“Many are the afflictions of the righteous”

 

 

[Psalm 34:15-22]

 

 

Can suffering be light?  If you answer "Yes" to this question, how is this possible?  As I was reading what Pastor Nam-joon Kim said,  I got some answers on how suffering can be light.  This is what Pastor Kim said: ‘The depth of sin in the world becomes clearer in the sufferings of the righteous.  ...  The suffering of the righteous is a sense of atonement for the sins of the world.  There is sure punishment for evil is human feeling, intuition and belief.  But the world is tainted with evil.  Then isn’t this world supposed to be perished?  The fact that the world is evil and is not being perished means someone is paying the price for sin.  That is the meaning of the sufferings of the righteous.  The suffering of the righteous is to bear the sins of the world and pay the price instead.  Whether the righteous intended or not, he is acting as a sin offering.  That’s how the righteous saves the world.  The righteous have many hardships.  But the hardships that he doesn’t want  save the world.’  Our sufferings can be light when we look at Jesus, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world in our sufferings.  In other words, our sufferings can be light when we pay for the sins of others like Jesus who suffered and died on the cross to pay for our sins, then our sufferings can become light.

 

                I think there are two kinds of suffering.  The first suffering is the result of my sin, and the second suffering is participating the suffering of the Lord, not the suffering of my sin.  Participating in Jesus’ suffering is God’s grace (Phil. 1:29).  To those who enjoy such grace, suffering is light.  The reason is because they enjoy the grace of suffering.  And that grace of suffering is to experience the presence of God.

 

In Psalms 34:15-22, we see a psalmist David who enjoyed the grace of suffering.  He said in verse 19, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous”.  Based on this word, I want to think about what kind of God we meet when we are suffering under the title “Many are the afflictions of the righteous”.  May we be able to experience God’s presence as we meditate this Word of God.

 

First, the God whom the righteous meet in suffering is the God who is near to the brokenhearted.

 

                Look at Psalms 34:18 – “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  The God the psalmist David met in his afflictions is the God who is near to the brokenhearted.  Why was David heartbroken?  Why was he crushed in spirit?  I think it was because he sinned against God.  Of course, we don’t know for sure what the sin of David was in today's text.  I don’t know whether he was pretended to be ‘crazy’, whether he lied and sinned, or whether he couldn’t get rid of his sin in his suffering, or he committed sin with his lips (vv. 13-14).  But one thing is clear is that the righteous David was brokenhearted in in many afflictions (v. 18).  And when he was going through many afflictions, he was crushed in spirit.  This is the sacrifice of God.  Look at Psalms 51:17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”

 

Our hearts need to be broken.  Our spirits need to be crushed.  Like an older ground that to needs to be cultivated, our harden hearts should be broken.  Whether through God's rebuke or through his discipline, our hearts need to be hurt and be broken.  But we don’t feel this necessity because we don’t consider our sins to be sin, or because we sin and hide from God and don’t confess.  We must confess our sins to God.  We must seek God's mercy and grace in our crushed spirit and broken heart.


                In Isaiah 57:15, the author Isaiah equates the 'contrite in spirit' with 'lowly in spirit'.  That is, a humble person is a contrite person.  The Lord comes near to those who are humble, who have brokenhearted and the contrite spirit and restores their hearts (Isa. 57:15).  Not only does our Lord restore our contrite hearts but He also heals our brokenhearted and binds up our wounds (Ps. 147:3).

 

‘The Lord is near to the brokenhearted, and he saves those who are truly contrite.

                Blessed are the poor in spirit, For the comfort of the Lord will surround him.

The Lord of love defies pride but searches for those who mourn.

Will you share the cup of suffering for the Lord and for your neighbor?

What is so good that you are laughing?  The Lord is crying for those lost souls’

 

(Gospel song "To the brokenhearted").

 

Second, the God whom the righteous meet in suffering is the God who hears the cry of the righteous.

 

                Look at Psalm 34:15, 17: “The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous And His ears are open to their cry.  …  The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles.”  The Bible says in Exodus 3:7, “The LORD said, "I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings.”  When we see this, we can see that the God of Israel or our God see the suffering of the righteous, and that when they cry out, He is the God who hears their prayers.  David already said in Psalm 34:4, 6 that God is the God who heard him, answered his cried out and saved him out of all his troubles.  When we look at Psalms 34, David mentioned prayer four times (vv. 4, 6, 15, 17).  This shows that he offered many earnest prayers in many afflictions.  These many afflictions make us to pray for more, earnest prayers to God.  This is the secret of victory when we are afflicted.  The secret is to cry out to God.  In doing so, our God listens to our cry (v. 15).

 

           If God is listening to us and hearing our cry, there are no prayers that God cannot listen.  I think that there is a prayer that God doesn’t answer even though He hears all our prayers.  That prayer is the prayer that we offer to God without repentance in the contrite spirit.  Look at Isaiah 59:1-2: “Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear.  But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”  The lesson that this truth teaches us is that God doesn’t listen to our prayers no matter how we cry to God in the absence of brokenhearted and crushed spirit.  Therefore, repentance prayer is important.  When we go to the holy God and first repent of our sins with the brokenhearted, we should look to our gracious God and ask His salvation.  In doing so, our God will hear our prayers and answer our prayers.

 

                Third, the God whom the righteous meet in suffering is the God who delivers the righteous from all his afflictions.

 

           Look at Psalms 34:17, 19, 22: “The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles.  …  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.  …  The LORD redeems the soul of His servants, And none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”  After we repent our sins with the brokenhearted and contrite spirit, when we ask God for His grace of salvation, God delivers us from all our afflictions.  The surprise is that God's salvation is sure and clear.  The Bible clearly says that God delivers us from all our hearts (v. 4) and out of all our troubles (v. 6).  The Bible says even though there are many afflictions of the righteous, the Lord delivers us out of all our troubles (v. 17) and out of all the afflictions (v. 19).  In short, the Bible tells us that those who seek the Lord, those who cry out to Him shall not be in want of any good thing (v. 10).

                God, who hears our prayers and saves the brokenhearted, destroys the wicked.  In other words, our God saves the righteous by destroying the wicked (v. 16).  God is the God who reveals His holiness in saving the righteous.  Therefore, the wicked cannot exist before God's holiness.  That’s why God cuts off the memory of the wicked from the earth.  After all, the wicked are slain because of their evil: "Evil will slay the wicked; the foes of the righteous will be condemned" (v. 21).  But our God surely protects the righteous: “he protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken” (v. 20).  God who sees us in distress is God who saves us.

 

                Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but they enjoy the God’s blessing in their afflictions.  And the blessing that they enjoy is experiencing God's presence.  Our God is the God who is near to the brokenhearted, the God who hears their cries, and the God who delivers them from all their sufferings.  The righteous people who meet this God take their suffering lightly.  The reason is because they know that Jesus endured their sufferings instead.  When we look to Jesus Christ suffering on our behalf on the cross by faith, we must think of God who has distanced Himself from his Son Jesus who was brokenhearted.  Furthermore, we must think of our Father in Heaven, who has forsaken Jesus who was brokenhearted.  Our Heavenly Father didn’t answer Jesus’ cry and save Jesus when He cried on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mk. 15:34).  Why didn’t Heavenly Father answer Jesus’ prayer on the cross and save Him?  It is because of us.  It is because of all our sins.  Jesus bored all our sins and died on the cross in order to wash away all our sins.  And the Lord has blessed us with all good things by delivering us from all afflictions, tribulations, and fears (Ps. 34:10; Eph. 1:4).  Therefore, we can only praise God (Ps. 34:1-3).