Week of March 17

The God Who Carries Us Through Our Trials

Read: Deuteronomy 30-31; Psalm 40; 1 Corinthians 1

“I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.”
Psalm 40:1, ESV


“There is more safety with Christ in the tempest than without Christ in the calmest waters” (Alexander Grosse). Sadly, we all too often permit deep waters amid life’s deluges and the tall mountains of trials to cause us doubt, rather than trusting God’s providential care. Psalm 40 will change this attitude if we will allow it to minister to our hesitations! It will cause us to praise God for His goodness and deliverance.
The psalm begins like a personal song of thanksgiving, but soon turns to a cry for help (v. 1; 9-17). The beauty of the song is contained in its reality—God is always faithful to His children. We may learn much about our God whose care for us transcends life’s ups and downs and who sustains us even when we are unaware of His provision.

The Meaning of the Text

The benefit of seeing the psalm as a whole
Bible scholars believe this psalm was originally two compositions that were later joined together (Handbook). Some see a break after verse 11, while others see the first section running through verse 11. Overall, the first portion of the psalm may be divided into the following: a statement of the psalmist’s experience (vv. 1-3), praise to the Lord for His goodness (vv. 4-8), public proclamation of what the Lord has done for the psalmist (vv. 9-10), and a confession of faith in the Lord (v. 11). The second division of the psalm may be divided into a description of the psalmist’s condition (v. 12) followed by a cry for help (vv. 13-17). I love this psalm because it contains a well-rounded understanding of the necessity to rely upon God wholly, despite our circumstances. Our Easter hope reminds us that, even if we die, we live because He has conquered death (John 11:25-26; Romans 8:31-39; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58).
Waiting for Gods’ help
Learning to trust God when life is overwhelming. I believe it would be good to entitle the entire psalm, “I waited for God’s help, and it came.” The theology embedded in the first verse flows through the entirety of the psalm and becomes for me a whispered prayer throughout the varied experiences of any given day. To “wait” on God is a Hebrew word, meaning “hope,” “expectation,” and “confidence” (cf. Psalm 25:3a). So, the psalmist teaches us that he waits confidently upon the Lord for His help. He may grow weary from that which overwhelms his body, but he never tires from waiting on God to help! How can this be so?
God listens, and He delivers. The attentive concern of God for His children is evident when the psalmist writes, “he inclined his ear,” meaning God “listened,” “he paid attention to.” One translator even uses a powerful image to portray God's attention: “he bent down to hear my cries.” Things are not easy because the psalmist has become endangered. The desolate pit and miry bog are metaphors for the world of the dead (“Sheol,” Handbook). Whether it was some dangerous situation or life-threatening illness, God rescued him! He lifted him out of his near-death circumstance and placed his feet securely upon a rock. In other words, God gave him health and safety.

The Message for Your Heart

My news feed this morning contained a story on the growing numbers of people attempting to scale Mount Everest. All who near the northeast summit at about 28,000 feet must pass the frozen remains of an unidentified climber from 1996 who died in pursuit of the pinnacle. He wore “green boots” and that has become the moniker for the fallen explorer. “Green Boots” marks the challenge of scaling that peak and the high cost of defeat. However, not every onerous climb on the mountain ends with such tragedy. On one occasion, a Sherpa guide rescued a climber in distress, wrapped him in a sleeping bag, gave him a bottle of oxygen, hoisted him on his back, and descended six hours to deliver the man to safety! I well imagine there was much rejoicing on the part of that rescued climber.
So, what should we do when God delivers us? I believe we should follow the psalmist’s testimony. He began to sing a new song, meaning a song of praise to God. This was no quiet tune that he hummed, or a melody that echoed within the confines of his mind. It was a song he sang aloud to all of Israel because he refers to “our God.” I do not know what the psalmist faced, but I do know whose face was evident through it all! His aim is not only to express joy over his newfound life, but to encourage all to see and fear (respect and awe) the One who made it possible. Psalm 40 may be summed up in this way: “God sometimes washes the eyes of His children with tears that they may see clearly His providence” (paraphrase of Thomas Cuyler).

For Thought and Action

1. Take a moment to scroll through the pictures on your phone or in a photo album. Recall a severe trial you faced and consider the ways God was delivering you from darkness and despair. Pen a few lines of praise and thanksgiving for God’s deliverance. Take time throughout the day to read aloud those words. Tell others what God did for you.
2. For Families: Every once in awhile, it is good to get away, see some of God’s creation, and let the heart express thanks to God in new ways. This Spring Break and Easter time of year gives us a few days to do that. If you can, go somewhere together as a family for a day or overnight, and breathe some different air, see other kinds of scenery, and be alone together. Maybe visit a mountain or a state park.

If you cannot do that, gather your family for an afternoon at home. Grill out, play games together, and spend some special time paying attention to each other. In either scenario, take a few moments to review the last few months or year, and consider the hard times you have had and how God brought you out. Then pray and thank Him for His provision. If you are in a place to do so, sing thanking songs to Him, or take turns giving LOUD shouts of praise! May God be delighted in our gratitude.
May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock