,
 

 
It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes
(Psalm 119:71). 

 
Held in its context, our text is speaking of afflictions that are occasioned by
persecution. I want to read verses 69 and 70: “The proud have forged a lie
against me: but I will keep thy precepts with my whole heart. Their heart is as
fat as grease; but I delight in thy law.”
 
This is David speaking, the man after God’s own heart. This is a man who fully
understood afflictions we live through in this life. He is saying that the
forging of lies against him has been for his own profit. David sees that the
Lord is using this to remove his wrong attitudes, and he stops begrudging those
who seemingly prosper in their way.

 
It becomessuch a paradox to our human rationale at times to see how those who
have forged lies against us seem to prosper, while our afflictions seem to
continue while we strive to please the Lord. Those who live wickedly seem to
prosper in their ways, yet we live in afflictions.

 
Look at what we read in Psalm 37:7: “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for
him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the
man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.”
 
I want you to see what the Lord is teaching. He has a school He is bringing His
people through. We come through this school that we might be partakers of His
holiness.

 
When theLord places us in the furnace, it is to purge away our dross, our wrong
attitudes and sinful deeds. The fire purges the dross away from the precious
metal. The dross is lighter and rises to the top, and the refiner skims it off.

 
Look at what we read in Psalm 37:8-10: “Cease from anger, and forsake wrath:
fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. For evildoers shall be cut off: but
those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth. For yet a little
while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his
place, and it shall not be.”
 
Anger is our immediate, natural response to lying tongues. The Lord is teaching
us the Spirit of Christ. He is teaching us what it means to suffer wrongfully
and to take it patiently. The evildoers may seemingly prosper, but in the day of
judgment, the Lord will cut them off. The Lord will cut off the one who forges
lies against you, and the Lord will deliver you.
 
Afterthe Lord has accomplished His purpose in afflicting us, then see what shall
be our reward after we have been purged from our sin as we read in Psalm 37:5-6:
“Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the
noonday.”

 
Our right attitude will become apparent to the world. It will be as obvious as
the sun in the sky. Everyone will learn to see that even though that person has
done many things against us, and we still show a godly spirit toward him,
praying for him and speaking well of him, doing what we can to help him if he is
in trouble. This is where God the Father is glorified, when we show praise to
His name by the spirit of righteousness.

 
Our textsays, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted [but then it also
tells us wherein it is good]; that I might learn thy statutes.” Through
suffering wrongfully, we learn the law of love. We learn to respond with love.

 
Job knewwhat it was to live as it seemed in God’s favor while in his prosperity,
yet see what he says about God’s correction in his affliction.
 
We read in Job 1:8: “And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my
servant Job, that there is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright
man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?”
 
The Lord had put a hedge about him so Satan could not touch him.
 
Job suffered much affliction, and in this affliction we read in Job5:17:
“Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth: therefore despise not thou the
chastening of the Almighty.” Job was going through the purging process. Even
though in his own mind, Job lived a righteous life, the Lord saw
self-righteousness in Job, which Job himself did not see. Job was righteous in
his works, but he did not understand his need for the righteousness of Christ.

 
When Job came to the conclusion of his trial, he saw the Lord and said, “I have
heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore
I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5-6).
 
After Job was brought to the point where he understood the righteousness of God,
he then understood that his best righteousness was filthy rags in the eyes of
God. The only way Job was acceptable before God was in the righteousness of
Christ.

 
Job said, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? Behold, I am vile; what
shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but
I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further. Then answered the
LORD unto Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Gird up thy loins now like a man:
I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me” (Job 40:4-7). He saw that in
his best righteousness, he could not attain the righteousness of God.
 
 “Then Job answered the LORD, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing,
and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel
without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too
wonderful for me, which I knew not” (Job 42:1-3).
 
In Job’s own righteousness there was no salvation. The Father gave His Son to
keep the law with perfect obedience on behalf of His people, and in the way of
obedience He lay down His life for His people. He paid the penalty of their
sins, which we cannot pay ourselves. He thereby redeems us from all iniquity.
Through the chastening of the Lord, Job was brought to see this.

 
Job alsoknew the sting of a lashing tongue, but he saw it all as sent by the
Lord. We read in Job 5:18-21: “For he maketh sore, and bindeth up: he woundeth,
and his hands make whole. He shall deliver thee in six troubles: yea, in seven
there shall no evil touch thee. In famine he shall redeem thee from death: and
in war from the power of the sword. Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the
tongue:neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.”
 
In our text, David spoke of those who forged lies against him, and the Lord
allows that. The Lord allows people to do these things against us so we will
flee to the Lord to be hid under the shadow of His wings.

 
God’s Worddoes so blessedly teach us that all these trials in the furnace of
affliction are to try our hearts, and to keep us from building upon anything but
Christ. You and I are headed for a never-ending eternity. We will stand before a
holy and a righteous God. Job, a man whom the Lord Himself said to Satan that
there was none like him, yet Job saw that his own righteousness was not a
foundation for his salvation. He needed the perfect righteousness of Christ. We
cannot build upon our own good life and good works. We can only build upon
Christ and His perfect righteousness.

 
I want to read this to you from 1 Corinthians 3:11-13: “For other foundation can
no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon
this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man’s
work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be
revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.”
 
These firesof affliction are sent not only to remove the wood, hay and stubble,
but to purify the gold, silver and precious stones. The precious stone is the
foundation, Jesus Christ. Job’s foundation was built on his own righteousness,
and this was taken away by the fire of affliction.

 
Look at what we read in Hosea 5:15: “I will go and return to my place, till they
acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek
me early.” The context speaks of how the Lord sent His trials upon Ephraim. “For
I will be unto Ephraim as a lion, and as a young lion to the house of Judah: I,
even I, will tear and go away; I will take away, and none shall rescue him”
(verse 14).
 
By ourselves we like to believe that we are righteous. We do not want to confess
that we are sinners and deserving of hell. “My place” is the mercy seat, where
the blood of Christ makes atonement for sin.

 
The furnace of affliction is to take away our false securities outside of Christ
so we will acknowledge our iniquities and come to Christ for a pardon for our
sins.

 
Our textteaches us, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might
learn thy statutes,” in other words, that I might learn that law of love, that
is,that our afflictions are sent “for our profit, that we might be partakers of
his holiness” (Hebrews 12:10).
 
Our afflictions are sent by the Lord for our profit that we might be partakers
of His holiness, that He would purge away our sins and the false foundations we
rest upon.
 
We can“be partakers of his holiness,” only after we have had our dross of hay,
wood and stubble removed in the furnace. The anger we have against our fellow
man, those wrong attitudes, that wrong conduct, those wrong principles, must be
taken away.

 
Malachi 3:3 talks about when the Messiah will come. We read: “And he shall sit
as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and
purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in
righteousness.”
 
The furnace of affliction prevents sin as well as it purges from sin. I want you
to see what we read about the Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7: “And lest I
should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there
was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest
I should be exalted above measure.” The Lord sent these afflictions to keep Paul
from rising up in pride.
 
The afflictions also purge out the dross of our old evil nature. We see this in
Isaiah 27:9: “By this therefore shall the iniquity of Jacob be purged; and this
is all the fruit to take away his sin.” If we are living in a wrong attitude,
the Lord sends afflictions to teach us that our attitudes toward our brother
should not be hatred and malice and distrust, that we must pray for that
neighbor. We must love that neighbor where he is. We have to realize that if he
has been taken in a fault, it is because the seeds of evil are in his nature as
well as ours. Just because God has spared us, this does not mean we are to
become exalted above measure and stand above our neighbor. We must try to win
that neighbor by placing coals of love upon his head.
 
When weare left to ourselves in prosperity, we will abuse it in pride and
leisure. This is our human nature. Look at Psalm 30:6-7: “And in my prosperity I
said, I shall never be moved. LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to
stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.”
 
David saw that when he was prosperous, he started trusting in his prosperity.
When the Lord hid His face, David’s prosperity was of no help. We have to see
that our prosperity or anything else the Lord gives us in this life is not a
basis on which we can trust.

 
Luxuryand leisure tend to lead us away from the Lord. Look at Deuteronomy 32:15:
“But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick,
thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook God which made him, and lightly
esteemed the Rock of his salvation.” He did not think he needed the Lord. This
is what the Lord does for His people. In the furnace of affliction, He keeps us
needy before Him.
 
David’sheart was so tender when he was being afflicted by the hand of Saul.
David was being pursued by King Saul and slandered by him. King Saul was trying
to kill him even though David was totally innocent. King Saul and his army came
into the same cave where David was hiding, and King Saul lay down and went to
sleep. David’s men wanted him to kill Saul, but David refused to do so because
Saul was anointed by God to be king. However, David cut off the skirt of Saul’s
garment.

 
Notice 1 Samuel 24:5: “And it came to pass afterward, that David’s heart smote
him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt.” It even bothered David’s conscience
that he cut off this small piece of cloth. See how David’s heart was so tender
under persecution.
 
See thecontrast when David lived in Jerusalem. His conscience was benumbed until
it was awakened by the prophet Nathan. David committed adultery with Bathsheba,
the wife of Uriah, and got her pregnant. David tried to get the man to come home
from battle and sleep with his wife, but Uriah refused to sleep with her while
his fellow soldiers were in the field. David sent messengers to have Uriah slain
in battle.

 
We read in 2 Samuel 12:13: “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against
the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou
shalt not die.”

 
While David was under affliction, the Lord spared him from such heinous sins.
 
David first tried to defend himself, but when Nathan confronted him, David
confessed that he had sinned. The Lord caused David to live the rest of his life
in grievous affliction. The Lord rewarded him according to his sin. The sword
would not depart from David’s house. One of David’s own sons raped his sister.
The Lord let David see adultery in his own children.

 
The Lord allowed David’s own son Absalom to murder the son who had committed
adultery with his sister. Then the Lord allowed Absalom to have sexual relations
publicly with David’s wives. How humbling and humiliating that must have been
for David. Then the Lord allowed Absalom to take the kingdom away from David.
 
The Lord spared David, and Absalom was slain, but David grieved his son’s death
and cried out: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died
for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”David saw and understood that this
affliction was for his sin. David, the man after God’s own heart, was yet such a
grievous sinner, when his sins were truly revealed. It was only in Christ that
David could stand righteous before God, and it is only in Christ that you and I
can stand righteous before God.

 
Without chastening, we are rebellious, proud and corrupt, but it is by
continuous discipline that we are made “meet to be partakers of the inheritance
of the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). We come to where we see we need the
salvation that is in Christ.

 
We cannot point a finger at David. A true biography tells the whole story, and
it does not just say what a wonderful man David was. It tells who he was. The
Bible is a true biography. In David we see a mirror of who you and I are. We
have rebellion seated in our hearts by the fall of Adam.

 
It is agreat judgment from God to be left over to our own ways. If you and I are
left over to our own ways, if we have not been brought under the afflicting hand
of God, and if we are not being purged and cleansed, it is a great judgment from
God. Look at what we read in Hosea 4:17: “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him
alone.” In other words, let him go and destroy himself.

 
See whata blessing it is when we have learned to see the profit in our
afflictions spoken of in our text, “that I might learn thy statutes.” In other
words, that we might learn a holy reverence for the will of God.

 
Look at Psalm 81:11-12: “But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel
would none of me. So I gave them up unto their own hearts’ lust: and they walked
in their own counsels.”
 
What is a more grievous judgment than if we by our rebellion quench the Holy
Spirit and God says, Let him go. God let them destroy themselves by doing their
own pleasure.

 
It is good for us to be afflicted, because when we are left to our “own hearts’
lust . . . [to walk in our] own counsels,” we shall not see the salvation of the
Lord. We will never see the salvation of the Lord if the Lord leaves us to walk
in our own counsel.
 
Look what we read in Psalm 81:13-15: “Oh that my people had hearkened unto me,
and Israel had walked in my ways! I should soon have subdued their enemies, and
turned my hand against their adversaries. The haters of the LORD should have
submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.”
This would have happened if they had listened to God, and if they had been
purged in that furnace of affliction.
 
Thereis infinitely more pleasure in holiness than there can be pain in
affliction. When the Lord has purged away our sin and removed the affliction,
the joy of holiness so far outweighs all the pain.

 
Look at Hebrews 12:11: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous,
but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of
righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.”
 
The Lord often compares His family and His children to us and our children. If
you have raised children, you know there are times when the children need to be
disciplined. If we do not, we do not love them. Have you ever had a time when a
child was rebellious, and you disciplined that child, and the end result was
that the child came and put his arm around you and hugged you?

 
When the Lord disciplines us, and our rebellion is broken, then we return to the
Lord and we can embrace him with our whole hearts because we know that He did so
in love. We know that He would not allow us to go out and destroy ourselves.

 
See whatthose peaceable fruits of righteousness all include under the law of
love. We read in verses 12 and 13: “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down,
and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is
lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.”
 
The first thing it does is it causes us to go out and find those who need help.
Do not let the lame fall and be turned out of the way, but heal them.
 
Continuing in verses 14 and 15 we read: “Follow peace with all men, and
holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any
man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble
you, and thereby many be defiled.”
 
We must watch our hearts carefully so no root of bitterness springs up in our
hearts against any man.

 
As wego through this furnace, the precious metals shall be revealed. We read in
1 Corinthians 3:13: “Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall
declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every
man’s work of what sort it is.” The gold, the silver, the precious stones will
endure the chastening. They become purified, but the wood, hay and stubble will
be burned up.
 
As thedross is removed, we can say with David in our text, “It is good for me
that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” That is when the
gold is revealed. This happens when you have learned by affliction that your
anger is removed, that your wrong attitudes are gone, that you have the Spirit
of Christ, that you have that spirit of love.
 
I want you to see what 1 Peter 1:7-9says: “That the trial of your faith, being
much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire,
might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus
Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet
believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end
of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.”
 
Our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is being purified. The image of Christ is
being instilled in our hearts. This is Christ formed in us.

 
The blessedeffect of the furnace of affliction is revealed in Hosea 6:1-3:
“Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us;
he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. After two days will he revive us: in
the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. Then shall we
know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the
morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain
unto the earth.”
 
The Lord will come with His refreshing and with His love. He will restore our
souls when we acknowledge our transgressions and we come to Him for a pardon.
 
Earlier we sawin Hosea 5:15: “I will go and return to my place, till they
acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek
me early.”
 
The wholechapter of Psalm 119 reveals the blessed effect of the furnace.
 
Verse 133 says: “Order my steps in thy Word: and let not iniquity have dominion
over me.”
 
Do you see how the heart of David has been refreshed? He now desires that the
Word of God will be the order of his steps.
 
Look at verse 165: “Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall
offend them.”
 
This happens when the dross has been purged and we learn to understand His law
of love.

 
The blessedeffect is to become renewed in the spirit of our minds as we read in
Romans 7:22: “For I delight in the law of God after the inward man.” This does
not mean the dos and don’ts in a legalistic way to earn salvation, but that with
the spirit of the law of love in the heart, we desire to know and to do His
will. Our inner desire is to know and to do His will.

 
Isaiah 26:3tells us: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed
on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Even in the most difficult affliction, we
have perfect peace. It does not change the circumstances, but we have peace in
our hearts in those circumstances. We cannot run from circumstances. We need to
find peace with God in those circumstances.

 
The stirring of the ore separates the precious metals from the dross. There are
probably at least 100 pounds of dross for every one pound of precious metal.
When the ore is brought up to temperature, the precious metals begin to melt,
and the ore is stirred, and the dross comes to the surface and is purged off. 

 
We see in Proverbs 17:3: “The fining pot is for silver, and the furnace for
gold: but the LORD trieth the hearts.”
 
As the Lord begins to stir, whata blessing when our heart begins to melt, when
itis stirred by some dropping in of God’s Spirit. Have you ever had a time when
the Holy Spirit comes into your heart, and He comes with a portion of God’s Holy
Word and Christ is lifted up before your eyes? Sometimes the heartis stirred by
some portion of God’s Word, which feeds your soul. 

 
Sometimes our hearts are stirred by some revelation of our Saviour, and how His
dying love paid the penalty of our sins and that our names are engraved in the
palms of His hands. It was our sins that nailed Him to the cross. He takes that
name of ours that is engraved into His hand, and raises that hand before His
Father, and says, I have paid a ransom. He comes before the courts of heaven as
our Advocate, and He pleads our cause. He gets our pardon. When we come before
the court of heaven, all we can do is plead guilty, but He pays the debt, and
justice demands a pardon, as much as justice demanded our damnation because of
our sins.

 
How often does it stir our hearts when some dross is removed, when the Lord
opens our eyes to show us a sin we have lived in all our lives, and the Lord
delivers us from that sin? This melts our hearts before the Lord. 

 
How often do we see our hearts melting whensome rebellion is broken, and we can
give everything over into the hands of our heavenly Father?

 
In Psalm 66:10-12we read: “For thou, O God, hast proved us: thou hast tried us,
as silver is tried. Thou broughtest us into the net; thou laidst affliction upon
our loins. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads; we went through fire and
through water: but thou broughtest us out into a wealthy place.”
 
He tries us in the furnace of affliction. When that happens and the dross is
removed, the Refiner looks into the molten metal and sees the reflection of His
blessed image. When ourhearts are melted before our lovely Saviour, we have
those peaceable fruits of righteousness.
 
The fieryfurnace is Christ’s workhouse. The most excellent vessels of honor and
praise have been formed there. Look at Isaiah 48:10-11: “Behold, I have refined
thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. For
mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be
polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.”
 
The Lord will not share His glory with another.
 
Manasseh,Paul and the jailer were all chosen in the fire, God uses the furnace
to melt them, and stamps them with the image of Christ.
 
Manasseh served idols and was an ungodly man until the Lord put him in prison,
and there the Lord removed his dross. When Manasseh was restored to the kingdom,
he was a godly king. Then Manasseh served the Lord.

 
The Apostle Paul was a persecutor. He took the children of God to jail and
killed them. However, in the furnace of affliction, the Apostle Paul learned
what it was to walk in the ways of the Lord.

 
The jailer had put Paul and Silas in stocks in the inner prison, but he was
removed from a wrong attitude. He was brought through an earthquake, and was at
the point of killing himself, but the gospel was brought to his ears.

 
The image of Christ was stamped on them in that furnace, and now therefiner can
see His own image in that molten metal, in each one of them.
 
All thosewho are refined to become partakers of His blessed image will be able
to say with David, “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might
learn thy statutes” (Psalm 119:71).

 


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