Character By Woodrow Kroll

For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.

This is the second psalm ascribed to Asaph and the first of eleven consecutive psalms that bear his name. In 2 Chronicles 29:30 King Hezekiah invites the Levites to sing "the words of David, and of Asaph the seer." Asaph was not only a writer but a prophet as well. This psalm deals with the same perplexing subject as that of Psalm 37, curiously the transposition of Psalm 73. It is the subject of Psalm 49 and the entire book of Job. How can an infinitely powerful God be good and still allow the wicked to appear to prosper and the righteous to be in want? Perhaps you have asked the same question of God. If so, your answer is given in Psalm 73.

The way to heaven is an afflicted way, a perplexed, a persecuted way, crushed close together with crosses, as was the Israelites' way in the wilderness. This was true of Asaph the psalmist when his feet were almost gone and his steps had well nigh slipped. He was envious when he looked around and saw the prosperity of the wicked. There were no pangs or pains in their death. The eyes of the wicked ever gloat on the luxuries around them. They increase in prosperity and riches while they curse God, and the Almighty appears to do nothing about it.

On the other hand, Asaph had cleansed his heart and had washed his hands before God. He had lived uprightly and yet he was afflicted and distressed. Why would God allow him to be afflicted when he had lived as God desired? Although God does not daily bring a man to his bed, breaking his spirit and his bones, nevertheless seldom a day passes without some rebuke or chastening from God. It is as much a part of the Christian's life to know afflictions as it is to know mercies, to know when God smites as to know when He smiles.

Still Asaph complains, "For all day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning" (Psalm 73:14). Every morning it appears to the psalmist that he arose after having been whipped by God. His breakfast was the bread of sorrow; his juice was the water of adversity. Morning after morning he would arise only to feel the affliction of God that day. Asaph began to question whether or not it was worth living a godly life, a life pure and unspotted from the world, when those around him refused to do so and prospered. Perhaps this question has crossed your mind as well.

In the forests of northern Europe lives the ermine, a small animal that we know best for its snow-white fur. Instinctively the ermine protects its white coat lest it become soiled. European hunters often capitalize on this trait. Instead of setting a mechanical trap to catch the ermine, they find its home in the cleft of a rock and daub the entrance with tar. A chase ensues and the frightened ermine flees toward its home. When it arrives at the cleft of the rock and finds it covered with dirt, the animal spurns its place of safety. Rather than soil itself and its white fur, it courageously faces the hunters. That's character. To the ermine, purity is dearer than life itself.

Whenever we feel we are being chastised by God unjustly and are tempted to cast off our righteous lifestyle, let's remember the ermine. To keep ourselves "unspotted from the world" (James 1:27) should be as important to the Christian as life itself. Affliction tests character; and character tested, with the right response, is character strengthened. Rejoice today that God loves you enough to afflict you.

In the hour of trial, Jesus, plead for me;
Lest by base denial I depart from Thee;
When Thou see'st me waver, with a look recall;
Nor thro' fear or favor suffer me to fall.

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