Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Relief from Troubled Times

LORD, happy is the man you discipline
 and teach from Your law
To give him relief from troubled times
 until a pit is dug for the wicked.
(Psalms 94:12-13 HCSB)
Most people do not find discipline to be a pleasant affair (we have a word for those who do — masochist). It is hard, it is work, it is discomforting. It pushes back against our natural tendencies. It does not stroke us — it slaps us!

But to those who yield to the discipline of the Lord, it brings cause for great happiness. It corrects us, keeps us from heading off into a deadly direction and a meaningless, fruitless life. It guides us back into our destiny, the purpose for which God created us from the beginning.

The Hebrew word for “law” is torah. It can just as well be translated as “instruction,” because that is what it is. God did not give it to us so He could lower the boom on us, but so He could release blessing to us. Not to enslave us but to enable us. In Psalm 1, we see that it is something to delight in and meditate on continually (v. 2). Why? Because it leads us into prosperity and fulfillment of purpose, a change of life that changes the world for the better (v. 3).

That is how the psalm writer takes it here; it is the path to great happiness. In his present situation, he was experiencing it as “relief from troubled times,” “rest from days of adversity” (NKJV), “a circle of quiet within the clamor of evil” (The Message).

He adds, “until a pit is dug for the wicked.” There is a day coming in which God will “balance the books” and set everything right. It is the final day, when His kingdom has fully come into the world and His will is being done everywhere on earth exactly as it is in heaven. Indeed, it has already begun, ever since King Jesus came and announced, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mark 1:15). We live between the time of its inauguration and its completion, a time many theologians refer to as “already/not yet” — already begun, not yet done.

In the meantime, there is still much trouble, much injustice, much evil. But there is often also a settling of accounts in the interim, when God lets the wicked experience the consequences of their evil actions. God will not forget us or leave us to their devices but will act decisively.
The LORD will not forsake His people
 or abandon His heritage,
For justice will again be righteous,
 and all the upright in heart will follow it.
(Psalms 94:14-15 HCSB)
The word used here for “justice” speaks of a verdict, as in a court of law. When God judges, He delivers verdicts that set things right and the upright, who walk according to His instruction and live according to what is right, will be satisfied. Though the enemies of God have come and gone, the people of God have endured, for He gives us relief from troubled times.