by Mike Ratliff
121 I have done justice and righteousness;
Do not leave me to my oppressors.
122 Be surety for Your servant for good;
Do not let the arrogant oppress me.
123 My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation
And for Your righteous word.
124 Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness
And teach me Your statutes.
125 I am Your servant; give me understanding,
That I may know Your testimonies.
126 It is time for the Lord to act,
For they have broken Your law.
127 Therefore I love Your commandments
Above gold, yes, above fine gold.
128 Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything,
I hate every false way. Psalms 119:121-128 (NASB)
There are times I deeply desire for God to hurry up and bring judgment upon the wicked people in this world. I love the Lord. I live for His glory. When people belittle Him with their inane jokes, my blood boils. A fellow told me once that he understood the gospel just fine, but it was meaningless because he did not believe in God. The spiritual gift of prophecy God gave me at my rebirth kicked in and I told him that only a fool would say something like that. That probably was not the wisest thing to say, but I became righteously indignant since he was attempting to amuse himself with angering me by attacking my faith. Of course, my response was wrong. I did not respond with winsomeness, gentleness, or self-control. Then he told me everything was relative then attempted to say there were no absolutes and he could prove it. I responded by telling him that he used an absolute statement by saying, “There are no absolutes.” Then he stalked off. That was not very productive was it?
1 The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God,”
They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice;
There is no one who does good.
2 God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men
To see if there is anyone who understands,
Who seeks after God.
3 Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
There is no one who does good, not even one.
4 Have the workers of wickedness no knowledge,
Who eat up My people as though they ate bread
And have not called upon God?
5 There they were in great fear where no fear had been;
For God scattered the bones of him who encamped against you;
You put them to shame, because God had rejected them. Psalms 53:1-5 (NASB)
The day that happened, I had been studying the order of salvation (the “Ordo Salutis“) as part of the doctrines of grace. That makes it clear that only those God has foreknown, predestined, effectually called, and regenerated will believe. My old understanding of salvation kicked in for a moment as I attempted to reason with that fellow, but I could not share with him. He would not listen. I prayed for him that God will effectually call him. I know now that until that happens he will not believe no matter how effectively I present the general call of the gospel to him. I will continue to pray for him to believe, but if he is not one of the elect then he will continue to reject the gospel because God will not strive with his heart. That is sad, but God is sovereign and we must live for His glory.
We who are in Christ should never look down on those who are not. If it were not for the grace of God, we would be in the same boat as them. God did not choose us because there was anything good in us that He needs or wants. The only good in us came by His grace. Let us be honest, haven’t we taken a little pride in our salvation at times. Don’t we at times believe that the reason we have believed and those around us have not is because we are wiser or smarter than they are? Forget that. No one comes to Christ on his or her own initiative. Psalm 53:1-5 and Romans 3:10-18 makes it clear there is nothing in any of us that seeks after God. He has to rescue us. With that in the forefront of our minds, how should we treat those ungodly people who are all around us?
We have no idea who the unregenerate elect are. We must get the gospel to everyone so God will use its general call to strive with the hearts of those elect who have yet to believe. When ungodly people attack us, make fun of us, ridicule us or simply ignore us we must not become discouraged. We must pray for them and give the gospel to them as we obey our Lord.
I placed the stanza Ayin from Psalm 119 at the top of this post. The first line is, “I have done justice and righteousness;
Do not leave me to my oppressors.” This is how I feel when the ungodly attempt to discourage me. However, God never promised His children that life would be free from trouble. In fact, the promise is the opposite. We must never lose sight of the truth that no one can harm us or oppress us without the Lord allowing it to happen. Those who preach and teach their Easy-Believism false gospels try to build their flocks by promising them freedom from trouble, perfect health and plenty of money in the bank. I have no idea how they could glean this from scripture while totally ignoring its clear teaching that God uses sorrow and suffering in our lives to mature us unto Christ-likeness. The psalmist does make another point we must grasp. If we live righteous lives according the will of God, the world will persecute us. How should we respond?
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Romans 12:14 (NASB)
This is a very difficult thing for me to do because of my natural inclinations. I also have the spiritual gift makeup that leads to a quick and deadly defense via the spoken word and the sword of the spirit. However, God did not gift me this way so I could slice and dice the lost. God gave us our spiritual gifts for His glory and the edification of the body of Christ. The lost need the gospel not to be humiliated and alienated by someone who is more interested in being right than in remaining humble and Christ-like. God will judge the ungodly that do not repent and believe. That is His job not ours.
The second line in this stanza is, “Be surety for Your servant for good; Do not let the arrogant oppress me.” Even though we must not resist the wicked and ungodly with our own means and abilities, we do have a savior to call upon for help. Several years ago, I read an account of the death of some missionaries in Iraq in the early days of the Desert Storm war. They were working in northern Iraq attempting to get fresh water to some towns that had none. They were all in a vehicle traveling to the area when they had to stop at a roadblock. Once the vehicle came to a stop, insurgents came out of hiding firing their AK-47s. They killed all of the missionaries. The next day a caravan of Special Forces vehicles came to the same roadblock. One of the drivers sensed it was a trap, but almost too late. He and the other drivers sped up and plowed through the roadblock as bullets tore into them. A bullet grazed one driver. No one else was hurt. The insurgents shot up the vehicles, but they did not kill anyone. Did God forget to protect His missionaries, but remember to protect those soldiers? Most of the soldiers in that caravan were believers. They knew about the earlier ambush that killed those missionaries. They questioned God about it. He protected them, but not those who died. The one giving this account was a very strong believer. He made sure everyone knew that God is sovereign and in complete control. Then he quoted the following verse.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord Is the death of His godly ones. Psalms 116:15 (NASB)
God does allow persecution of his saints even unto death sometimes. However, God will also protect his saints from oppression if it is His will to do so. The psalmist’s cry in v122 is calling for that very thing. However, that does not mean God will always keep the ungodly from acting wickedly against us.
The third line in this stanza is, “My eyes fail with longing for Your salvation And for Your righteous word.” When our enemies oppress us, there will be times when it will appear as if God has forsaken us. If we allow our focus to drop to self, we will see our circumstances from a temporal perspective rather than from the eternal. When that happens we get impatient with God as we believe He is slow in response to our needs. However, as we repent of that and refocus on our Lord things change. Our circumstances may not change at all, but our perspective moves from the temporal to the eternal. According to John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim Progress the Second Part, there is a place within everyone’s spiritual pilgrimage called the Valley of Humiliation. In this place, the pilgrims find refreshing rest in their humility. This is an allegory of God allowing humiliating circumstances in the lives of those He loves so they can learn humility and how that is the condition that draws us close to the Lord. It is in the Valley of Humiliation we learn to trust the Lord, rest in Him as we take on His yoke.
28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NASB)
Jesus says the place we find rest for our Souls is in our submission to His Lordship. The world may see this as degrading or humiliating, but the Valley of Humiliation is our sweet service of sorrow and suffering that draws us close and intimate with our Lord. It is here we learn to grow in grace. Only by walking by faith as we hold tight to sorrow and suffering is our faith built up unto Christ-likeness. The psalmist’s cry of anguish in v123 is showing us how we react when we suffer in self-focused mode. However, we see in v124-125 that he has seen the futility of wallowing in the slough of despond and is now seeking wisdom and knowledge from the Lord. The fourth and fifth lines in this stanza are, “Deal with Your servant according to Your lovingkindness And teach me Your statutes. I am Your servant; give me understanding, That I may know Your testimonies.” We see in v123 that the psalmist is stuck in self-focus and despair. Now we see him in v124-125 refocusing on the Lord. Where does he start? He goes back to waiting on the Lord to teach him. It is from this wisdom and knowledge he learns of the merciful grace of God. He learns that God’s ways are not our ways. He learns He must not insist on having his own way. Instead, he knows God is sovereign and he must submit to His Lordship.
The sixth, seventh and eighth lines in this stanza are, “It is time for the Lord to act, For they have broken Your law. Therefore I love Your commandments Above gold, yes, above fine gold. Therefore I esteem right all Your precepts concerning everything, I hate every false way.” This sounds like me. I have an intense desire to strive for God’s glory. I love Him. When it appears evil is winning I get indignant and discouraged. I want God to take action. This is simply another cry of despair. However, look at v127-128. The more the ungodly trample on God’s law the more we should prize it. The current debate over displaying the Ten Commandments in public places angers me at times. The world hates how the law reminds it of its sin. Most people are like my friend I mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. They delude themselves with the notion that if they believe God does not exist and neither does his law then they can live any way they want. That is not logical at all. I have other very liberal people I work with who are under the impression that if they believe something to be true that makes it true and vice versa. Where does this self-delusion come from? I see the same sort of delusion in those who have grasped false views of doctrine. This is a serious problem. When people walk, or live their lives, based upon a false understanding of the truth they will make serious errors in judgment. This self-deluding way of walking comes from relying on self-confidence and common sense rather than depending upon God’s wisdom and His revealed Word of truth. I call this humanistic method of reasoning “selective rationalization.”
God will judge the ungodly. We must love them, pray for them, and witness to them. However, a large percentage of them will not repent and believe. Some of these call themselves Christians, but are not regenerate. Some are in pagan religions. Some call themselves Christians, but also support Abortion rights or Black Lives Matter (which is Marxist). Many are humanists. However, some are the elect God has not yet called to repent and believe. They will appear hostile and unbelieving to the gospel. Some of these we would classify as ungodly enemies of the gospel. However, they are not outside of God’s grace. God will call them in His timing. In the mean time, we must teach and preach the gospel to every person on planet Earth. No matter how much resistance and persecution we experience by doing this we must not retaliate or despair because God will judge them or save them in His timing.
Soli Deo Gloria!