This is the Christian's acknowledgment—fully satisfied with the dispensation of God. This is his confidence—so invigorating to his own soul—so cheering to the church. The Lord's dealings are called His judgments—not as having judicial curses, but as the acts of His justice in the chastening of sin. Perhaps also—as the administration of His wise judgments in their measure and application. But here is not only the confession of the Lord's general judgment, but of His especial faithfulness to Himself. And this he knew—not from the dictates of the flesh (which would have given a contrary verdict), but from the testimony of the word, and the witness of his own experience. It could not be doubted—much less denied—'I know, O Lord, that Your rules of proceeding are agreeable to Your perfect justice and wisdom; and I am equally satisfied, that the afflictions that You have laid upon me from time to time, are only to fulfill Your gracious and faithful promise of making me eternally happy in Yourself.' Blessed fruit of affliction! when we can thus "see the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy"—that His "thoughts towards us are thoughts of peace, and not of evil!" "The patience and faith of the saints" teach this difficult but most consoling lesson, in deciphering the mysterious lines in God's providence.
The child of God under the severest chastisement must acknowledge justice. Our gracious reward is always more—our "punishment always less, than our iniquities deserve." "Why should a living man complain?" In trouble he is indeed—but not in hell. If he complain, let it be of none but himself, and his own wayward choice. I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right—and who can doubt the wisdom? Who would charge the operator with cruelty, in cutting out the proud flesh, that was bringing death upon the man? Who would not acknowledge the right judgment of his piercing work? Thus, when the Lord's painful work separates us from our sin, weans us from the world, and brings us nearer to Himself, what remains for us, but thankfully to acknowledge His righteousness and truth? Unbelief is put to rebuke; and we, if we have indulged suspicion "that God has forgotten to be gracious," must confess, "This is our infirmity."
This assurance of the Lord's perfect justice, wisdom, and intimate knowledge of our respective cases, leads us to yield to His appointments in dutiful silence. Thus Aaron, under his most afflictive domestic calamity, "held his peace." Job under a similar dispensation was enabled to say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away: blessed be the name of the Lord!" Eli's language in the same trial was, "It is the Lord; let Him do what seems Him good." David hushed his impatient spirit, "I was dumb; I opened not my mouth, because You did it." And when Shimei cursed him, he said, "Let him alone; let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him." The Shunammite, in the meek resignation of faith, acknowledged, "It is well." Hezekiah kissed the rod, while it was smiting him to the dust, "Good is the word of the Lord which You have spoken." Thus uniform is the language of the Lord's people under chastisement—I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are right.
But the confession of justice may be mere natural conviction. Faith goes further, and speaks of faithfulness. David not only acknowledges God's right to deal with him as He saw fit, and even His wisdom in dealing with him as He actually had done, but His faithfulness in afflicting—not His faithfulness though He afflicted—but in afflicting him; not as if it were consistent with His love, but as the very fruit of His love. It is not enough to justify God. What abundant cause is there to praise Him! It is not enough to forbear to murmur. How exciting is the display of His faithfulness and love! Yes—the trials appointed for us are none else than the faithful performance of His everlasting engagements. And to this cause we may always trace (and it is our privilege to believe it, where we cannot visibly trace it) the reason of much that is painful to the flesh. Let us only mark its gracious effects in our restoration—instruction—healing of our backslidings, and the continual purging of sins—and then say—'Is not the faithfulness of God gloriously displayed?' The Philistines could not understand Samson's riddle—how "Meat could come out of the eater, and sweetness out of the strong." As little can the world comprehend the fruitfulness of the Christian's trials; how his gracious Lord sweetens to him the bitter waters of Marah, and makes the cross not so much the punishment as the remedy of sin. He finds therefore no inclination, and he feels that he has no interest in having any change made in the Lord's appointments, revolting as they may be to the flesh. He readily acknowledges that His merciful designs could not have been accomplished in any other way; while under trials many sweet tokens of love are given, which, under circumstances of outward prosperity, could not have been received with the same gratitude and delight.
You that are living at ease in the indulgence of what this poor world can afford, how little does the Christian envy your portion! How surely in some future day will you be taught by experience to envy his! The world's riches are daily becoming poorer, and its pleasures more tasteless; and what will they be, and how will they appear, when eternity is at hand! Whereas affliction is the special token of our Father's love, conformity to the image of Jesus, and preparation for His service and kingdom. It is the only blessing that the Lord gives, without requiring us to ask for it. We receive it, therefore, as promised, not as threatened; and when the "peaceable fruits of righteousness," which it works in God's time and way, spring up in our hearts, humbly and gratefully will we acknowledge the righteousness of His judgments, and the faithfulness of His corrections.
"I know, O LORD, that your judgments are right." He who would learn more must be thankful for what he already knows, and be willing to confess it to the glory of God. The Psalmist had been sorely tried, but he had continued to hope in God under his trial, and now he avows his conviction that he had been justly and wisely chastened. This he not only thought but knew, so that he was positive about it, and spoke without a moment's hesitation. Saints are sure about the rightness of their troubles, even when they cannot see the intent of them. It made the godly glad to hear David say this, "And that you in faithfulness have afflicted me." Because love required severity, therefore the Lord exercised it. It was not because God was unfaithful that the believer found himself in a sore strait, but for just the opposite reason: it was the faithfulness of God to his covenant which brought the chosen one under the rod. It might not be needful that others should be tried just then; but it was necessary to the Psalmist, and therefore the Lord did not withhold the blessing. Our heavenly Father is no Eli: he will not suffer his children to sin without rebuke, his love is too intense for that. The man who makes the confession of this verse is already progressing in the school of grace, and is learning the commandments. This third verse of the section corresponds to the third of Teth (67), and in a degree to several other verses which make the thirds in their octaves.