TETH - Affliction’s Benefits
(65) You do good to your servant, Yahweh, according to your word. (66) Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe your commands. (67) Before I was afflicted, I strayed (sinned ignorantly), but now I obey your word. (68) You are good, and you do what is good. Teach me your decrees. (69) The insolent smear me with falsehoods, (yet) with my whole heart I keep your precepts. (70) Their hearts are gross with fat, but I take delight in your law. (71) (It is) good for me that I was afflicted in order that I might learn your decrees. (72) The law (Torah) of your mouth means more to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.
One word in this stanza immediately stands out, more obviously in Hebrew than in English. “Tov,” the Hebrew word for “good,” appears six times (once each in vss. 65, 66, 71, & 72 and twice in vs. 68). Note that “better” in verse 72 is the comparative of “good.” In fact, five of the eight verses in the stanza began with “tov.” Two other words are emphasized by repetition, “teach/learn” (vss. 66, 68, & 71) and “afflicted” (vss. 67 & 71), indicating that those who are suffering need to keep God’s goodness in mind in order to learn what he is teaching them in their difficulties.
Here the psalmist reintroduces a theme addressed previously in the psalm. In the Zayin stanza he writes, “My comfort in affliction is this...your word revives me” (vs. 50). In this present segment, he likewise probes the issue of suffering. He does so after having established the goodness of God’s character and his consistency in dealing with us in accordance with that goodness. The psalmist comes to accept and even embrace his afflictions as good because he realizes that God matures us and strengthens our faith through the painful process of suffering (vs. 71).
I. A good God always does what is good for us. (65-68)
II. God uses evil men to strengthen our commitment to his Word. (69 & 70)
III. By trusting God in affliction, we learn to value his Word more deeply. (71 & 72)
Through affliction we grow to appreciate God’s goodness and the value of his Word.
Recognizing the voice of God in the midst of trials...
If such affirmations seem beyond our capability, we should probe more deeply into the truths the psalmist sets forth in this stanza. If it is true that Yahweh is good and does only what is good (vs. 68), we can surely trust him to use our afflictions to bless us. But only when we understand how good God really is will we agree with the psalmist that “It is good for me that I was afflicted” (vs. 71). This is one important way to apply Paul’s encouragement to the Romans: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Although this may seem at times an almost impossible truth for us to accept or put into practice, it is, nevertheless, a biblical principle to which we desperately need to cling, particularly in the darkest and most difficult moments of our lives. Consider the words of the simple worship chorus: “God is so good, God is so good! / God is so good, he’s so good to me!” When our lives make no sense and we feel overwhelmed by what we are undergoing, this simple refrain can remind us that one thing in our sin-ravaged world never changes, the goodness of our loving God.