In Times of Suffering
This song of celebration, Psalm 149, is like a rallying cry, urging all of God's people to praise the Lord regardless of their circumstances. That includes times when people aren't naturally inclined to boast on God.
Praise the Lord in Times of Suffering
For the LORD takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.
Let the godly ones exult in glory;
Let them sing for joy on their beds.
Let the high praises of God be in their mouth,
And a two-edged sword in their hand. (149:4–6)
It might be helpful to begin verse 4 with "Because" instead of "For." It's a good translation of the Hebrew text and it helps to separate verse 4 from the preceding section. This also helps clarify the psalmist's meaning as the song turns to discuss times of suffering. While difficult circumstances are inevitable in life, the Lord always takes pleasure in His people. In other words, suffering is not the result of God's displeasure. Ever.
I notice two statements in verse 4 regarding the way God views those who are afflicted with suffering:
1. He takes pleasure in His people. The Hebrew term is ratzah, meaning "to accept favorably, be pleased with, satisfied with." So often the one who is set aside feels completely unloved and useless—even rejected. He isn't contributing a thing because he can't. Not able to produce, he begins to feel as though he is nothing but a drag, a weary responsibility. That is why suffering is usually a praiseless grind! But this verse says quite the opposite! It says that God "accepts us favorably"—He is "pleased with us" even when we are laid aside and totally unproductive. That fact alone should encourage each one who is afflicted with pain and sidelined because of illness. You may be in a hospital room or alone at home. Take heart! God continues to love you and He looks upon you with favor, even though you cannot produce anything at this present time.
2. He beautifies His people. To be technical about it, the verse says that God "will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation" (deliverance). This is so true. The Hebrew term rendered "beautified" means "to make beautiful, to glorify, adorn." I believe it has two meanings in this context. The first is literal. When deliverance comes, when healing occurs, when the sunshine of hope splashes across the once-dismal room of the sufferer, beauty returns. The long facial lines of stress begin to fade, the light returns to the eyes, the whole countenance is lifted. God beautifies them!
In a broader, nonliteral sense, however, I want to suggest that God brings glory to many who live long years with affliction. Some of the most beautiful people I have known are people whose lives have been scarred by disease, pain, and paralysis. Stationed upon their bed or limited to a chair, these "beautiful sufferers" have a radiance that shines like the quiet, faithful beam from a lighthouse across troubled waters. Often I go to minister to them, but I soon discover that the beauty of their lives ministers to me! Their attitude toward suffering prompts me to give praise to God.
The Lord will also beautify and glorify His suffering saints with the ultimate deliverance: eternity with Him in a place where there is no suffering, no pain, no illness, no death, and no tears.
Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Living the Psalms: Encouragement for the Daily Grind (Brentwood, Tenn.: Worthy Publishing, a division of Worthy Media, Inc., 2012). Copyright © 2012 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved. Used by permission.
Used with permission. All rights reserved.