“Many are the afflictions of the righteous,
But the Lord delivers him out of them all.”
I know many if not all of you reading this have been afflicted at one time or another. Some of you may be afflicted right now. I think it’s safe to say we can all relate and have compassion for those who are being afflicted heavily. The Bible says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:19) I believe the Lord allows us to be afflicted so He can humble us to submit to His will and to follow His ways. This includes all His laws, precepts and statutes. This simply means that we take the Bible for face value with the Holy Spirit as our guide and illumination.
Isn’t it true when we go through deep affliction, most of us draw closer to the Lord? If we never had to deal with suffering or torment, we would most likely be self-sufficient, not needing the help of our Savior. Psalm 119 is a good example of how the righteous may be afflicted in this world. The psalmist may have been David, but it is not clear who the author is. The Psalm begins with an exhortation of blessing to those who follow the Lord’s ways and precepts. The psalmist writes, “I shall keep Your statutes; Do not forsake me utterly! How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.” (Verses 8-9)
The Psalm goes on to describe the necessity of the Lord’s teaching and word. In verse 18 the psalmist writes, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wonderful things from Your laws.” In other words he is saying, “Give me understanding by the power of Your Holy Spirit to be able to get revelation from the Word of God.” We need the illumination of the Holy Spirit to be able to understand the Bible. Often I hear people say, “Well, isn’t the Bible just a matter of one’s own interpretation?” Actually, no it is not, according to 2 Peter 1.
Holy Spirit Illumination
“But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (2 Peter 1:20:21) The King James Study Bible describes the illumination of the Holy Spirit this way: “Illumination is the ministry of the Holy Spirit by which He causes Christians to understand the truths of God revealed in Scripture. The word “conviction” means “cause to see,” is primarily used of the Spirit’s work in revealing sin to the unsaved. (John 16:8) The word understanding is used of the Spirit’s work in revealing other truth in Scripture.
Illustration: The psalmist recognized the need for supernatural aid in understanding the Scriptures and prayed that his eyes would be opened. (Verse 18) This would also be a good prayer for Christians today as they approach the Scriptures.
Application: Since the Bible was written by holy men of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit, it should also be read by holy men and women of God illuminated by the Holy Spirit. There seems to be a strong correlation between following the ways and the word of the Lord and the need for affliction mentioned throughout Psalm 119. “Remember the word to Your servant in which You have made me hope. This is my comfort in my affliction, that Your word has revived me.” (Verses 49-50)
“You have dealt well with Your servant, O Lord, according to Your word. Teach me good discernment and knowledge, for I believe in Your commandments. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word.” (Verses 65-67) “May those who fear You see me and be glad, Because I wait for Your word. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me. O may Your loving kindness comfort me, According to Your word to Your servant. May Your compassion come to me that I may live, For Your law is my delight.” (Verses 74-77) “Look upon my affliction and rescue me, For I do not forget Your law.” (Verse 153) The afflictions of the righteous are many because the way to eternal life is full of pressures, anguish and distress.
Consider the meaning of narrow as used in Matthew 7:13-14. “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow or pressed in with distress that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” I find this particular Scripture to be very sobering. We all need to make sure we are on that narrow path entering into that smaller gate. The wide path is the way the majority of people go down because it feels good to the flesh. The narrow path on the other hand goes against natural inclination.
Crucifying the Flesh
The flesh wants to lead and go its own way. The flesh wants to do its own thing. The spirit on the other hand is willing, but the flesh is weak. So how do we get and stay on the narrow path. I believe it is definitely NOT by human effort. I believe it is by the grace and power of the Holy Spirit, listening to the voice of God and following the Word of God (the Bible). We must study the Word to show ourselves approved. (2 Timothy 2:15) When we choose to follow the Lord and all his precepts, we may still suffer affliction in various forms, but He has promised to deliver us from all afflictions! Halleluiah!
Sometimes affliction will come in the form of disease or depression, sometimes in the form of antagonistic people and sometimes it will be a battle in our own mind or a battle in our homes, cities and churches. The Lord uses our affliction to teach us His ways and draw us closer to Him. To clarify, I don’t believe the Lord puts sickness on us to teach us a lesson. However, since we live in a fallen world we are sometimes subjected to sickness and disease. I was afflicted with cancer at one time, but the Lord delivered me from it. I still have the scars from the affliction of the surgery that was required to save my life, but the point is I’m still here and the Lord delivered me from that affliction. Many of the side effects that the medical community told me I would permanently have, never manifested in my recovery process.
Affliction is definitely humbling and helps us to grow in compassion towards others who suffer. I believe this is what the Lord means when He says, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
The Vine’s Complete Expository dictionary says this concerning the narrow way in reference to affliction: “To suffer affliction, to be troubled,” has reference to sufferings due to pressure of circumstances, antagonism of persons. (See: 1 Thessalonians 3:4, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7, 2 Corinthians 1:6) With all this being said it is very important that we continue to pray, love and build up each other and the body of Christ as a whole. The Lord was always moved with compassion when he saw those who were afflicted. He looks at us today in our many afflictions and still says, “Many are the afflictions of my righteous ones, but I the Lord of Host shall deliver you from them all!”