Delight Despite Persecution (Psalm 119:22-24)

Psalm 119:22-24
“Take away from me scorn and contempt, for I have kept your testimonies. 23 Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes. 24 Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.”
The second century pastor Tertullian once wrote, “The blood of Christians is seed.” Throughout the centuries, Jesus Christ has built His church through the pains of suffering and martyrdom. He may have had this in mind when He said in John 12:24, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” Not many of us can say that we have experience with persecution. It is something that is foreign to us as American Christians. It is because of this that many Christians are shocked the moment that persecution comes to them. As soon as they start going through a trial, they feel as if God had left them or that they believed in vain. But what if persecution was a good thing? What if it were possible to grow closer to the Lord despite the opposition? That seems to be what the writer of this Psalm is getting at in these verses. It is something that all of the Apostles, many of the early church fathers, reformers, and Puritans would agree with. Notice what David says in verse 23. “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.” That’s deep! David says that despite their plotting, despite their hatred of him, despite their indifference towards his God, despite the bashing of David’s name, he will meditate on the Lord’s Word. Their hatred of him doesn’t discourage him from trusting in the Lord, it pushes him powerfully towards Him! Now we know that this wasn’t easy so how did David get through this? The answer is in verse 24. “Your testimonies are my delight; they are my counselors.” If the Lord is what we delight in the most, nothing will be able to take that joy away from us. Persecution, disease, and death, while they may sting, will ultimately not take our eternal joy from us. I am one of the many who would say that Romans 8 is the greatest chapter in the Bible. Paul’s words have been such a great comfort to my soul for years. Verses 31-39 are worth reading in full. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will he not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” NO, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Amen! If God is for us, who or what could possibly be against us? If we are killed, if we are slandered, if we are persecuted to parts unknown, if families and friends leave us, what does it matter? For we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us! Even with all of the chaos that might surround us, God gives us the strength to meditate on His Word. It might shock you to learn that God can build you up through your trials and through persecution. I have always been amazed at Paul’s response to persecution and opposition. Check out Philippians 1 if you want to see his attitude towards it. At the end of his first letter to the Corinthians, he says, “But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.” Notice Paul doesn’t say that a wide door for effective work has opened to him BUT there are many adversaries. He says the door is open AND there are many adversaries! Paul sees the opportunity for Gospel advancement as so a great a thing that he is not phased by those that are against his message. Martin Luther was no stranger to persecution. When you have the entire Roman Catholic church against you, chances are you need to be confident in the strength that only the Lord could provide. Despite the persecution, He saw how God was turning it for his greater good. He once said of his own persecutions, “For I myself . . . owe my papists many thanks for so beating, pressing, and frightening me through the devil’s raging that they have turned me into a fairly good theologian, driving me to a goal I should never have reached.” Could Luther had been the pastor and great reformer that he was if he did not have to go through persecution? Absolutely not! He certainly didn’t think so. God uses persecution for the advancement of His kingdom. What man intends for evil, God intends for good. Even though princes may sit plotting against us, we can confidently meditate on God’s Words and His promises. Let His testimonies be our delight, for He is our Great Counselor.