Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 September 27, 2020
“Many Are the Afflictions of the Righteous…,”
We arrive today at the sum of the whole of Psalm 34. Let us, before we begin this sixth and final sermon in this series, survey once again the ground we covered. We learned, when afflicted in God’s good providence, to worship Him (1-3), to walk in His ways (11-14), to delight in life, to love your many days, and to see good (12). We either learned or recalled that the Lord notes His people in their distress (4-7, 15-18) and He delivers them (4, 7, 17): from fears (4), troubles (6), and lack (9-10). This is inexpressibly good news; let us hear of the Lord’s deliverance—His salvation—one more time as we hear Psalm 34:19-22 read and proclaimed in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Many are the afflictions of the righteous—contra many a health-and-wealth hawker. We get the notion, once we are in Christ by faith, that—since our situation is infinite better in Christ than outside Him—we have fewer, or no, afflictions. This notion receives fuel from the erroneous teaching leaking from many a Christian corner, and we embrace the error if we be not careful. Suffice it say, on the authority of Psalm 34 and God’s written word in toto, that this is not the case. We read and here explicitly today that many are the afflictions of the righteous. Indeed, they are many—and, at times, they are fierce. Yet we are delivered out of them all—and we shall hear more of this later, God willing.
Affliction serves a different purpose in the wicked. Whereas many afflictions do not sink the righteous by faith in Christ, one affliction—or affliction as a whole—will slay the wicked. Such affliction merely foreshadows the eternal affliction to come for them in the devil’s lair. The wicked, those hating the righteous, will be condemned: both in part now (John 3:18) and to the full in the life to come. David knew the hate of the tormented King Saul, his king and father-in-law, and he knew the danger that Achish, king of Gath in Philistia, represented to him. The Holy Spirit moved David to write this Psalm in view of David’s endurance of affliction and receipt of divine deliverance.
We too receive and share in that divine deliverance from providential affliction. In fact, as we read today, the Lord delivers His righteous one out of all afflictions. He keeps (or guards, Hebrew shamar) our bones; not one of them is broken. Hence, the Lord preserves us from ultimate harm. We may endure pains in this life—even breaks of the bones of our bodies—but none of these pains harm us ultimately. God delivers us from every affliction. This is true in eternity, but it is true to great extent in this life as well. Moreover, verse twenty perhaps alludes to Jesus, Whose bones remain intact at His atoning death. Often soldiers attending those condemned to die by crucifixion broke the legs of the crucified while he lived, but the soldiers attending Jesus—noting Him dead already—broke not His legs.
Due to God’s atoning work in His Son, Jesus Christ—God incarnate—He redeems (or ransoms, Hebrew radaph) the life of His servants. Redemption, or ransom, involves payment to free the captive. The price of our redemption is the life-blood of Jesus, the only-begotten Son of God, and the price was paid within the Trinity (contra Irenaeus of Lyon [ca. 130-202], who asserted in his ransom theory of the Atonement that God paid ransom to the devil). By Jesus’ atoning death, divine justice was satisfied and divine, righteous wrath was appeased. All of Christ’s redemption is applied to us by the secret work of the Spirit—with faith in Christ as the instrumental means of its application to us. Hence, we share in this redemption of the life of God’s servants.
Therefore, none—including none of us—who take refuge in the Lord will be condemned. Again, God sanctifies His providential afflictions in our lives to our use. God strengthens us by His appointed afflictions. We see more of God as we endure affliction after affliction. God also uses affliction to grow us in ministerial capacity. That is, we become abler to serve God’s people—and, thus, to glorify Him—by what we endure as we walk with Him. We who are in Christ shall not be condemned. Rather, we shall be delivered—saved—through Him Who delivers us out of all our troubles.
Again, David knew much affliction to this point in his life—when he was not yet thirty. He would know much affliction after the event motivating Psalm 34. He would know enemies, grief, treachery, and the like—some of this as the direct result of his sin with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11-12, cf. Psalm 51). We, too, who are in Christ, know affliction. As we learned earlier in this series, we suffer as the result of our sin, sin against us, and life in a fallen world. We also suffer specially because we wear Christ’s Name. The great hater of our souls, Satan himself, and his minions—both incorporeal and corporeal—seek to work us woe, but they neither have the last word or the last deed.
We need to know, and to remember, some things when afflicted in God’s good providence. Know and remember that His eye is on you, His ear is toward you, and His Presence is with you—and these without fail. Know also, and remember also, that He will deliver you in His time and in His way, from all afflictions—and these without fail also.
We also need to know, and to remember, what to do when afflicted in God’s good providence. Know, and remember, to worship Him, to walk in His ways, and to cry to Him for relief. As we close this message, and this series, may the Lord keep you and deliver you, especially when afflicted—from temporal afflictions when they occur, and forever either at our Home-going or at His glorious return, whichever comes first.
 This was seen, in Roman practice, as a cruel mercy: Breaking the legs of the crucified hastened his death, because he could no longer push against the lower spike to raise himself for a breath. The crucified one then died more quickly via asphyxiation.