Who Do You Perceive God to Be? (A Meditation on Psalm 119:75-76)
I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant.
Who do you perceive God to be? In his book, “The Knowledge of the Holy,” A.W. Tozer famously observed, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart conceives God to be like.”
In these verses, the Psalmist demonstrates a perception of God that is consistent with Who He has revealed Himself to be in His Word. Verse 75 begins with the words “I know,” indicating a level of confidence in his knowledge of who God is and implying an intimacy that results from time spent discovering His attributes through diligent study of His testimonies. In addressing Him as LORD (“yhwh” in Hebrew), the Psalmist acknowledges Him as the eternal, self-existent, covenant God; as such, he can rightly proclaim His rules to be righteous. Creator God, the One Who has always existed, is the Author of what is right. He only does what is right – He cannot do wrong (Deuteronomy 32:4). And because He cannot do wrong, He is faithful to keep His covenants (Psalm 89:33-34, Numbers 23:19, Titus 1:2).
The Psalmist also understands that the affliction he is suffering is unavoidable in a world fractured by sin (1 Peter 4:12). But because he knows the character of God, he understands He will use every trial he endures to grow him in godliness (Psalm 119:67-68,71). The Psalmist knows he can call upon God’s steadfast love to comfort him in his affliction. The Hebrew word for steadfast love is “chesed,” which encompasses God’s covenant faithfulness and kindness toward His children. In Exodus 20:6 and Deuteronomy 5:10 God promises His “chesed” to the thousandth generation of those who love Him and keep His commandments. Because of this, the Psalmist can have confidence that, as His servant, he will receive the comfort he requests. God’s “chesed” will provide it, according to His promise.
Just as the Psalmist was able to endure his trial with hope based on his knowledge of God, who we perceive God to be will greatly influence how we respond to affliction. In his book, “Awe,” Paul David Tripp writes: “It is quite clear that your view of God will inescapably shape your perspective on your circumstances…will you let your interpretation of circumstances tell you who God is, or will you allow God’s awesome revelation of Himself to interpret your circumstances for you?” Because the Psalmist chose to abide in God’s Word, he allowed His “awesome revelation of Himself” to interpret his circumstances for him. How much more should we, who benefit from the complete canon of scripture that testifies to God’s “chesed” in providing both His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sins to satisfy the Father’s righteous requirement for justice and the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit to transform us into Christ’s likeness.
Perhaps you are experiencing a momentary disappointment or what seems to be an unending season of trial. By God’s grace, resist the temptation to allow your circumstances to interpret who God is for you. Instead, pray that God would grant you grace to abide and delight in the knowledge of who the Sovereign, eternal Creator has revealed Himself to be in His Word. And, as His servant, receive the comfort He has promised in Christ.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort, too.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5