by Mike Ratliff
Teth. You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word. Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in 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 insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. (Psalms 119:65-72)
I just got off the phone with a friend who is in the hospital. She is a member of our church and has been in some of my classes. She went into the hospital last week to have the batteries changed in the stimulator implanted in her back. When they went in to do that, they found some infections around the unit. She has been in their care ever since. She is separated from her children much of the year because her ex-husband (who lives in another state) has co-custody of them. She has recently earned her teacher's certificate so she could teach school full time instead of being a part-time waitress as well as a part-time student. Now she is stuck in the hospital and school has started.
As we talked, she suggested her doctor was going slowly on his treatment of her because he knew her plate was full. I told her she had a platter not a plate. Why do some believers seem stay in the crucible of refinement while some never seem to? I did not try to "cheer her up" with talk about any of that. I knew she did not need to hear that right now. I have prayed for her and her doctors. This is all in God's hands. Is this child of God blessed? I know she has been visited and cared for by many from our church. She knows we love her and God is holding her in His hands.
As odd as it may sound, God uses hardship in our lives to draw us closer to Him so we can learn how deeply we are blessed. How can adversity be a good thing? My natural man does not understand that at all. However, when I am Spirit-led I realize how deeply my heart is blessed as He takes me through tests and trials.
So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:9-16)
God's Word reveals the truth to our hearts. We should stop being amazed at the fact God's ways are diametrically opposed to the world's ways. The Soul-led cannot grasp this. Their value system and the world's are the same. They see all adversity as of no value while God has imparted to us, through His Word, how valuable it is in His good work to mature His chosen unto Christ-likeness. When we learn this truth, our redeemed character grasps it, clings to it, and falls in love with the Lord even deeper.
The stanza we are studying in this chapter is titled "Teth." The first line in this stanza is, "You have dealt well with your servant, O LORD, according to your word." In the previous stanzas in this psalm, we have seen where this psalmist was going through tremendous trials and affliction. This declaration of praise in spite of all of his problems is very revealing. It shows us his focus is right. He understands we must look at our troubles from an eternal perspective. The temporal always passes, but eternity is forever. God is sovereign and He has our lives in His complete control.
The word translated "dealt" in this verse means to "construct" or "build." It implies the one doing it is refining or completing the object of the action. The adjective "well" can mean "excellent" or "joyful." The psalmist is telling God His refining fires have been right and perfect in bring about the right result in his heart. The word "word" is referring to part of the Word of God not the whole Torah. He was telling God he had seen in His Word the truth that stated God's good work was being done in his heart through all of his adversity.
As we saw in Hebrews 4:9-15 a few paragraphs ago God does not promise that we will be free of trouble. He has provided His "throne of grace that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." We access His throne of grace via prayer. Believers who are in the pit of despair have allowed their prayer life to suffer. They may have become perfunctory in how they pray and worship. When we do this, God is not fooled. He will allow us to sink further and further into our self-made cocoons of misery where He seems a million miles away. I have seen this happen to some very godly people. They are in prison in the dungeon of despondency. What is the remedy? Our knees to the floor is a good place to start. Seek the Lord by drawing near to Him. Go hard after God. What will He do when we do this?
Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. (James 4:8-10)
When we do this we too will proclaim to our Lord, "Thou hast dealt well with thy servant, O LORD, according unto they word!" (KJV)
The second, third and fourth lines in this stanza are, "Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in 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." In by book, Walking the Walk by Faith, we developed an eight-step process God uses to mature us unto Christ-likeness. Here it is.
Walking the Walk by Faith
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Come to Jesus (Matthew 22:28)
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Take on the Yoke of Christ (Matthew 22:29)
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Learn what Christ teaches (Matthew 22:29)
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Present our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God (Romans 12:1)
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Keep the Lord’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13)
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Renew our minds and become transformed unto Christ-likeness (Romans 12:2)
- <!–[if !supportLists]–> <!–[endif]–>Discern God’s Will and submit to it (Romans 12:2)
Look at the steps in light of what we have been studying so far in this stanza. This process cycles endlessly as God does His good in our hearts that matures us according to His will. As we abide in Christ through the pruning, remain in the race no matter how tough it gets and walk the Walk by Faith even when we are in the crucible of refinement we will emerge from each cycle godlier. This process is what the psalmist is talking about in v66-68. What does he say in v66? He is beseeching God to teach Him His truth and wisdom. Wisdom will enable Him to make good judgments. The truth is the knowledge God teaches us while we submit to adversity God has us going through. Why is it a good thing to submit to God's pruning? Look at v67. He states he went astray; he sinned, before God afflicted him. After God drew into this process, he is able to keep God's word. The only way we can keep God's commandments is by presenting our bodies as living sacrifices by the mercies of God. When we do that, the Holy Spirit controls us. Then we are godly and obedient. In v68, the psalmist restates how good God is by afflicting Him this way. He understands this is how God teaches us to live by His statutes.
The fifth and sixth lines in this stanza are, "The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law." In these verses, we see where much of the psalmist's affliction is coming from. The insolent are Satan's seed. These are the unregenerate, evil, proud people who hate God and those who are His. They lie about the psalmist, but in the midst of that trial, he goes even harder after God and remains obedient. Look at v70. How does he describe the hearts of the unregenerate? They are unfeeling like fat. This is a good description of the hard heart. A hard heart has a layer of something blocking the conscience from the Soul. In extreme cases, the defiled conscience can become seared. In that case, no guilt or condemnation is apparent from the conscience so the Soul becomes remorseless. It is unfeeling like fat.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared…(1 Timothy 4:1-2)
The seventh and eighth lines in this stanza are, "It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces." In the seventh line, the psalmist restates the wonderful truth it was good God had allowed affliction into his life. Why? It taught him God's truth. God gave him wisdom. He became closer to his Lord. In fact, he states in the eighth line that the truth and wisdom he learned from God during the affliction is more valuable to him than any temporal treasure. Why? His real treasure awaits in Heaven and the treasury of goodness in his heart is built up to the point it is burgeoning with godliness.
The following Puritan prayer is a plea for God to grant rest in Him. I believe it gives us the right focus on how we are to walk through our lives, which are full of trouble. If you are struggling with maintaining your walk before God because of tests and trials, you may want to pray this to God right now.
O God, most high, most glorious, the thought of Thine infinite serenity cheers me, for I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed, but Thou art for ever at perfect peace. Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment, they stand fast as the eternal hills. Thy power knows no bond, Thy goodness no stint. Thou bringest order out of confusion, and my defeats are Thy victories: The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to Thee as a sinner with cares and sorrows, to leave every concern entirely to Thee, every sin calling for Christ's precious blood; revive deep spirituality in my heart; let me live near to the great Shepherd, hear His voice, know its tones, follow its calls. Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth, from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit. Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities, burning into me by experience the things I know; Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel, that I may bear its reproach, vindicate it, see Jesus as its essence, know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill; unbelief mars my confidence, sin makes me forget Thee. Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots; grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to Thee, that all else is trifling. Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy. Abide in me, gracious God. – Amen!
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™ Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (KJV) are taken from The Holy Bible, King James Version.