Suffering Serves the Saints

Yodh (y) Stanza (73-80)

The Psalmist has taught us that affliction is part of God’s good plan for us (67, 71). We know that God is at work in the pain. But this stanza adds another dimension to understanding affliction: it is not only for our growth in faith and grace, but it is also for the benefit of other believers. This realization is transforming. What we go through, we go through not only for ourselves, but for others, serving as an example and encouragement to others. Suffering serves the saints.

This is what I was made for (73)

73 Your hands made me and fashioned me;

Give me understanding, that I may learn Your commandments

The Psalmist acknowledges that he is the work of God’s hands. God made him, He created him, and fashioned him, that is, He made him what he was. God is the potter, we are the clay. He not only makes the lump of clay, but He molds it and shapes it. He fashions our lives according to His plan, and that includes His providential control over our suffering.

“Give me understanding,” that is, give me the ability to see my purpose in my creation and in the crucibles of life. The Psalmist wanted a clear view of the truth of God’s work in his life and affliction. But it wasn’t just for better understanding, it was for better obedience; it was so that he would learn God’s commandments. What a prayer. Spurgeon commented, “We may reasonably hope that the great Potter will complete his work and give the finishing touch to it by imparting to it sacred knowledge and holy practice.[1]

Let Me Be a Visual Testimony (74-75)

74 May those who fear You see me and be glad,

Because I wait for Your word.

75 I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous,

And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.

Imagine Daniel and his fellow Jews in Babylon. So many had compromised. Some were trying to be faithful, but it was difficult The Psalmist asks the Lord that “those who fear You would see me and be glad.” He wanted the covenant community of faithful believers to look to him and see in his life a visual testimony that brings them joy. He wanted them to see him confident in the Word, steadfast in affliction, enduring under pressure.

The Psalmist knows that whatever God does is right. He knows God cannot wrong him or mistreat him. All that the Lord has brought into his life, He has brought with faithfulness. Having girded his mind with these truths, he earnestly desires to be an example to others who fear the Lord. He refused to think only of himself in affliction, he thought of his brothers and sisters. Charles Bridges exhorts us, “Oh! be animated to know more of Christ yourself; let your hope in him be strengthened, that you may cause gladness in the hearts of those that see you;”[2]

Your Grace is Sufficient for Me (76-77)

76 O may Your lovingkindness comfort me,

According to Your word to Your servant.

77 May Your compassion come to me that I may live,

For Your law is my delight.

Throughout this Psalm, the Psalmist never views himself as a spiritual Superman. He knew that such an attitude and perspective towards suffering would need to be sustained by God Himself. “Let Your loyal covenant love comfort me, according to the promise to Your servant.” If his suffering was going to serve the saints, God would need to serve Him with His covenant love and covenant promise. In addition, he needed God’s compassion to live. As Daniel prayed in Daniel 9:9, “To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness.” Without God’s tender mercies there is no life; with God’s tender mercies there is constant renewal of life. “For Your law is my delight,” is the Psalmist’s declaration that fuels his desire for renewed life. His heart is not dead or dull, but alive with joy and dependence.

Take Care of the Insolent Liars (78)

78 May the arrogant be ashamed, for they subvert me with a lie;

But I shall meditate on Your precepts.

Although affliction may be lightened by the knowledge of God’s hand in it, and God’s fresh compassions and mercies, there are still real people who are bitter and arrogant and quick to assault God’s people with lies. The Psalmist prays that they may be ashamed, “That is, let them be brought to repentance or to ruin.”[3] Notice well believer, the Psalmist says, “But I shall meditate on Your precepts.” He refuses to be consumed with vindictive thoughts or vengeful feelings, rather, he focuses his mind on what God would have him do.

Let Me Be a Verbal Testimony (79)

79 May those who fear You turn to me,

Even those who know Your testimonies.

He returns to those whom he prayed for in v. 74, those who fear the Lord and know His Word. He keeps them ever close to his mind and affections. He desires to help them. He knows he needs them, but he also knows that they need him.

Help Me Live Above Reproach (80)

80 May my heart be blameless in Your statutes,

So that I will not be ashamed.

The final prayer brings into focus enduring affliction for the sake of God’s name and the good of His people. He prays for integrity of heart and through this he would not be ashamed, that is, he would not bring grief to his own conscience and reproach to his God and discouragement to his brothers.

Application

When I found out I had a brain tumor I started asking the Lord, “Father, let me suffer well for the sake of Your people.” I had an awareness that the way I went through this trial was bigger than just me, it could strengthen and encourage other believers as they faced trials. Having a big picture of suffering includes seeing God’s hand in it and seeing our brothers and sisters. Our faith, sustained by God and His Word, can help the faith of others. Our suffering serves the saints.

[1] C.H. Spurgeon, Psalms Volume II, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 212.

[2] Charles Bridges, Exposition of Psalm 119: As Illustrative of the Character and Exercises of Christian Experience, Seventeenth Edition (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1861), 121.

[3] Matthew Henry, A Commentary on the Whole Bible, Volume 3, 702.