“May your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in your word. Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in your laws. I will always obey your law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands, which I love, and I meditate on your decrees” (Psalm 119:41-48).
Throughout Psalm 119, the writer talks about his love for God’s Word and His laws. We see a portrait of a man who follows God’s direction and wants to do what is right—not to look good for other people but because he desires to please the Father. In this passage we begin to see inside the life of the writer. We don’t know who wrote this, though we do know it wasn’t David. We also know that his life wasn’t easy. This section of Psalm 119 hints at the persecution he faced for his faith. He was ridiculed for following the Law passionately, yet he trusted in God. In the coming sections of Psalm 119 we’ll see more about the persecution this writer faced.
Have you ever been ridiculed for your faith? Persecution can range from taunting to torture. Scripture has promised that those who stand firm for their faith will face trials and persecution. Christianity has a long history of people who were persecuted for their belief in Christ Jesus. In reading some of their stories, I have to wonder if I would be as strong faced with such extreme circumstances—especially when there are times in my everyday life when I feel like hiding my faith so that I won’t “offend.”
Voice of the Martyrs is an Christian organization dedicated to helping those who are being persecuted for their belief in Jesus. Their mission is “to serve persecuted Christians through practical and spiritual assistance and to lead other members of the Body of Christ into fellowship with them.” (Learn more about Voice of the Martyrs and how you can connect with the persecuted church at www.persecution.com.)
VOM reports stories that would otherwise go unnoticed by news outlets. Stories about people like the believer in Uzbekistan whose home was raided by police last week. They “warned him to stop participating in illegal Christian meetings (evangelical churches are denied registration in Uzbekistan). In addition, they presented a document forbidding him from keeping religious literature in his home or teaching religious doctrine.”
Or the story of the pastor from Bangui, the capitol of the Central African Republic, who was forced to flee his home five years ago “…after angry Muslims began to intimidate his congregation and disrupt services. They wanted to build a mosque nearby but did not want it next to a church. Then, in December 2013, a group of Muslims armed with machetes surrounded the pastor’s house, and he could hear them discussing whether to kill him or just destroy the church. After the group left, Pastor Panhoue and his family grabbed what they could and fled. Days later, he learned that both his house and the church had been destroyed. Pastor Panhoue and his family have not been able to return to the neighborhood or visit their destroyed home, as Muslims have since driven out the entire Christian community.”
Throughout the New Testament we find stories of people who were severely persecuted for their faith. The Apostle Paul, who began as a persecutor of Believers in Christ and who was miraculously saved, faced intense persecution. Yet he wrote:
“I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16).
“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God…” (1 Timothy 1:8).
These verses mirror the words of the writer of Psalm 119 who declares that even in the presence of kings he wasn’t ashamed to testify to the power of the one and only God. Even as he faced the taunts and bullying of others, he found strength in the Word of God to stand firm.
You and I may never face the kind of persecution our Christian brothers and sisters around the world are facing, but we do make decisions every day to follow God “out loud” or to keep our light hidden, afraid of what other people might think. Jesus Himself states, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38).
Jesus’ words are a reminder that our actions and attitudes in everyday life can have eternal consequences. The question comes: Whose side are you on? Are you standing for God on His Word, or are you fading into the background, afraid to declare your faith. It’s easier to go with the flow rather than to “offend” others by speaking up for the truth. No one wants to be taunted or jeered. Yet the promise of God’s Word is that He will be our strength and our shield. Bravery and courage in the face of persecution doesn’t just happen. It’s based on the decisions you make moment by moment to stand for Jesus and trust in His Word. It’s based on a life that is wholeheartedly, unashamedly devoted to God.
Have you ever been mocked for your faith or witnessed someone else being taunted for Christ? How did that make you feel?
The Psalmist makes several positive assertions in this stanza of Psalm 119. Make a list (I count 11):
Positive statements like these can only be made sincerely when the writer has confidence in who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised. How can the writer have this kind of confidence?
Can he trust and put his hope in God’s Word and confidently speak of God without knowing God’s Word? Confidence in God, then, comes in knowing Him through His Word and experiencing His saving grace.
Read John 16:33. What the two promises does Jesus?
What does it mean when Jesus says He has “overcome the world”?
Why does this offer us hope?
Question for personal consideration: Everyone who stands strong for Christ will face persecution. It may not look the same in every case, but persecution is promised to all who place their faith in Jesus and don’t hide that faith. Knowing God through His Word and through His Spirit living in us gives us confidence to face whatever may be thrown at us. Are you in His Word regularly? Can you say with the Psalmist, “I trust in your word…I have sought out your precepts…I delight in your commands…I meditate on your decrees”?