I cry out loud for help from the Lord.
I beg out loud for mercy from the Lord.
I pour out my concerns before God;
I announce my distress to him.
When my spirit is weak inside me, you still know my way.
But they’ve hidden a trap for me in the path I’m taking.
Look right beside me: See?
No one pays attention to me.
There’s no escape for me.
No one cares about my life.
I cry to you, Lord, for help.
“You are my refuge,” I say.
“You are all I have in the land of the living.”
Pay close attention to my shouting,
because I’ve been brought down so low!
Deliver me from my oppressors
because they’re stronger than me.
Get me out of this prison
so I can give thanks to your name.
Then the righteous will gather all around me
because of your good deeds to me. (CEB)
One of the reasons I love the psalms so dearly is that they are raw and real. There is no pretense with the psalmist. He opens his mind and heart and lets the genuine feelings of his life pour out in an offering to the God who bends his ear and pays attention to the humble and contrite. The proud and arrogant will forever be flummoxed by the psalms, not understanding why they are even in the canon of Scripture.
Yet, here they are, in Holy Scripture for all to experience. Whereas the piously insincere are continually putting up a false front of godliness and keeping up appearances of superior spirituality, here we have authentic religion right here in front of our faces. To me, the psalms liberate me from the shackles of trying to be someone I am not and enable me to connect with a God who encourages me in my wondering, my pain, my situations – and who is perfectly at home with crying aloud and shouting prayers to heaven.
Those who oppress others, I believe, are easy to spot: the only questions they ask are rhetorical to just make a point and are not really asking a question; they make faulty assumptions, and, so, think nothing of leveling false accusations; and, they have no curiosity to listen or learn – just a desire to make their own message known.
If such oppressors are the ones in power, then, it feels like being in prison with no ability to leverage a release. However, there is One who is always on the lookout for the oppressed and the needy who are raising their voices to heaven.
When no one else will listen because they are too smug in their delusions of rightness and strength, God hears and will advocate on behalf of those experiencing injustice and maltreatment.
Since God takes a posture of listening to those in need of mercy, this is precisely the disposition we are to adopt as people created in God’s image. The proud, convinced of their superiority, either cannot or will not see those languishing underneath power structures. For there is no space in the hearts of the proud to accommodate those who cry out on behalf of justice. The only recourse for the oppressed is God – and God will act with equity and with integrity.
It is not the oppressed who need our pity; it is the ungodly. The poor and the needy would like to show empathy – but that would take knowing another, which the oppressor has no stomach for. Systems of oppression keep people at a distance and turn a blind eye to the genuine screams of those under their boot.
The weak, the distressed, and the spiritually tired people on this fallen planet of ours very much have an appeal to the God who knows them and their situations. Although cries for deliverance may not happen immediately, we can be assured that divine help is forthcoming.
This psalm was crafted by David in a cave before he was king. David was on the run from King Saul, who was trying to take his life. David was hiding and just trying to stay alive. There was nothing in David’s life in which he deserved such treatment. It was sheer jealousy on Saul’s end of things that caused him to give his soul over to oppressive pride. And David was the brunt of that oppression.
We know the end of the story. Saul is eventually killed in battle and David is exalted as the new king. Yet, here, in today’s psalm, we have the genuine cry of a desperate man who longed for the justice of God. One of the reasons David was a person after God’s own heart is that he exhibited humility and remained connected to God without succumbing to the bitterness of his situation. I would suggest strongly that David was able to keep his life free from pride because he regularly liberated his spirit through real and raw expressions of his emotions and experiences to God.
Spiritual confidence cannot be ginned-up through pretending that all is well, and everything is okay. Rather, spiritual courage is forged in the most awful of circumstances through real expressions of need and loud cries of emotional pain to the God who truly hears it all. Anyone who tells you different is flimsily trying to maintain their puny sense of delusional power. God sees you in the dark place and he hears your cry for mercy.
Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you made my earthly pain sacred and gave me the example of humility. Be near to me in my time of weakness and pain; sustain me by your grace so that my strength and courage may not fail. Heal me according to your will. Loving Jesus, as you cried out on the cross, I cry out to you in my desperation. Do not forsake me. Grant me relief and preserve me in your perfect peace. Amen.