YOD - Praying in Affliction
(73) Your hands created and fashioned me. Give me understanding to learn your commands. (74) May those who fear you see me and rejoice, for I have put my hope in your word. (75) I know, Yahweh, that your judgments are righteous and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. (76) May your steadfast love be my comfort, according to the promise (you made) to your servant. (77) May your compassion come to me that I may live, for your law (Torah) is my delight. (78) May the arrogant be put to shame because they subvert me wrongfully, but I will meditate on your precepts. (79) May those who fear you turn to me, even those who know your statutes. (80) May my heart be blameless regarding your decrees so that I will not be ashamed.
In this stanza the psalmist takes advantage of the featured Hebrew letter, “yod,” to begin several of its eight verses with an imperatival verbal form called the “jussive” that utilizes this letter in its formation. Here we find a succession of five jussives at the beginning of verses 76-80, each one expressing a sense of yearning, each one translated by the English helping verb, “may.” In addition, two more verses contain similar verbs, an imperative, “Give me understanding” (vs. 73), and another jussive which does not appear at the beginning of the verse, “May those who fear you see me” (vs. 74). Seven of the eight verses in the stanza thus communicate a deep sense of earnest desire, the attitude a believer should adopt when coming to Yahweh in prayer.
Several other repetitions should be noted. The phrase, “Those who fear you,” appears twice (vss. 74 & 79). “Know” also appears twice (vss. 75 & 79). In the first instance, the psalmist refers to himself while in the second he speaks of the godly who know God’s law. “Ashamed” also appears twice (vss. 78 & 80). In the first use, the psalmist asks that his enemies might be ashamed. In the second and contrasting occurrence, the psalmist prays that he might not be ashamed.
The key verse of this stanza, verse 75, stands out for two reasons. First, it is the only verse in the segment which does not express a wish or desire but rather states what the psalmist knows to be true about God, namely that he is both just and faithful. Secondly, it is the only verse that mentions a word featured in the previous two stanzas, “affliction.” In this way, this verse connects the message of this stanza to the message of the preceding stanza, namely that God uses affliction for our benefit. The outline of this segment reminds us of the Beth and Heth stanzas (vss. 9-16 & 57-64) in that it is structured as a question answered.
I. Question: how should we pray in affliction?
- for an understanding of the truth of God’s Word (73 & 75)
- for a positive impact on others (74 & 79)
- for a greater experience of God’s love (76 & 77)
- that the arrogant be put to shame while we not be ashamed (78 & 80)
In times of affliction earnest prayer sustains those who faithfully seek God.
One translation of verse 79 reads, “Let my experience of your mercy in affliction show the godly the blessedness of keeping your testimonies.” We should remember that, among the many purposes God has for our sufferings, an important one is the impact and encouragement our endurance has on those observing our lives. Our non-verbal testimony in suffering often speaks more eloquently than words ever could.
The chief Old Testament example of endurance in affliction was Job who suffered the worst of Satan’s onslaughts and came through with God’s high commendation. The prime New Testament example, apart from Christ himself, was the Apostle Paul who testified, “I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory” (2 Tim. 2:10). Whenever we find ourselves in distress, suffering from an injustice, an unexpected accident or illness, or a reversal of fortune, we do well to pray, “Lord, help me to be patient in my sufferings so that my life may become a strong testimony for your glory.”