Wednesday: Trials on the Way

Wednesday: Trials on the Way

Written on 01/08/2020
James Boice

By James Boice

Theme: The Trials of Humiliation and Sorrow

In this week’s lessons, we look at various trials that befall Christians when we try to live a godly life, and also what our response ought to be as we come before God in prayer.

Scripture: Psalm 119:17-32

In today's study we continue our discussion of the persecutions that come to those who adhere to God's Word. We have already looked at the trials of alienation and slander. 

3. Abasement or humiliation (v. 25). In the next stanza (daleth) the writer gives two more examples of what he was suffering because he had determined to live according to God's Word. The first of these is abasement or humiliation, which he expresses as being “laid low in the dust” (v. 25). The Hebrew actually speaks of “cleaving” to the dust, that is, of being so low that one actually seems to be bonded to humiliation. 

4. Sorrow (v. 28). The fourth trial on the way of the person seeking to walk according to the way of the Lord is grief. The writer says that his soul has been made “weary with sorrow.” There are different things one can feel sorrow about: sorrow for the unregenerate world which is perishing, sorrow for one's own sins, sorrow at the loss of a person who has been close to us, either through death or by misunderstanding. But here the psalmist seems to be expressing sorrow at his abased condition, because he has been rejected, slandered and humiliated by other people. 

Have you ever felt that way? I am sure you have. Most of us have at times. We just feel terribly down, as we say. There is nothing wrong with that in itself. It is a natural response to the kind of trials the psalmist has been describing. But what is wrong is allowing such feelings to turn us inward, or even worse away from God. Instead of looking inward, the writer renews his determination to hold fast to the promises of God. 

The trials I have been writing about added up to the threat of death or annihilation for the psalmist, and what he wants is to live. That is the point from which each of these two stanzas sets out: “Do good to your servant, and I will live... renew my life according to your word” (vv. 17 and 25). 

It is not mere physical life that he is wanting; he wants the fullness of spiritual life. Hence, his concern is to live by the Word of God. He says that he is “consumed with longing” for it (v. 20), that it is his "delight” (v. 24), that he has "chosen the way of truth” (v. 30), and that he wants to "hold fast to [God's] statutes" (v. 31). 

The writer of this psalm lived hundreds of years before Jesus Christ. But if he had been living in Christ's day, he would have understood readily Jesus' reply to the first of the devil's temptations. Jesus had been led into a wilderness area by God's Spirit, and after having fasted for forty days he was hungry. The devil came to him suggesting, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread” (Matt. 4:3). 

Jesus replied in verse 4, “It is written: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3. He meant that it is more important to feed on God's Word spiritually than to feed on physical food. Likewise, the psalmist knew that it was more important for him to meditate on God's decrees and obey them, than to escape the world's contempt and hatred if escaping that hatred meant turning his back on God's Word. 

Study Questions: 

  1. In verse 25, what is the psalmist suffering? 
  2. For what reason does the psalmist feel sorrow? What is the right way to handle that situation? 
  3. How did Jesus illustrate the importance of living by God's Word? 

Reflection: When have you felt like the psalmist? If you have not, have you considered that your life is not so different from the lives of worldly people around you? 


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