.69, we are relieved from our concern over those who speak falsely against us, because our focus is on the truth of God’s word rather than the words of men (1 Pet. 3:16-17). This change of focus includes our value system, because while the wicked man’s heart grows fat on earthly things, our true delight is in the eternal word of God (v.70). This appetite for God’s word grows in times of distress, for what man who is dying of thirst would trade a glass of water for the treasures of the world? When we begin to see Scripture as our source of strength and hope as we struggle to stand in the face of constant attack, it truly becomes our most precious treasure (v.71-72).