19. Faith Triumphs in Affliction

PART 8

MUSINGS CONCERNING FAITHFUL TRUST IN ALL THINGS GOD DOES

Chapter 19
Faith Triumphs in Affliction

“Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall.  My soul hath them still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.  It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.  They are new every morning:  great is thy faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.  The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord…For the Lord will not cast off for ever: But though he causes grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.”  (Lam. 3:19-26, 31:2).

Some say verse 19 should read imperatively.  “Remember my affliction and my misery.”  To this mode verse 20 seems to incline.  (Matthew Poole).  I sure remember them, I still have them, and I am humbled, and the thought of them causes a great quaking within me.  Asking God to hear or remember is not to inform Him, or seek to redirect His counsel.  It is hoped that He would hear and remember with favor, for His great name and mercies sake.  That He would remember His everlasting covenant and show forth His grace and kindness in deliverance.  (Gen. 9:16; Ps. 89:3; Is. 54:10).

“This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope.” (21)  “I see nothing in the circumstances of my condition to comfort me, but I see something in God’s nature, and in some other dispensations of his providence, which give me ground to hope for better things than utter ruin and destruction.”  (Matthew Poole).

What each believer hopes for is the unmerited and superabounding grace of God.  To place hope or confidence in personal merit, personal righteousness, personal prayers, be they ever so sincere, or any act or function in spiritual duties, is blind folly and utter nonsense.  Most believers would receive this as truth, but even so we are ever prone to return to the useless patterns of the natural heart.  Children of grace do well to cast off all created hopes and religious activities as filthy rags and refuse, and place the last farthing of their hopes in the merciful and faithful God of compassion.  (Is. 64:6).  By calling these to our mind, we too, like the Prophet, will find hope.

The magnificent phrase, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness” is sound doctrine.  This hope will never be put to shame.  (Rom. 5:5).  Tried, tested and sorely exercised, but never ever confounded.  (Ps. 22:5, 77:1, 119:116).  Hope in God has the blessed quality of strengthening the heart.  “Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord… Have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant….”  It is the Lord God that is the hope and strength of his people.  “… but the Lord will be the hope of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel.”  (Joel 3:16).  The gracious Lord takes great pleasure in those that hope in Him.  (Ps. 147:11).

“It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed.” (22)  After hope, the Prophet considered the mercies of the Lord, and concluded that if he was not always merciful, everyone would be quickly consumed.  (Mal. 3:6).  The mercy of God is that attribute of gratuitous forgiveness rendered to those who otherwise would deservedly be devoured by their own vile wretchedness.  But His mercies endure forever and the sum of them is great.  (Ps. 103:11, 106:1, 107:1, 145:8-9).  So please Lord, remember my afflictions, and not my sins and transgressions, but according to thy mercy remember me for thy goodness sake.  (Ps. 25:7).  It was stated in an earlier chapter that the Lord is plenteous in mercies, and He is the Father of them.  (Ps. 86:5, 15, 103:8; 2:Cor. 1:3).

The Apostle Paul wrote that God was rich in mercy for the love that He has for the vessels of His affection.  (Eph. 2:4).  It is also written that according to His mercy he saved us.  (Titus 3:5).  Mercy is an indispensable quality in the purpose of redemption.  These mercies are tender and loving for they come to the elect through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.  “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies.”  (Ps. 103:4).  Jesus was touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and He was in all points of this life tempted even as His people are, yet he never surrendered to any temptations, and therefore never sinned.  As a result of the triumphant Christ, believers have access to God and with boldness can come to the throne of grace, and obtain mercy, grace, and help.  (James 5:11; Heb. 4:15-16).

Jesus suffered far greater physical and mental torment than any man.  “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”  “His visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.”  (Is. 50:6, 52:14).  He was ultimately put to death for our sins when He took them as His own for our sake.  Jesus was smitten of God for sinful man, and all their iniquities were imputed to and laid on Him.  (Is. 53).  The Lord became sin, and God poured out His holy wrath and indignation on His only Son, who took the place of the elect to assure a salvation that was perfect in eternal righteousness.  The effect being the redeemed found mercy, Jesus did not, and died the death.  (Heb. 2:17-18; 2 Cor. 5:21).

After one considers God’s mercies, he cannot help but be led to ponder with pleasure the never failing compassions of the Lord of Glory.  “… because his compassions fail not.”  (22)  When faith grabs a hold of this anchor, and doubts it not, real victory is closer than we may even dare to think possible.  Everything that is in man is going to fail.  Our first parents failed.  Their failure had a damning perpetuity.  Disobedience by Adam and Eve to God’s command brought forth death and destruction to everything and everybody.  Both man and nature were swallowed up in the sinful act of the first couple created.  “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”  (Rom. 5:12).

The fall of man is recorded in Genesis Chapter Three.  There God pronounced, “cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of our life.”  God’s creation as a result of man’s sin and failure, was made by God, subject to vanity, and fell under the bondage of corruption.  “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” (Rom. 8:22).  Note also Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 8:19-23).  For the present time both man and nature, and all things created, are held captive by this bondage of corruption.  This is the reason the servant of Jehovah declared that man at his best state was all together vanity.  (Ps. 39:5).

Man, as well as his most illustrious works and deeds, when brought before the eternal Holy Godhead will consume away like a moth.  “Surely every man is vanity.”  (Ps. 39:11).  His thoughts are vanity, all he does has vanity stamped upon it.  All nations are reputed as nothing, less than nothing, and vanity.  (Ps. 94:11; Is. 40:17).  The Preacher said, “Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.”  He had seen all the ingenious inventions and advances of man that were done under the sun; and, behold, all were vanity and vexation of spirit.”  (Eccl. 1:2, 14).  We as men may pride ourselves as being very wonderful in our achievements and great exploits, but as poor fools we are not aware that we do not even have preeminence in the eyes of God over the beasts. Truly, all is vanity.  (Eccl. 3:19).  Should a person live a life of tranquility and peace filled with much ease, let him remember saith the wise Preacher, the days of darkness; for they shall be many.  All that cometh is vanity.  (Eccl. 11:8).  Jeremiah perhaps considered these things when he had suffered so greatly, and remembered the vanity of man over against the faithfulness of his God.  “This I recall to mind. . . The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.” (21, 24)

Divorcing one’s self from himself and all his supposed good is not the work of man.  This may be why so much profound affliction is necessary.  When the redeemed are revolted by their own pursuits and confidence in their own works, whatever the nature, and behold all as vanity, they then capture Jeremiah’s meaning when he wrote about the Lord’s mercies and His compassions that fail not.

Jeremiah was taught that the fall of man was devastatingly complete.  This we must always keep in our heart.  Without Jesus Christ’s sanctifying intercession, nothing can be done that God will accept.  Take the very best man has to offer, multiply its value by the thousands, do all that human and religious resourcefulness can perform, have it endorsed by the Angelic Host, it is still vanity and vexation of spirit.

Like Jeremiah, the Apostle Paul considered his works, even in spiritual things, but dung.  His desire was to count all he had gained but loss that he might rather than have and enjoy the excellencies of Jesus Christ the Lord.  (Phil. 3:9-10).  So let all that hope in Him suffer affliction.  May they drive us to a position of faith where Jesus is all in all.  If by the grace of God this would be, we have suffered a light affliction, which when viewed correctly will be held as precious.  “But the God of all grace, who hath called unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.  To him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  (1 Pet. 5:10-11).  (See also, Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17).

Man is full of vanity.  God is full of compassion.  Man in his vanity always fails.  God in His compassions never fails.  Where sin did abound, grace did much more abound.  So full are God’s compassions that Jesus was not spared.  The great fullness of the elect’s vanity was forever eradicated in the greater fullness of Divine compassions.

He that for a time because of sins or instructions and reproofs, appears to be turned against the child of grace but will turn toward him again and have compassion. He will subdue our iniquities and cast all sins into the depth of the sea.  Though He may be pleased to cause grief, He will have compassion according to the multitude of His tender mercies.  (Mic. 7:19; Lam. 3:32).  Note also, Ps. 78:38-39.

That none deserve or earn the Lord’s compassions should be clearly seen, but our vanity is so vain we often have and hold high thoughts about our own worship and worthiness.  Still, God is the Lord of compassion and He will have compassion on whom He will have compassion based solely upon His eternal counsel and the riches of His grace.  “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”  “But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long-suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.  O turn unto me, and have mercy upon me; give thy strength unto thy servant, and save the son of thine handmaid.”  (Rom. 9:15-16; Ps. 86:15-16).  What a gloriously comforting discovery this is for the redeemed of God.  “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.  (Ps. 111:4).

“They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”  “Everything new gets old” is something often heard and more often experienced.  We tire so fast of material things.  The mercies and compassions of God are not subject to change or age.  Faith receives them new every morning.  The inexhaustible nature of the Lord’s compassions are like His mercies — always new and at the same time endure forever.  Hallelujah!

“Great is thy faithfulness.”  The child of grace is swallowed up in wonder – utter awe captures the entire being.  How does one even begin to contemplate, much less define, the faithfulness of God?  Indeed, we must confess we see through a glass darkly, we know only in part. (1 Cor. 13:12).  Let us however, know this, if we know nothing else, “Know therefore that the Lord thy God, he is God, the faithful God.”  (Deut. 7:9).  All His promises are in Christ Jesus, and there has not one word fail of all His good promises.  (2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 10:23; 1 Kings 8:56).  This may very well be harder to believe than recite when in deep trials, especially when all hope of human assistance has been removed and we must trust in God alone.  Faith is put on trial when there is no visible means of escape, and the hour draws close when you must either be miraculously delivered, or be put to shame.  You can do nothing but hope in God.  What will He do for you now, is the question.  We pray that He will deliver on what faithfulness there is in Him, and not on the weak confidence we displayed in His promises when we were close to being overwhelmed.

The faithfulness of God is far reaching, even unto the clouds.  (Ps. 36:5).  The redeemed are admonished to commit themselves unto the faithful Creator in sufferings.  “Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.”  (1 Pet. 4:19).  There are powerful and sound reasons for an unfeigned committing of our well-being to God.

(1)  “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” (1 Thess. 5:24).  (2)  The redemptive call is from the Lord, who is faithful.  (3)  This call is unto fellowship with Jesus Christ.  (1 Cor. 1:9).  (4)  The call from God is holy, which makes the efficacy of the call irresistible.  (2 Tim. 1:9).  (5)  It is unmerited because it is God’s faithful and divine purpose.  (Rom. 9:11; Eph. 1:11; Titus 3:4-7).  (6)  The faithfulness of God is so rich that even our weakness and often fits of unbelief cannot alter the eternal counsels of God.  (2 Tim. 2:13).  (7) His almighty wonders are so incomprehensible that even the rage of the ungodly, and their mighty acts of unbelief and denial cannot make the faith of God ineffectual.  (Rom. 3:3).  (8)  The faithfulness of Christ and His obedience has secured eternal reconciliation and redemption for the elect of God.  (Rom. 5:8-11; Heb. 2:17).  (9)  It is His faithfulness that shall establish His people, keep them from falling, and from evil.  (Jude 24; 2 Thess. 3:3).  (10)  Who is the faithful witness God will hear?  Why is His testimony so powerful and purifying?  The faithful witness is God’s only Son.  What makes His testimony so powerful and purifying is His BLOOD.  “And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. . . Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.”  (Rev. 1:5).  (Note also Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14).

When these truths are taught of God by the Holy Spirit, through the Holy Word, the believer will not be careless and free in offensive works and deeds.  (Titus 3:8).  No! No! It is the reception of truth from God that causes the Lord to be the portion and hope of His children.  His faithfulness shall establish and keep them from evil.

“The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him.  The Lord is good unto them that wait for him, to the soul that seeketh him.  It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.”  (Lam. 3:24-26).  If by the sovereign grace of God the believer is made the Lord’s portion, we in turn should see the necessity of having the Lord as our portion.  “For the Lord’s portion is his people.”  (Deut. 32:9).

Our failing constitution of both flesh and heart are ever present, and ever the same in nature — weak at best, and subject to rapid changes.  On the other hand, when the Lord is the portion there is strength which is more than sufficient for each day, for each trial, and for each tenuous hold.  “My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.”  (Ps. 73:26).

How often have we heard the worldly adage “don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.”  I suppose this may be good advice for the infidel and non-believer, but such is a faithless proposal for those who trust the faithful promises of God.  The Lord must be the only basket, (if we may borrow a word from their phrase), in which believers place their all.  Extreme unbelief or Biblical ignorance would only consider a contingent hope alone with the promises of God.  That we are often guilty of this unreasonable wickedness exposes our inherent depravity.  “Therefore I will hope in Him.”  In Him only is there divine strength to overcome every affliction that He orders for us.  Faith understands that trials and tribulations, whether light or exceedingly heavy, are from the all-wise God.

The Lord as one’s portion is the guarantee of strength, refuge, and the inheritance of the elect.  “For the Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup: thou maintainest my lot.”  (Ps. 16:5).  When the Lord is truly the only portion the child of mercy desires or abides in, it naturally will solidify hope and confirm it unto the end.

“The Lord is good unto them that wait for him.”  Waiting has a profound characteristic which exposes the vile weakness that permeates the believer.  During this process, it tries the soul and grates against this worldly appetite, while it strengthens the spiritual hunger.  The renewed child becomes uncomfortable and impatient during these periods of waiting.  The purpose of waiting is to weaken these natural motions and make their power ineffectual.  There is an opposite side to waiting also, which is the main instruction derived from its purpose.  That is renewed strength imparted by the mercy and grace of the Lord.  “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”  (Is. 40:31).  Note Ps. 27:14.

The Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle Paul ascribe unperceived glories and blessings to faith that waits alone upon Jehovah.  “For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.”  (Is. 64:4).  It is instructive to consider why Paul deleted the word “wait” in his interpretation of Isaiah, and replaced it with the word “love.”  Faithful waiting was evidently seen by him as an expression of genuine love from the Almighty Godhead.  This, to be sure, is rather a painful rebuke – is it not?  “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  (1 Cor. 2:9).

“The Lord is good unto . . the soul that seeketh him.”  The sinner seeking the Lord is not the cause of His goodness, but rather the evidence that God’s goodness and favor has been bestowed upon the sinner.  It was Jesus who came to seek and save that which was lost.  (Luke 19:10).  The natural man seeketh not the things of God, neither can he know them.  He does not desire to have this man rule over him.  In fact there is open enmity and a concerted effort not to retain even the knowledge of the existence of God.  The truth of the matter is that all men by birth are spiritually dead, and the children of wrath.  (1 Cor. 2:14, Luke 19:14, Rom. 8:7, 1:28, Eph. 2:1, 3).  Man as he is by nature is not capable of receiving the things of the Spirit of God.  For he is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can he be. (Rom. 8:7).  How any can still insist dead sinners on their own volition can repent, believe, or seek God is amazing.  Not only is there no basis to justify the spiritually dead seeking God, it is a direct contradiction to the written Word.  The Scriptures clearly teach that “NO MAN SEEKETH AFTER GOD.”  One would think that the testimony of God should be conclusive and believed absolutely.  Hear ye Him!  “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.  They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  (Ps. 14:2-3).  (See also, 10:4, 52:2-3, Rom. 3:10-12).

Is it not undeniably clear from the aforementioned Scriptures that something marvelous has been wrought.  It is the goodness of God that leads a soul to repentance.  (Rom. 2:4).  Those that sought Him not, now by the quickening power of the Holy Spirit seek Him.  (Eph. 2:1-5).  Truly, the Lord is good to the one that seeks Him.  This seeking is the effect of God creating new life in Christ.  Man had nothing to do with the creation of the spiritual heavens or the earth, nor does he assist in the new creation of spiritual life in Christ.  The elect are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus.  (2 Cor. 2:17, Eph. 2:10).  Regeneration is a spiritual transaction which God is the author and the elect are the recipients.  “I am sought of them that asked not for me; I am found of them that sought me not….”  “… I was made manifest unto them that asked not after me.”  (Is. 65:1, Rom. 10:20).

It is good that a man should quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.  Hoping and quietly waiting on God for deliverance is good in every way.  It defines trust when God is the only hope that the believer desires.  The elimination of all other hopes is trying to the flesh, but it is necessary if God is to receive the honor due Him.  It is good, it is the all and only good way to deal with a life that is promised many afflictions.  The afflictions are the will of the Lord, and come upon the redeemed by a Holy order.   God is also the only means of deliverance and salvation from them.

When by the sure mercies of God the companions of suffering receive afflictions as a token of Father love, quietness and assurance take control of the soul and peace is the promised result.  “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?”  (Job 34:29; Is. 32:17).  If the child of God would be strong in the Lord then he must trust and quietly wait for His salvation.  “… in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”  (Is. 30:15).

“For the Lord will not cast off for ever.  But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.”  (Lam. 3:31-32).  These are comforting promises from the Lord that He will never abandon His purpose for the redeemed.  There are times when the child of God may feel cast off when the face of the Lord seems to be hidden and turned away.  This is, we would hope, a powerful incentive for self examination and confession.  (Lam. 3:40-42). When God does not grant us a speedy peace and the believer is made to smart by his folly, he gathers that he has been put off and cast aside.  (Ps. 44:23-26).  (Note also Ps. 43:2, 44:9.

O turn thyself to us again.  Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy pasture?  (Ps. 60:1, 74:1). In the deep valleys of burdensome trials, when God seems to forbear, the suffering saint quizzes the Master with questions of fear.  “Will the Lord cast off forever?  and will he be favourable no more?  Is his mercy clean gone forever?  doth his promise fail for evermore?  Hath God forgotten to be gracious?  hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies?  Selah.”  (Ps. 77:7-9).  See also, Ps.88:14, 89:38.

These fearful apprehensions albeit painful will sooner or later be enveloped by the splendid compassions of the Lord – compassions which will not fail.  The grief caused is not fatal nor near what saints deserve. It is, however, most needful and effectual in the counsel of God.  The compassions on the other hand are duplicated and unmerited.  Their number is multiplied by eternity.  Faith triumphs in afflictions.

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