Week of September 4

God Our Refuge

Read: Ezekiel 15-16; Psalm 70; Revelation 6

“Make haste, O God, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me!”
“But I am poor and needy;
hasten to me, O God!
You are my help and my deliverer;
O Lord, do not delay!”
Psalm 70:1 & 5, ESV


Torrential rains and flash flooding inundated our state in recent days. People were overwhelmed by rising water and emergency responders raced to rescue people and lead them to refuge. You may not be drowning in a literal flood, but you may be terrified by an onslaught of evil people.

Picture your most desperate cry for help in a moment of crisis, the words that you used to express your despair, and you will be able to identify with the message of this focal psalm. The psalmist laments his persecuted and oppressed state and cries out to the Lord. So, we will place one finger in this passage and refer to Psalm 40 to arrive upon a good interpretation of the passage. The Lord has provided our hearts today with the same powerful message of hope from two places.

Understanding the Bible Passage

Interesting background to the psalm
This hymn has a bit of an added surprise, as indicated in the introduction, where we see a nearly identical companion psalm. Bible scholars direct our attention to Psalm 40:13-17 where the essence of this lament is also recorded (HCBC; EBC; Handbook). The hymn is in fact an almost exact replica of that passage. Our focal verse is a humble prayer, and it offers us a simple way to cry out to God in a way that He will hear and respond (70:5). We may, in fact, pen this prayer into the back of our Bibles or place it on our mobile devices where we may have ready access to it in our time of need!
Bullies abound in every generation
The psalm takes off quickly and with great intensity! We see immediately that the writer is being “bullied” because people are making fun of him (v. 3; 40:15, “Aha! Aha!”). The words in these passages occur elsewhere in Psalms and the meaning is outright lying with the intent to destroy a person’s life (35:13). Surely, you and I recognize this sort of behavior in our current media political feeding frenzy. The situation is serious in our passage because these enemies seek to snatch away his life or kill him (v. 2; cf. 40:14).
He cries out to God for some relief from this situation and requests that they will ultimately be defeated and dishonored (v. 2; 40:14). These passages remind us that each generation has its bullies. We need to be reminded that previous generations very often had some escape from harassment, but many children today face persecution around the clock because of the advent of social media. The psalmist knows, however, that bullies come and go, but God remains steadfast and able to deliver the helpless. The poet asks for God to defeat the ones who are making fun of him and to “cause them to have burning faces” (Handbook).
The point: blessing even while protecting
The psalmist goes on to do the most curious thing, by most estimates. He turns his focus toward the Lord and prays for God’s blessings upon His faithful people. Our Savior modeled these words and actions in the most severe circumstance (cf. 1 Peter 2:23). Prayer and praise are indeed a powerful response to our own sufferings.
We must keep in mind, however, that Jesus’ silence and non-retaliation at His trial and crucifixion were intended to satisfy the will and purposes of God in salvation. Because Jesus died for all, each person is precious. Our little ones must be defended and protected from bullying. Wives (and even husbands) who are suffering mental, verbal, and physical abuse are to be protected and defended from their abusive spouses. We need to rescue them from harm instead of patting them on the back and urging them to return home to violence. Workplace bullying must also be resisted and those who are being threatened and harassed need to be delivered from their oppressors.
Salvation covers these who are in special need of justice too.
The “poor and needy” ones are those who are oppressed, and the psalmist calls upon God for justice—God’s justice to prevail (vs. 5; 40:17). He cries out that God would not forget him in his need and to come quickly to the rescue. Our goal should be like the one the psalmist had. He prayed that all who seek God would rejoice and that all who come to Him would be glad (v. 4; 40:16).

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

I had a dear friend who offered me a place of retreat time and time again, which I politely declined to accept. It is not that I did not want to go. I simply “could not find the time.” I will never forget the time I agreed to go there. Life had become toilsome, and I was weary beyond even my own understanding. Well, I was picked up at the airport, driven to the “retreat,” and literally overwhelmed that it was a spacious family home where I experienced the fullness of God’s shalom. God has more than enough peace to share with your heart today, so accept His invitation to receive it in this psalm. Here is a way to pray.
How to pray when you are overwhelmed. Look at the simple prayer in verse 5. First, be completely transparent with God (cf. Matthew 5:3). The words “poor and needy” translate from two synonyms. They mean “poor,” “weak”, “helpless.” One translator sums up the human reality for all of us; namely, “I am a have-nothing man” (Handbook). Secondly, plead with God to take thought of us, or “show us concern” (cf. “hasten to me”). I have often cried out to God, “Get here quickly!” Feel free to do the same. Thirdly, call Him by name and pray, “You are my Savior” (i.e., “help”). “Acknowledge him in all your ways” means that we will call upon Him both when we are in distress, and even when we are not in distress (cf. Proverbs 3:5-6)!

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. We all face “Goliath-like” people or circumstances in our lives, so write down the “who’s” and the “what’s” today. Give your burdens and fears to the Lord. Pray descriptively through the simple model prayer framework above (e.g., How are you “poor and needy”?) and express the need for God’s quick rescue as you see it. Trust Him to arrive at just the right time. Declare your trust in Him come what may.

2. For Families: With the new school year starting up, and the children settling into new routines, their new classrooms, with new teachers, and perhaps new classmates, it may be a good time to ask about whether your children (young or teens) have noticed any potential bullies in their circles. If so, two actions would be best taken immediately.

First, a note or word to your child’s teacher would help him or her to be alerted to the behavior of the student who may be harming others. Next, your child could learn from the Psalmist today how best to respond in their own hearts.Teach them this simple, but powerful way to pray to God. Tell God how much they need Him to rescue them, ask Him to come help quickly, and cry out to God that He is their help and deliverer! Remind them that they are not alone. God is their Savior. He will care for them without fail.
May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock