“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.You are good and do good; Teach me Your statutes.” Psalm 119:67-68
In these two verses, the psalmist is thanking the LORD for the affliction because of the results of this God-sent affliction. Therefore, the affliction (67) must be from the LORD (YHWH) or there would be no corrective, directive or instructive power or intent in the affliction and so there would be no one to thank. In other words, it is clear from these two verses that the affliction was necessary in order to bring the one who was going astray into the blessing of obedience. It is also clear that the psalmist is thanking the LORD for the benefits that he has received from the affliction.
By the way, it is both implicitly and explicitly clear that the one who goes astray and who does not obey the LORD is not blessed, but is rather under the LORD’s wrath and displeasure. (Read Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 to see this truth.). So to go astray (67) subjects the person to the LORD’s judgment and assures them of an absence of blessing, whether they are aware of this condition or not.
In the Bible, there is the place of blessing and there is the place of wrath, but there is no neutral place in between. This verse states that the LORD has purposefully, graciously and actively brought affliction into the psalmist’s life for the express purpose of moving them into the blessings of obedience. Thus the affliction is an act of God’s grace, a grace that drives the person from their place of disobedience to the place of submission and repentance.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word.” (67)
Consider Titus 3:3 now in light of this verse. (See also 1 Cor. 6:9-10; Ephesians 2:2-3; others) “For we were once foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.” These people to whom Paul refers were going astray similarly to the psalmist in Psalm 119, and Paul gives the sordid details of this “went-astray” lifestyle. Many of us are too familiar with this pattern of life. (“And such were some of you.” 1 Cor. 6:11) But now the Lord has brought us to repentance and “the kindness of God our Savior has appeared . . . and He has saved us (Titus 3:4-5).” We see from these that the Lord is actively involved in bringing the means of repentance and salvation into a person’s life.
The psalmist is saying the same thing here in 119:67-68, although he is much more economical with his words and more discreet in his details. He is saying that the LORD has used affliction as His tool of grace and guidance. The LORD has used affliction to bring the straying sinner into the fold and to teach him the blessings of obedience, so that the psalmist knows by personal experience that “the LORD is good and does good (68).”
Thus we see the beauty and the blessing of the affliction of the Lord. (Consider also “the discipline of the Lord” in Hebrews 12:5-11.) The Lord brings affliction; indeed, He ordains affliction in the lives of His chosen ones to bring about His divine purposes for salvation, for correction, for direction and for instruction.
So when we are experiencing a time of affliction, we must turn to the Lord and ask Him what His purpose is in the affliction. We accept the affliction as from His hand, as given by Him for His purposes, and as intended for our good, and then submit to the affliction and allow it to have its intended effect. If we do this, in the end we will cease from going astray and will obey His word and will know Him as the good God. SDG rmb 12/30/2015