You have rejected us, God, and defeated us;
you have been angry with us—but now turn back to us.
You have made the land tremble, and you have cut it open;
now heal its wounds, because it is falling apart.
You have made your people suffer greatly;
we stagger around as though we were drunk.
You have warned those who have reverence for you,
so that they might escape destruction.
Save us by your might; answer our prayer,
so that the people you love may be rescued.
From his sanctuary God has said,
“In triumph I will divide Shechem
and distribute Sukkoth Valley to my people.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh too;
Ephraim is my helmet
and Judah my royal scepter.
But I will use Moab as my washbowl,
and I will throw my sandals on Edom,
as a sign that I own it.
Did the Philistines think they would shout in triumph over me?”
Who, O God, will take me into the fortified city?
Who will lead me to Edom?
Have you really rejected us?
Aren’t you going to march out with our armies?
Help us against the enemy;
human help is worthless.
With God on our side we will win;
he will defeat our enemies. (Good News Translation)
When you are distressed, what do you do?
For the psalmist, David, a time of distress is always a time for prayer to God.
And whenever David prayed, it was real gut level prayer, sometimes raw, and always genuine.
Far too many religious folk seem to tip-toe around God, as if they fear raising the Lord’s ire about something. That’s not a healthy view of God, feeling like you’re walking on spiritual eggshells. In contrast, the God of the Psalms is a God big enough to take any sort of prayer – and David knew that.
The psalmist was not afraid to express his feelings of abandonment from God, as well as his heartfelt sense of trust in God. And in all things, David had a continual sense of utter dependence upon the Lord.
The perspective of the psalms is that any belief in an independent livelihood apart from God is flat-out delusional – not to mention the source of much human wickedness.
The God we have in today’s psalm, and throughout the psalter, is accessible to humans. God is even open to argumentation, accountability, and rebuke. This is astounding, considering that we are the puny creatures and God is the immensely huge Creator.
It’s high time we wisely discern that we can talk to God about anything; we can express any emotion to the Lord, without fear of retribution. Conversely, ignoring God altogether, and pursuing other gods, is the inaction likely to bring out divine disappointment and anger.
Despite the fact that God is the absolute Sovereign over all humanity, the Lord responds to our needs and shows solidarity with us. This, however, does not mean that God is always at our beck and call – which is why the psalmists sometimes complain and lament over divine silence in the face of trouble.
God is not a genie. Prayer is not rubbing a lamp and getting our wishes fulfilled. God is both absent and engaged according to divine purposes, not ours. Yet, the Lord is continually attentive, with full awareness of what’s going on.
If we need deliverance, we need deliverance. And just because God may not show up according to our timetable (now!) doesn’t mean the Lord is aloof or uncaring. It just means the deliverance is likely to come in a way we aren’t expecting. Whatever happens, we will make it to the strong walled City of God.
So, we must persevere in prayer. And the psalms help us voice those prayers for deliverance. Sometimes, when we are distressed and exhausted, the words of prayer simply don’t come. In those times, the psalms become our prayers, as well….
Look at my suffering and deliver me
because I haven’t forgotten your Instruction.
Argue my case and redeem me.
Make me live again by your word. (Psalm 119:153-154, CEB)
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
who have set themselves against me all around.
Rise up, O Lord!
Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
you break the teeth of the wicked.
Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
may your blessing be on your people! (Psalm 3:6-8, NRSV)
I am in deep distress.
How long will it be?
Turn and come to my rescue.
Show your wonderful love
and save me, Lord.
If I die, I cannot praise you
or even remember you. (Psalm 6:3-5, CEV)
But you, Lord, my Lord!—
act on my behalf for the sake of your name;
deliver me because your faithful love is so good;
because I am poor and needy,
and my heart is broken. (Psalm 109:21-22, CEB)
In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
let me never be put to shame;
deliver me in your righteousness.
Turn your ear to me,
come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
a strong fortress to save me.
Since you are my rock and my fortress,
for the sake of your name lead and guide me. (Psalm 31:1-3, NIV)
But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me.
With your faithful help rescue me
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Do not let the flood sweep over me
or the deep swallow me up
or the Pit close its mouth over me. (Psalm 69:13-15, NRSV)
Give justice to the poor and the orphan;
uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute.
Rescue the poor and helpless;
deliver them from the grasp of evil people. (Psalm 82:3-4, NLT)
I sought the Lord and he answered me.
He delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to God will shine;
their faces are never ashamed.
This suffering person cried out:
the Lord listened and saved him from every trouble.
On every side, the Lord’s messenger protects those who honor God; and he delivers them.
Taste and see how good the Lord is!
The one who takes refuge in him is truly happy! (Psalm 34:4-8, CEB)
These prayers are for us to use, over and over again. Say them aloud, often, with flavor.
May the God of life strengthen you for this day, and protect you through the coming night, through Jesus Christ our Savior, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.