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Hebrew for Christians
Receiving the Word of Life
Marc Chagall - David

    B"H  Cheshvan 11, 5771

Comfort in Affliction

Receiving the Word of Life

by John J. Parsons

Psalm 119:50

"This is my comfort in my affliction, that your word gives me life."
(Psalm 119:50)

ONE OF THE ULTIMATE TESTS of our faith is to refuse to succumb to despair in the face of personal suffering. For those who struggle with chronic pain or some sort of overwhelming disease, the test of faith calls for the heart to look beyond the realm of appearance, where the "outward man" perishes, to the realm of ultimate healing, where the "inward man" is finally liberated from the ravages of sin and death.
Our present condition is one of a "divided house" that cannot stand. The old nature is earthbound, a creature of the dust of the earth, whereas our new nature comes from the breath of life imparted through faith in Jesus.  In His infinite wisdom, God has imparted the treasure of hope in "jars of clay" so we can understand that our sufficiency comes from Him alone (Psalm 119:25; 2 Cor. 4:7).

Our natural tendency is to seek comfort and to flee from pain. We fret over the insecurities of our world and instinctively seek shelter from threats we perceive. Yet the world itself is subject to vanity (Rom. 8:20); it is pain-riddled and constrained to ongoing bereavement: "All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field" (Isa. 40:6). As Job said, "Life is but a breath" (Job 7:7).

God often uses suffering to do a "deep" work of change within us. Indeed, the tribulations of life are described using the image of the "squeezing of grapes," which yield something far more precious than any kind of this-worldly happiness. "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, prepares us for a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17).

Of course there are dark moments where pain can almost blind us to all hope. For those who know it, there are long hours where there seems no respite or consolation from affliction. But genuine faith affirms with Job that, "though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him" (Job 13:15). This is comfort we have in affliction: God's promise revives our hearts to say, "I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth" (Job 19:25). Even in the "shadow of the valley of death" (i.e., this moribund and broken world), the LORD is with us and comforts us with His Presence (Psalm 23:4).

Hebrew-English Transliteration:

Hebrew-English transliteration

zot nechamati ve'onyi, ki imratekha chiyatni

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It has been said that the serpent was allowed to tempt Eve in the garden in order to press the question of faith. In other words, without such a test, Adam and Eve would never have been able to freely choose to love and trust their Creator. When they failed the test, however, death, pain and sorrow entered the world. The question of faith henceforth centered on the promise of a coming Redeemer who would restore eternal life to fallen humanity... (for more, see "The Gospel in the Garden," the "Seed of Abraham," etc.)

The very first prophecy of the Bible was spoken to the serpent, namely, God's promise that through the "seed of the woman" would come One who would battle the serpent and ultimately crush the kingdom of Satan (Gen. 3:15). Notice that the promise of the coming "Serpent Slayer" was given to Adam and Eve before their judgment was announced. And even after their judgment was given, "the LORD God made tunics of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them" - a clear picture of being compassionately "robed in righteousness" imparted by an innocent sacrifice. The very first sacrifice recorded in the Torah - performed by God Himself - prefigured the coming redemption by the "seed of the woman" who would die as a substitutionary sacrifice for their sins.

We live in an already-not-yet state of expectation. Because of Jesus' death and resurrection, we have been "made alive together with Him," with the judgment of our sins nailed to His cross. The power of the accuser has been broken, and we are now free to live as God's dear children, accepted and beloved (Col. 2:13-15). Nonetheless, we still await the redemption of our bodies and freedom from the presence of sin and death. We still groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption to be complete (Rom. 8:23). We are "always carrying about in the body the dying of our Lord Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may be manifest in our body" (2 Cor. 4:10).


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