How Has the Lord Dealt With You? | Psalm 119:65-72

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  • How Has the Lord Dealt With You? | Psalm 119:65-72
  • The Teth stanza of Psalm 119 begins with grateful praise: “You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to your word.”

    This testimony affirms the goodness of God. In verse 17, the psalmist prayed, “Deal bountifully with your servant.” The Lord answered his prayer. The psalmist testified, “You have dealt well with your servant.”Verse 64 is a universal statement about the goodness of God: “The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your statutes.” Verse 65 is a personal testimony of the goodness of God. 

    • The Lord had dealt well with him. 
    • The Lord had shown kindness to him.
    • The Lord had been good to him. 

    This is the testimony of every redeemed, baptized, and devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Matthew Henry commented: “However God has dealt with us, we must own that he has dealt well with us, better than we deserve, and all in love and with design to work for our good.” When was the last time you offered grateful praise for how well the Lord has dealt with you? 

    This testimony also affirms the godliness of the psalmist. In verse 65, the psalmist calls himself “your servant.” This humble designation acknowledges the Lord did not owe him any favors. The Lord does not owe you or me any favors, either. Many people struggle with the problem of pain. If God is good, why do bad things happen? The question misses the point. God is good. We are sinful. As a result, we should be more perplexed by the privilege of pleasure than the problem of pain. It is clear why bad things happen. We should respond to amazing grace by declaring, “You have dealt well with your servant.”

    The Lord had been good to the psalmist. Yet his life was not trouble-free. He suffered affliction, which he mentions twice in this section. The Hebrew word for good is used six times in these eight verses. The Lord had dealt well with the psalmist, according to his word. God is a God of his word. All he does in our lives is in keeping with the precepts, principles, and promises of his word. God treats us well by dealing with us according to his word. This is an essential test of true godliness. Are you able to face the good, the bad, and the ugly and declare with sincerity, confidence, and gratitude, “You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord.”?

    Verse 65 states the theme of the section: The Lord is good to those who trust in him. Verses 66-72 are an exposition of this glorious theme that teaches three characteristics of a well-treated servant. 

    The Passion of a Well-Treated Servant

      Some people only have a passion for the word of God when things go wrong. When things get better, they lose their passion. God’s goodness made the psalmist all the more passionate about God and his word. It is contradictory to say God is good and has little or no devotion to God. If the Lord has dealt well with you, it will sustain, increase, and deepen your passion for the word of God. 

      A Passion to Learn the Word of God. Verse 66 says, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge, for I believe in your commandments.” This prayer for divine instruction is twofold. 

        A Request for Spiritual Discernment. Verse 66 says, “Teach me good judgment.” “Judgment” translates the Hebrew for “taste.” Our sense of taste distinguishes between sweet and sour, ripe and spoiled, spicy and bland. Thus, taste is an apt metaphor for good judgment. When the psalmist prayed for good judgment, he asked God to teach him to discern between good and evil, right and wrong, truth and error. 

        A Request for Sound Doctrine. Verse 66 says, “Teach me good judgment and knowledge.” Good judgment is a heart filled with the truth. Knowledge is a mind filled with the truth. We need both. Both come from the word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, “All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work..

        Verse 66 begins with a request. It ends with the reason for the request: “for I believe your commandments.” The psalmist’s prayer was rooted in faith in the word of God. When we believe a person, we are willing to listen to what he says. The character of the teacher adds strength to the validity of the instruction. Do you believe God’s word? Ask God for good judgment and knowledge of his word. 

        A Passion to Live the Word of God. Verse 67 records a before-and-after testimony of spiritual conversion: “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” Some commentators speculate this is a reference to the Babylonian Captivity. It is a personal testimony. The picture is of a sheep that succumbs to its natural inclination to wander away from the shepherd. That is the confession of the psalmist. It is the story of every one of us. Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Here are two ways we fall into sin. 

        • Like foolish sheep, we ignorantly and innocently go astray. 
        • Like rebellious sheep, we turn from God and go our own way. 

        When the psalmist confessed, “I went astray,” he was not talking about willful rebellion. He is talking about his sinful nature. He was a man prone to sin. At some point, however, a conversion took place in the psalmist’s life. He says, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” What changed the psalmist?

        • In affluence, he went astray. 
        • In affliction, he kept the word. 

        W. Graham Scroggie noted this verse addresses “the dangers of prosperity and the benefits of adversity.” The blessings of life can seduce us into arrogant self-sufficiency. The burdens of life can humble us and make us stop going our way and start going God’s way. By affliction, God separates the sin he hates from the soul he loves. 

        The Priorities of a Well-Treated Servant

          The Lord dealt well with the psalmist. And it changed his priorities. He was determined to live for God, no matter what. If the Lord has dealt well with you, devotion to God should be your highest priority. 

          Be Devoted to God Because Of. Verse 68 says, “You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.” The verse begins with an affirmation of the character of God. God’s plans, promises, pardon, provision, and providence are good. But the psalmist begins by affirming God’s good nature. He did not indict God because of his affliction. All that God does flows from who God is. God does good because God is good. Numbers 1:7 says, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he knows those who take refuge in him.”

            • God’s nature is good. 
            • God’s ways are good. 

            Verse 68 says, “You are good and do good.” God does not stop being good when things go wrong. James 1:18 says, “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” God only gives good and perfect gifts. It did not come from God if it is not good and perfect. God is good all the time. 

            Verse 68 declares the unchanging reality of and proper response to God’s goodness: “You are good and do good, teach me your statutes.” This is the sixth time this psalmist asked God to teach him. He will ask God to teach him three more times. This prayer request is strategically placed here. After affirming the goodness of God, the psalmist prays to be taught God’s word, will, and way. You do not know the goodness of God if you do not have a teachable spirit. 

            Be Devoted to God In Spite Of. The author of Psalm 119 repeatedly states that he was a victim of verbal abuse. In verse 69, he uses a new term to describe his abuse: “The insolent smear me with lies.” The poetry is dramatic. The psalmist said his enemies concocted lies against him, filled them with special ingredients, and covered him in them.

            The ungodly slandered his character. It is a fundamental scheme of the evil one. It works! People are quicker to believe a bad report about a person than a good report. One line of slander can nullify a life of service. Unfortunately, this is true about believers, as well as unbelievers. Proud men smeared the psalmist with lies. Yet he refused to allow what people said about him to hinder his devotion to God. The more they slandered him, the more determined he was to keep God’s word. 

            Verses 69-70 say, “The insolent smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your precepts; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your law.” This statement refers to the heart twice. His heart was committed to God’s word. Their hearts were unfeeling like fat. In the Old Testament, fat is usually a good thing. It was a sign of honor, prosperity, and well-being.

            The reference in verse 60 is unique. It is a negative statement that describes ungodly people as callous, indifferent, and unmoved by the word of God. A lack of feeling toward God’s word reveals an ungodly heart. In contrast, the psalmist said, “I delight in your law.” That’s the key to the blessed life. Psalm 1:2 says: “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.”

            The Perspective of a Well-Treated Servant

              Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” This verse is clearer when you read it from the rearview mirror of life. But it is an assurance for the future, not a reminder of the past. It is a map, not a milestone. It is about where you are going, not where you have been. To walk by faith is to see beyond the obvious. Is this your perspective on life? Your perspective matters during two vital seasons of life.

              A Proper Perspective Toward Adversity. Verse 71 says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes.” This verse restates the point of verse 67. But it goes deeper. Verse 67 is a matter-of-fact statement about affliction. Verse 71 is a testimony of joyful submission in affliction. The psalmist does not say affliction is good. “It’s all good” is hip slang but bad theology. All is not inherently, individually, or immediately good. 

                Likewise, the psalmist does not say it is good to be afflicted. He was not masochistic. Furthermore, the psalmist did not say his affliction was good to him. He said, “It was good for me that I was afflicted.” Can you distinguish between what is good to you and what is good for you? The psalmist had reached a place of maturity where he could appreciate his affliction because he saw the spiritual benefits God produced in and through his affliction. 

                The psalmist did not say that it was good for him to be afflicted so that he could get a job, mate, healing, car, or house. He focused on the fact that his affliction taught him God’s word. Martin Luther wrote: “I never knew the meaning of God’s Word, until I came unto affliction. I have always found it one of my best schoolmasters.” 

                Material prosperity has limited benefits. Adverse circumstances can be highly productive. Affliction can cause you to learn God’s statutes. Affliction itself does not teach us. This is why a person can go through affliction and come out with wrong conclusions about God, truth, and life. It is the difference between an egg, potato, and teabag.  

                • Put an egg in hot water; it will become hard. 
                • Put a potato in hot water; it will become soft and mushy. 
                • Put a teabag in hot water; its flavor will come out. 

                This is how affliction works in our hearts. Bitter medicine that produces good results. Affliction does not teach us. It makes us teachable if we have the right stuff in us. 

                A Proper Perspective Toward Prosperity. For every thousand men who can handle adversity, there are not ten men who can handle prosperity. This is the problem with the idea that would have us believe that God wants all his children to prosper. That idea neglects that our good and wise heavenly Father knows there are some things we cannot handle. No one is ready to handle material prosperity who does not have a proper perspective on spiritual prosperity. What is the proper perspective on prosperity? Verse 72 says, “The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.”

                “Thousands” is the largest word number in scripture. The plural indicates the word is used here as a superlative. It is the psalmist’s way of saying millions, billions, trillions. There are almost ten synonyms for scripture in Psalm 119. Under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the psalmist used the word “law” in verse 72. The word of God is not just valuable when it says what I want it to say. Even when the word of God gets into your business, it is still worth all the money in the world. This radical testimony is a repeated testimony.

                • Verse 14 says, “In the way of your testimonies I delight, as much as in all riches.”
                • Verse 127 says, “Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.”
                • Verse 162 says, “I rejoice at your work line one who finds great spoil.”

                The psalmist declared God’s word is worth more than untold riches, even though he only had access to a limited amount of scripture. We have the full treasure chest of sixty-six books. William MacDonald wrote: “The Bible is the most valuable possession we have in the world. A computer can add up fantastically large figures. But it cannot record the value of the Scriptures.” What price would you put on God’s word? Matthew 16:26 asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” Learning, loving, and living the word of God will cost. It’s worth what it costs! 

                I'd rather have Jesus than silver or gold; 
                I'd rather be His than have riches untold;
                I'd rather have Jesus than houses or lands;
                I'd rather be led by his nail-pierced hand.

                H.B. Charles Jr.

                Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.