Friday, November 24, 2017
Psalms 119:65 – 72 Do good to your servant according to your word, O LORD. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies, I keep your precepts with all my heart. Their hearts are callous and unfeeling, but I delight in your law. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
As I read this passage today I cannot help but think of Psalm 23. In that most famous of all songs David declares his dependence on the direction of his Shepherd. Within that context there is a submission to the rod and the staff of God. Without them he knew he would stray, as all sheep tend to do. Each application of affliction from the rod and staff were intended to bring the sheep back from danger and into the security of fellowship with the Shepherd. Eventually David was able to thank the LORD for the affliction because he saw the outcome of it as good and coming from a Good Shepherd.
One night years ago God gave me an illustration of this principle as I met with six young men who meet with me weekly for leadership training. We were discussing the value of valleys in our lives – you know, those times when it appears that God has led us into a cave under the mountain rather than through a pass leading over it. Deeper and deeper into the darkness He leads us, and all we can think about is turning and running out of there. Bats swirl around our head. Water drips from the walls and ceiling of the cave leaving us no place to sit and rest. After two turns around corners we can no longer see the light from the entrance behind us. God keeps leading us forward, and we must go with Him because He carries the only light for our path. We finally get up the courage to ask Him why we are in this cave and why we must go deeper. His response is short and simple and tests my trust in Him. “This is where the treasure is.”
As we walk with him deeper into the darkness of the cave of affliction, we begin to think back to all the treasures we have buried for ourselves at the entrances to similar caves so we wouldn’t have to enter them. You know what I mean – all those defense mechanisms against the pains of life. We consider those defenses treasures because they offer some form of temporary relief. We all have such treasures. Some have placed alcohol and drugs at the entrance to the cave of social acceptance. Some have placed sex and pornography at the entrance to the cave of personal worth. Some have placed compromise at the entrance to the cave of success. We all have caves of affliction, and Satan has convinced us all to bury certain treasures there that just might alleviate the pain for a while, and we have believed him so we do it.
But God has taken us today to a cave of affliction where we had no treasure buried. We’re scared, because we’ve never been this deep into a cave before. We can see His light leading us, but that is all. We slow down to get our bearings, but as we do, His light fades in the distance. We hurry to catch up, an action that takes us deeper into the gloom.
When we get back into His light, though surrounded by darkness and tons of rock, we notice words on the wall. They’ve been on the wall from the moment we entered the cave, but we’ve been so focused on fear that we didn’t see them.
As we walk deeper, we begin to hear a voice coming from the direction of the light. God is speaking the words that are written on the walls of the cave. They are His words of promise and comfort. His words assure us that He is with us. His words build trust in His character. His words quiet our fears. The light seems to grow brighter, making more words visible. We are deeper in the cave than ever, yet there is a peace that surrounds us that is unexplainable.
Just as we’re about to ask Him where the treasure is in this cave, we are overwhelmed with the joy that comes from understanding the goodness of God and His faithfulness to never leave us or forsake us. Suddenly we understand – this is the treasure, and it is more precious than thousands of pieces of silver and gold. Now we can say from our heart – It was good for us to be led into the cave of affliction so that we might learn your decrees.
Immediately upon saying it, there is a new light that shines – the light of another entrance to the cave, which will for us become our exit. As we leave the cave, we notice others entering it. We stop for a brief moment to assure them that that there is a treasure worth seeking in this cave. They ask us to go in with them. Of course, we agree. Why wouldn’t we want to help others in need and comfort them with the same comfort we received from the Lord. Maybe we can help them see the words on the walls sooner than we did.