Keep Trusting When Trouble Comes | Psalm 119:49-56

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  • Keep Trusting When Trouble Comes | Psalm 119:49-56
  • Psalm 119 repeatedly confronts us with the fact that devotion to God’s word brings troubles and blessings. The hard truth that devotion brings trouble is mentioned in the previous stanzas. It is stated explicitly in this stanza. Yet the tone of the psalmist is upbeat. 

    • He was not down, distressed, or defeated. 
    • He was not on the verge of giving up on his faith. 
    • He was not looking for deliverance from his troubles. 

    There is only one prayer request in this stanza. It is not a prayer for deliverance. It is an expression of confidence in the faithfulness of God. Alexander Maclaren wrote: “This section has only one verse of petition, the others being mainly avowals of adherence to the Law in the face of various trials.” 

    The psalmist’s chief concern was not deliverance from his troubles. His main priority was to remain faithful to God’s word in his problems. 

    • Do not ask, “When will I get out of this?” 
    • Ask, “What can I get out of this?” 

    It is a weird irony. We affirm God’s word until trouble comes. Then we turn to friends, relatives, doctors, lawyers, or politicians rather than God’s word. Faith does not cancel out common sense. But faith operates beyond common sense. There are some answers to your problems that you will only find in the word of God. Keep trusting God’s word when troubles come. Verses 49-56 teach five spiritual benefits God’s word produces in trouble.  

    God’s Word Produces True Hope. 

      Verse 49 records the only prayer request in this stanza: “Remember your word to your servant.” The psalmist adopts a humble posture, addressing himself to God as “Your servant.” It denotes submission, obedience, and faithfulness to God. Then he makes a humble petition: “Remember your word to your servant.”“Remember” is an important word in this stanza, used in verses 49, 52, and 55. It means to pay attention to or work on behalf of. This petition is not an indictment. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness.” God does not forget his promises. I want to say God does not forget anything. But that would not be true. Hebrews 10:17 says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

      • When God forgives a sin, he does not remember it. 
      • When God makes a promise, he does not forget it. 

      The prayer, “Remember your word,” is about the psalmist’s feelings, not the Lord’s faithfulness. The psalmist was in trouble. From his limited perspective, it seemed the Lord had forgotten the promises of his word. His feelings were wrong. His response to his feelings was right. He did not panic. He prayed about his feelings: “Remember your word to your servant.” It is a request that God’s word would relate to him favorably. 

      After his humble petition, the psalmist reveals why he prayed this way: “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.” The psalmist did not ask for another word. He asked God to remember the word God had already spoken. He prayed that God would remember his word, not because he was desperate, frustrated, or panicked. He prayed that God would remember his word because his hope was in God’s word. In scripture, hope is not wishful thinking. It is great expectation. That great expectation is not based on the faithfulness of the believer. It is based on the faithfulness of God. What is faith? Faith is hope in God’s word. 

      Lamentations 3:21-23 says, “But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”   

      God’s Word Produces Great Comfort. 

        Verse 50 states the source of comfort: “This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life.” The psalmist suffered affliction. His affliction was so severe that he identified himself with it, calling it “my affliction.” In his affliction, God’s word comforted him. This is a dominating theme of this section and this psalm. God’s word comforts. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” God comforts. The primary means by which God comforts is through the promises of his word. 

        Verse 51 states the depth of comfort: “The insolent utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your law.” Here the psalmist reveals the cause of his troubles. Proud men held him in contempt and ridiculed him without mercy. This is the strategy of the enemy. Most of us will not face martyrdom. That does not mean you are off the hook. The enemy is skilled at using verbal and emotional abuse to get us to wave the white flag of surrender. This was the enemy’s tactic against the psalmist. But he refused to turn away from the law. He did not let what people said about him cause him to surrender his faith in God’s word. W. Graham Scroggie wrote: “The derision of sinners should never promote the decline of the saints.”

        Verse 52 states the means of comfort: “When I think of your rules from of old, I take comfort, O Lord.” The psalmist was comforted when he thought about the word of God. Some are tripped up, knocked down, and run over by life’s troubles. And it causes them to question the sufficiency of God’s word to pick them up when they are down. But the issue is not that the word of God has been tried and found wanting. Many have not tried it. Too often, we respond to trouble by focusing on everything but God’s word. 

        Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” 

        The reason you should think about God’s word is that it is “from old.” It is not just ancient; it is eternal. You do not need a fresh word, new revelation, or contemporary philosophy. True comfort comes from the unchanging nature of God’s word. It predates those who attack it. It has stood the test of time. It will outlast the end of the world. Psalm 119:89 says, “Forever, O Lord, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens.” Isaiah 40:8 says, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” Matthew 24:35 says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”

        God’s Word Produces Holy Zeal. 

          Verse 53 says, “Hot indignation seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your law.” The psalmist was horrified, angry, and furious because of the ways of the wicked. The hot indignation of the psalmist was evidence of his godly heart. Because he loved God, he hated wickedness. When he saw the ways of the wicked, it caused him holy indignation, mental anguish, and emotional distress. Psalm 119:136 says, “My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law.” Psalm 119:139 says, “My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words.” Psalm 119:158 says, “I look at the faithless with disgust, because they do not keep your commands.”

          We should feel hot indignation when we remember that God is God, holiness is right, sin is wicked, heaven is real, hell is hot, and judgment is coming. General William Booth used to say that he wished every one of the soldiers in the Salvation Army would be held over hell for half an hour. Sometimes God does that by allowing us to go through trials, troubles, and tribulations. As you go through troubles, God’s word produces within you a holy zeal for holiness and against sin. The psalmist described the wicked as those “who forsake your law.” To forsake the law, you must embrace the law. These wicked people had learned, believed, and obeyed the law of God. At some point, however, they turned away from it. This is what gave him hot indignation. 

          • He was not indignant against the worldly wickedness. 
          • He was indignant against religious wickedness. 

          God blesses the godly with stability, fruitfulness, and prosperity. Psalm 1:4-6 says, “The wicked are not soy, but are like chaff that the wind drives away. Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.” Do you believe this is true? Witness to the wicked! But do not take matters into your own hands. James 1:19-20 says, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

          God’s Word Produces Stubborn Joy.

            Verse 19 says, “I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your commandments from me.” The psalmist described himself as a sojourner to express his sense of alienation from the world. The world was not his home. He was just a pilgrim passing through this land on his way to a better place. The psalmist could not get home by following the crowd. The word of God was the only trustworthy roadmap that could get him safely home to God. Thus, he prayed, “Hide not your commandments from me.” 

            In verse 54, this sojourner says the word of God is not just his roadmap but also his iPod. It was his headset that filled his heart with joyful music as he traveled through this strange land. Verse 52 says, “Your statutes have been my songs in the house of my sojourning.” A singing heart requires a pilgrim spirit. What’s in your heart is what you sing. Stubborn joy displays and deepens our faith in God. In his trouble, the psalmist discovered what Job 35:10 calls “songs in the night.”

            Psalm 137:1-4 says, “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, ‘Song us one of the songs of Zion!’ How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” The children of Israel had a limited and localized God. Because they were not in their safe, comfortable, familiar place, they felt like they had nothing to sing about. This psalmist was not a part of that crowd. 

            • He may not have had access to the temple, but he had God’s word. 
            • He may not have been in Jerusalem, but he had God’s word. 
            • He may not have been in his comfort zone, but he had God’s word. 

            Because he had God’s word, he had something to sing about. God’s word was his song in the house of his sojourning. Paul and Silas were beaten and arrested in Philippi. Acts 16:25-26 reports: “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were loosed.” God may not deliver you out of your situation. But if you learn to sing grateful praise to God in your trouble, you are already delivered. 

            James Montgomery Boice wrote: “The singing of Christians does not make the cause of their sorrows go away – though the Lord sometimes does that himself – but it does lift their spirits and testifies to the goodness of God, who provides comfort even in bad times.” 

            God’s Word Produces Faithful Obedience. 

            Verse 49 says, “Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope.” Verse 55 says, “I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.” The servant who asked the Lord to remember his word now assures him that he remembers God’s name. He remembered God’s goodness, greatness, and graciousness in the midst of his troubles. He did not allow his troubles to cause him to forget the Lord. He remembered the name of the Lord in the night. 

            We do not know if “night” is literal or poetic. Either way, the point is the same. The psalmist would not allow the times, circumstances, or environment to cause him to forget the name of the Lord. It may have been nighttime, literally. 

            • He may have suffered sleepless nights. 
            • He may have tossed and turned in his bed. 
            • He may have walked the floor all night. 

            But he would not allow the temptations of sin, sadness, or sensuality to cause him to forget the Lord. He remembered the name of the Lord in the night. Or it could have been night in his life, spiritually or symbolically. It may have been a dark, lonely, and frightening time in his life. Yet he remembered the name of the Lord in the night. 

            Do not let anything or anyone cause you to forget the name of the Lord. It does not matter who it is, when it is, or where it is. Determine to remember the name of the Lord when it is nighttime in your life. If you remember the Lord in the night, it will enable you to live in faithful obedience to God. Verse 55 says, “I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your law.” 

            Charles Spurgeon wrote: “He found sanctification through meditation; by the thoughts of the night he ruled the actions of the day.” Did you get that? If you remember the name of God in the night, you will be able to keep the law of God in the day. You do not become holy by accident. Holiness is the result of the practice of godly habits. You must remember God’s name in the night to keep God’s word in the day. 

            In the closing verse of the stanza, the psalmist summarizes the spiritual benefits he received because he trusted God’s word when troubles came in his life. Verse 56 says, “This blessing has fallen to me, that I have kept your precepts.” The NKJV reads: “This has become mine…” It seems this final verse of the stanza is meant to summarize all that has been said in the previous verses. The psalmist looks back on all he has said and declares that this has become his life, story, and experience because he has kept God’s word. What “this”? I do not think he is talking about the blessings in this stanza. He is talking about the blessings and burdens. 

            The psalmist looked back at his troubles and triumphs and declared, “This has become mine, because I have kept your precepts.” That can be your story, too, if you keep trusting God’s word. You will experience tests, trials, tensions, troubles, and tribulations. But you will also experience hope, comfort, growth, strength, and blessings. If you keep trusting God’s word when trouble comes, God will use your troubles to produce spiritual benefits in your life. And the triumph will be worth the trouble! 


            H.B. Charles Jr.

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