“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” (ESV – Read the chapter)
Isn’t this a nice verse of deliverance? God delivers us from all of our afflictions. What great comfort this offers us when we are low. God won’t leave you on the ground when you are down. That could almost go on a bumper sticker. My take? If that’s how you are reacting to this verse, you might want to take a second look…and this time, take a minute to actually read it.
Let’s work backwards. It does sound awfully encouraging that the Lord delivers us from affliction, but that’s not what David says. He says the Lord delivers “him” from affliction. Who’s “him”? Him is a pronoun. That means we need to go back and see who exactly it is that God delivers before we start getting excited about the prospect.
A quick glance at the first part reveals that God delivers “the righteous.” Who’s that? Well, to be righteous is to be rightly related to both God and other people. So, David doesn’t declare here that God delivers “us” generally. He announces that God delivers from trouble those who are in a right relationship with Him and by that with other people.
Okay, so how do we make sure we are in a right relationship with Him? By doing everything perfectly as He wants? Well, that would certainly do it, but sin keeps us from that pretty effectively. No, through the broader lens of the Scriptures, we know that the only way to be in a right relationship with God is to place ourselves under the authority of Jesus. When we are in Christ, we share in His relationship with His Father which was always right.
So, it isn’t just anybody God delivers, but rather, those who are in a right relationship with Him. He delivers those who are willing to trust in Him and strive to do life His way with the abiding presence and help of the Holy Spirit. This verse, then, is a real comfort for followers of Jesus. It offers nothing to those who are not.
But wait a second! As comforting as that second part is, we’ve got to go back to the first for another minute. What does He mean that the afflictions of the righteous are “many”??? Why should the righteous have any afflictions? Shouldn’t our being righteous put us in a place to have an easy, pain-free, smooth-as-silk life? It should, yes, but there’s this little thing called sin that makes that impossible in the here and now.
Because of sin–both that of the world around us and of our own making–we who have committed ourselves to the Lord face trouble often in this life. In fact, as we look around at some of our unbelieving neighbors, it might seem like we face more than our fair share. Well, we do. The world hates us because we are not part of it any longer, and so it gives us a hard time with the goal in mind of bringing us back into its fold. God doesn’t shield us from all of this trouble and affliction because He intends to accomplish something through it. But He will not leave us in it forever. He will deliver us from it in the end.
If you are a follower of Jesus and are facing affliction of some kind–and there are LOTS of kinds, aren’t there?–know well that your faithful Lord will not leave you there. He will deliver you from it. He will bring it to an end when it has accomplished the purpose He has for it, and He will restore you to wholeness and peace. He will fix your broken parts and pieces and make you fully who He designed you to be. Rest easy in that and walk through your seasons of affliction with confidence and faith. Your Father has you safely in His hands.