Help in Dreadful Distresses

sb-logo-rfpaThe August 2020 issue of the Standard Bearer contains a powerful, probing meditation from the pen of Rev. Steven Key (Loveland-CO PRC). The title is “Dreadful Distresses” and is based on Psalm 107:17-22,

Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near to the gates of death. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

From this text he explains not only the character of these dreadful distresses brought by the Lord on the church and on the world, but also the reason for them:

The text itself brings out the dreadful reason for this horrible reality that we also observe and that affects every one of us. Affliction, these dreadful distresses, are consequences of transgression and of iniquities! The word transgression speaks of rebellion, deliberately going against what God has shown as His will for us and His way with us.

God, the eternal I AM, created us to praise Him. In His own good pleasure He even formed a people set apart unto Himself. He provided for them their every need daily. He protected them. He revealed His goodness to them beyond what they ever would dare ask or think. He performed many wonderful works, revealing that He alone is God. In everything He pointed to Christ, the One Who would come to save them. He gave every reason for His people to thank Him, to praise Him, to live to His glory. He came down to their level to speak to them. He gave them His Word.

Now consider the history recounted in this Psalm. Repeatedly the children of Israel, the church, held the counsel of the Most High in contempt. They didn’t want His Word. They refused to live to His glory. They took for granted everything He gave them, even lived as if He owed them. And that rebellion against the living God came to expression in a multitude of iniquities. Man has become an offender, guilty of crimes against the eternal I AM. Guilt has consequences. That is what is described here as the reason for the horrible reality of our dreadful distresses.

Notice as well how those bearing these dreadful distresses are described — fools. “Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.” God Himself describes them as fools because in the pathway they have chosen, and in the way of their iniquities, they are afflicted. The emphasis, you see, is not on God’s execution of justice — though that is certainly expressed. But the emphasis is on the fact that fools bring upon themselves their dreadful distresses. That’s why they are called fools. They embrace that which destroys them!

It is important in our present calamities to understand this too. Men have always struggled with the concept of suffering. How can God allow suffering? That’s really the wrong question. The question is: Why do men and women willingly choose a pathway the consequences of which are death? God says, love Me. And we have chosen our own way, a way of transgression, of rebellion. The most hardened criminal knows there are consequences for his actions. Romans 2 tells us that every person has the works of the law written in his or her heart. Their consciences bear witness that there are consequences to wrongdoing. Why is there suffering in the world? The Bible’s answer is direct. We have brought it upon ourselves. “Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.”

But is there no hope or help for sinners in these awful distresses? Yes, in the very God who brings them. For the God of unflinching justice is also the God of saving mercy:

But listen now to the rest of the text. Revealed here is a wonderful deliverance, deliverance from our folly, from our transgression and iniquities, from the bondage into which we have fallen. God mercifully sets before us that deliverance in verses 19 and 20: “Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction.”

The great Physician is present! We need to notice that. “Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble.” He didn’t enter because they cried. He is present. They cry because they have been given an awareness that He is near. The Holy One stands in the midst, the great and glorious God Who is God alone! He has given life. Whenever a person truly cries unto God, God has given that person life enabling him or her to cry unto Him. You don’t need to teach your children how to cry. It’s the first thing a newborn does, the first expression of life. And the cry noted here is clearly a cry of desperation from a lost sinner. It’s a cry of repentance, of sorrow — not for the affliction, but for the horrible reality of the dreadfulness of our distresses, for being fools who have rebelled against God and who have grievously sinned against Him. It’s the pouring out of one’s heart before Him Who alone can deliver.

“And he saveth them out of their distresses.” How He does that immediately follows in verse 20: “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” He sends the gospel, the gospel of Jesus Christ, Who alone removes our guilt, Who washes away the poison of sin that had brought us into such distresses, Who gives life, relationships, joy and peace. The faithful I AM, Jehovah, sends the incarnate Word, powerful to save. He heals, making us new creatures!

Let us in our worship today praise and thank our great Deliverer for His beautiful and blessed grace in Jesus Christ. Wholly unworthy are we; supremely worthy is He.

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Published in: on August 23, 2020 at 7:12 AM  Leave a Comment