Monday's Messianic Taste of Hidden Manna #29
Life is Hard!
The vast majority of people on this planet would agree that life is hard, not easy. This morning, in the assigned reading for the current annual Bible reading plan that I am participating in, I read these two verses in expanded translation here: "The LORD is near to the oppressed, shattered, or brokenhearted, and rescues those who are crushed in spirit or deeply discouraged. Many are the afflictions of the righteous (those who do what is rightly obligated), but the LORD rescues from them all".
The commentary of Peter Craigie on this passage is on the mark! "The psalmist now speaks of the Lord’s salvation [rescue] and help to the righteous; the striking feature of these verses is provided by the contexts within which the divine aid may be experienced. The righteous may be "broken-hearted" and "spiritually crushed"; they may have many afflictions (v 20). God’s presence is experienced within these crisis situations; there is no divine guarantee that the righteous will escape the crises and trials of mortal existence. Thus, the psalmist espouses a more sophisticated form of wisdom theology than that of the friends of Job. The "fear [or reverence] of the Lord" (v 16) which was the substance of the psalmist’s instruction could well lead one into a path of life characterized by hardship and difficulty, but it brought with it the divine presence which made possible triumph in the midst of trial. On the other hand, it was equally the case that the fear [or reverence] of the Lord did carry with it the promise of divine protection; God does watch over the [overall] welfare of His people and protect them (v 20). The wisdom theology offers no easy alternatives with respect to life's hardships; there may be protection from evil or deliverance in evil, but the only thing common to the lives of the righteous is the continuation of the divine oversight and care".
Peter C. Craigie, Psalms 1–50, vol. 19, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1983), 281.
What's the Takeaway Here?
Concisely summarized, what the passage and commentary is saying is that everyone in the world is subject to the same hardships, difficulties, and afflictions in life, but those who are rightly associated with God, get to go through it all with God's help!
Life in God and Messiah is Hard!
What's more, in spite of popular theologies that leave people with the impression that an easy life is promised in God or Messiah, the opposite is actually true. I was always struck with these words of Yeshua from the sermon on the mount: "For the gate is narrow and the road is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it". At least three major English translations translate the verse using terms that rightly mean 'narrow' regarding the gate, and 'difficult' or 'hard' regarding the road. In part, what makes it difficult or hard is the earlier stated fact that life in Yeshua Messiah is automatically associated with persecution from others for doing what is 'righteous' (i.e., what is rightly obligated) in the inaugurated Kingdom of God in Messiah on earth (see, e.g., Matt 5:10). The very next verse goes on to prepare Messiah followers to expect to be on the receiving end of insult, persecution, and verbal abuse.
The Promise of the Shalom of God in the Hardships of Life
There are many passages of the Scriptures that speak about the shalom (holistic well-being) of God and Messiah. It doesn't mean that there is some kind of easy escape from the hardships of life in God and Messiah. Rather, it means that somehow we can face all the hardships of life with God and Messiah, and have some measure of the profound shalom of God & Messiah. We see this wondrous truth about 'shalom' (not just peace) expressed in passages like these: Num 6:23–26; John 14:27; and Phil 4:6–7. I would urge you to read these passages now as a great encouragement about the fact that a measure of shalom is available to all who follow this advice: Life is Hard: Don't Go it Alone, Go it with God & Messiah!
In your service always,
—Henri Louis Goulet