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The Scriptorium

How to Think about the Life of Faith

Afflictions and grace. Psalm 119.84, 85

Psalm 119.81-88 (3)

Pray Psalm 119.84, 85.
How many are the days of Your servant?
When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?
The proud have dug pits for me,
Which is not according to Your law.

Psalm 119.84, 85
(Ripley: Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
Lord, how long, what shall my days be? When will You Your judgment toll?
Let my enemies disgraced be, those who persecute my soul.
All the proud dig pits to slay me, and they persecute me strong!
Let Your Word my strength and stay be: Help me, Lord, receive my song!

Read Psalm 119.81-88; meditate on verses 84, 85.

1. What did the psalmist want God to do?

2. Why did he want Him to do this?

The psalmist’s conflict with “the proud” and the afflictions he endured at their hands is a running thread throughout Psalm 119. It begins to show up in verses 10 and 11, with the psalmist’s awareness that he might be tempted to “wander” from the Lord’s commandments. Where would that temptation come from, if not from people who were already wandering from the Lord? The problem of “the proud”, who are “wicked”, emerges in verse 21. It is made more specific in verse 23 and is implied in verses 28 and 29. It takes on more more clarity in verses 41, 42, 51, and 53; and the strength of the affliction is powerfully expressed in verse 61. These wicked people are out to get the psalmist, spreading lies from their fat and greasy heart (vv. 69, 70). And the psalmist calls on God to shame them in verse 78 and to strengthen and relieve him of their pressure in verses 81-83. In verse 84 the psalmist expresses this conflict as persecution. The Hebrew verb is רָדַף‎, ra-DAPH, and means to pursue or chase. The wicked chased and pursued our psalmist relentlessly, and they are chasing and pursuing you.

And you thought Psalm 119 was all about the Word of God.

Of course, it is; but it’s primarily about the life of faith, and the life of faith involves an ongoing conflict with haughtiness, lies, wickedness, deceit, and evil. We are engaged in a warfare that seeks to clamp us in chains of unbelief and disobedience by tempting us to follow the ways of wickedness and rebellion against God. The psalmist was plagued by this at a human level; we are under constant attack by spiritual forces of wickedness in high places. Don’t think you’re not a target in this warfare, not a terrain to be claimed and kept. You are. And, as our psalmist shows us, the only way to survive is to turn to the Lord in continuous prayer and haul out the Sword of the Spirit to overcome temptation and evil with the good works of God’s Law (Rom. 12.21).

The psalmist naturally wonders how long this affliction is going to continue. The answer: As long as he is committed to serving the Lord. So beware of the pits and snares, keep focused on the pathway of God’s Law, and press on in the strength of the Lord.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
On a bad day we ask: “How many are the days of Your servant?” (Ps. 119.84) Ugh. But on a good day we ask the Lord, like Moses did, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90.12).

On a bad day we ask: “When will You execute judgment on those who persecute me?” (Ps. 119.84) Soon?
But on a good day we can listen as Jesus says to us: “Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?” (Matt. 5.44-46).

I love the way the psalmist reminds God that the perpetrators of hate are behaving in a way that is “not according to Your law” (Ps. 119.85). See that, God? See them? It’s bad. Really bad.

And although God in His majestic mercy and grace allows him to say that, and allows us to do the same, we all need to make sure that our own behavior is in line with God’s Law and that we are living according to it.

We have good days and bad days. And we need to dress properly for all of them: “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil” (Eph. 6.11).

And a quick reality check on our status is always helpful: “LORD, make me to know my end, and what is the measure of my days, that I may know how frail I am.” “My hope is in You. Deliver me from all my transgressions…” (Ps. 39.4, 7, 8).

In Psalm 13 David asks the LORD “How long” four times.
How long will You forget me?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long will I have daily sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Without ever getting an answer to any of his questions he makes an important decision:
“But I have trusted in Your mercy;
my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because He has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps. 13.5, 6).

Mercy, salvation, and bountiful grace—the way to think about the life of faith.

For reflection
1. Why are conflicts, afflictions, persecutions, and the like inevitable in the life of faith?

2. What are we learning from the psalmist about how to deal with these various afflictions?

3. How will you show God that you trust Him whenever you come under trial or affliction? How will doing so help you at such times?

The Psalmist does not, then, bewail in general the transitory life of man, but he complains that the time of his state of warfare in this world had been too long protracted; and, therefore, he naturally desires that it might be brought to a termination. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Psalm 119.84

Pray Psalm 119.87, 88.
Wait on the Lord in prayer to show you the day ahead. Ask Him to alert you to any temptations you might face, or any other traps or snares the devil might use against you. Call on Him to revive you throughout the day.

Psalm 119.87, 88
(Ripley: Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah, O My Soul)
For my foes would make an end to my existence on the earth.
Yet Your precepts I befriend to know the greatness of their worth.
In Your kindness, Lord revive me! In Your love, restore my soul!
Let Your Word in me alive be; I will keep it well and whole.

T. M. and Susie Moore

You can listen to a summary of last week’s Scriptorium study by going to our website,, and clicking the Scriptorium tab for last Sunday. You can download any or all the studies in this series on Psalm 119 by clicking here.

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
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