Psalm 66: Trial to Blessing:
What a strange train of thought: The Psalmist blesses God: Why? Verse 11 reads, “For (ki)… you have test us”:
8 Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, 9 who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip. 10 For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11 You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12 you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.
Psalm 66:8–12 (ESV). Consider the chain of troubles in the following clauses: tried us (as metal in fire), into a net, laid a crushing burden, men ride over our heads, through fire, through water. Yes, there is an end to the troubles, there is a blessing to be had – but it does not come until the crushing troubles come first.
There is a lesson here for living with affliction: It is not that every cloud has a silver lining. The Psalmist is not Pollyanna. The first lesson is not that the trial does not exist, but rather that it is God who brings the trial. As Calvin explains:
For thou, O God! hast proved us. We may read, Though thou, O God! etc., and then the passage comes in as a qualification of what went before, and is brought forward by the Psalmist to enhance the goodness of God, who had delivered them from such severe calamities. But there is another object which I consider him to have in view, and this is the alleviation of the grief of God’s people, by setting before them the comfort suggested by the words which follow. When visited with affliction, it is of great importance that we should consider it as coming from God, and as expressly intended for our good. It is in reference to this that the Psalmist speaks of their having been proved and tried. At the same time, while he adverts to God’s trying his children with the view of purging away their sin, as dross is expelled from the silver by fire, he would intimate, also, that trial had been made of their patience.
Now, this does not end in personal ease. The point of the trial was not to make the Psalmist more self-centered, but rather God-centered. The end of the trial is not personal ease – it is a worshiping heart toward God; it is a heart purged of sin.
The history of God’s dealing with this people is at the same time the history of his judgments; these bring to light human sin so that the bearers of the promise might be delivered and purged from it (v. 10) and that the reality of God’s exclusive power and the seriousness of his demands upon man and of his demands upon man and of his promised grace might thus be made manifested them. It is precisely because the history of suffering is the history of God’s hidden grace which leads to salvation that his deadly serious mediation on the way of the cross of the people of God is fully justified in its prominent place in the jubilant praise of God.
Arthur Weiser, The Psalms, 471.
This is the history of God’s dealings with his people:
6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
1 Peter 1:6–8 (ESV). It is how the Father dealt with his own Son:
10 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 2:10 (ESV).
Thus, the knowledge that God has lead us into trial is the knowledge that God is leading us to salvation – not merely a temporary reprieve or temporary ease. God is bringing us to a real and unending salvation:
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
1 Peter 1:8–9 (ESV). Therefore, let us rejoice:
16 Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for my soul. 17 I cried to him with my mouth, and high praise was on my tongue. 18 If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. 19 But truly God has listened; he has attended to the voice of my prayer. 20 Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me!
Psalm 66:16–20 (ESV).