Today we turn to digest three more truths-
3) God uses affliction to bring us to himself –
This is a morsel of truth Psalm 119 offers us. But if we are honest we prefer it was not there.You ca
n see it in verses 67 and 71.
- "I used to wander off until you disciplined me; but now I closely follow your word." verse 67
- "My suffering was good for me , for it taught me pay attention to your decrees" verse 71
I think we would rather read that God will protect us from all harm and offer us a life free from pain and suffering. But that is not what it says.
Jesus promises us that "here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows" (John 16:33)
The good news is that God can use those trials and sorrows to bring us back to him.
What have you suffered? What has been taken from you that was traumatic and devastating? Maybe it was your health, your reputation, your retirement, a loved one. Whatever it was, there will be a day when God will wipe every tear from your eye. If you will give your suffering to God you will find that he is there in the midst of it with you to redeem it and to give you the power to endure it.
I have friends who recently went through a miscarriage followed by a shocking discovery that one of them had a rare and deadly disease. And yet, as I have watched, they have clung to God and clung to each other like never before. Their marriage and their faith have actually been strengthened through this suffering. We do not understand why God allows it sometimes. But we do know that he will in some way bring Good out of it.
4) we would love and treasure SCRIPTURE more If we COULD See it with Jesus in the centeR
- "You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope" verse 114
- "I rejoice in your word like one who discovers great treasure" verse 162
- " I hate and abhor all falsehood but I love your instructions" verse 163
- " those who love your instruction have great peace and do not stumble" verse 165
- "I have obeyed your laws for I love them very much" verse 167
The theme in these verses is clear. The psalmist loves God's word! He loves it! It is like a treasure to him and it brings many rewards to those who cherish it.
This is not where we are.
Most of us have access to Bibles on our phones, and on our tablets. We have at least three or four different kinds of Bibles laying around our homes as well. And yet, we do not treasure it. We do not dote on it. We see it rather as an obligation. Or as a "been there, done that." Apparently Mark Twain was severely turned off by the Bible. As the story goes, he used to have dreams of lying on his bed under a huge family heirloom Bible on his chest weighing down on him and suffocating the life out of him. You may not be that bad off, but do you treasure it?
I know I that often times I do not.
The solution to bridging this gap is to see that God's word is an amazing masterpiece all pointing towards Jesus.
Photo by 3vidence on Flickr
Jesus is the perfect and true king that all the other biblical kings were pointing towards. Jesus is the perfect and true prophet that all the other prophets were hinting at. And Jesus is the perfect and true priest who all the other priests were foreshadowing.
Tim Keller highlights this in a fictitious conversation between a first century pagan and a first century Christian. The pagan is trying to understand how Christianity works. As he thinks about all the trappings of the various pagan religions he asks the Christian about our temples, our priests, and our sacrifices. But for each of these the Christian confounds the pagan. He says, "We don't have a temple, Jesus is our temple. He is the place where God comes to meet with humanity. We don't have priests, Jesus is our priest. He is the go-between that mediates our connection to God. We don't make sacrifices, Jesus is our sacrifice. He gave himself on our behalf to take away our guilt and shame" In essence he is saying that all of Scripture is about Jesus and as such Christianity is utterly unique among the faiths of the world.
This is what Jesus was explaining to the people on the Road to Emmaus in Luke 24 where he shows them that all the writings of the law and the prophets pointed in fact to him. When our eyes are opened like theirs were, this beautiful fact about the Bible transforms it from a crushing weight to a beautiful treasure. The laws that used to condemn us now have been already kept by the person and work of Jesus.
And this leads us to the last morsel on our buffet.
5) GOD is the seeking shepherd even though we like sheep have gone astray
- "Oh that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees then I will not be ashamed when I compare my life with your commands" verse 5
- "Please don't give up on me!" verse 8
- "Keep me from lying to myself" verse 29
- "I have wandered away like a lost sheep. Come and find me for I have not forgotten your commandments." verse 176
These verses show a deep awareness of being distant and lost. The psalmist realizes he has the capacity to lie to himself. He even calls himself a lost sheep, one who has wandered away. And the good news of Psalm 119 is that God is the pursuing shepherd.
He is seeking us as his lost sheep. He is hunting for us like buried treasure. And this is such good news. Biblical faith is different than "Religion". "Religion" is about man's attempt to find God. The Bible is about God's attempts to find us. And he does that through the life death and resurrection of Jesus.
When we see this as the uniting thread of the Bible it does become a treasure to us. It is then that we accept its invitation to have a real relationship with God. A relationship where we do not have to pretend. A relationship where even our sufferings are used for good ends. A relationship where we are the pursued and God is the pursuing shepherd.
I know there is a lot to feast on in this long buffet of soul-food. I have highlighted a few of the morsels that I think we all should enjoy. What verse in Psalm 119 keeps you coming back for more?