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Be Quick About It

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The thought of quickness is very familiar. By “quick” may be intended to do something or move speedily. In some contexts quickness is associated with learning or understanding. Quickness can at times be associated with negative reactions such as reacting hastily so as to find fault with others or having a quick temper. It is not surprising, therefore, that the idea of quickness is found in the Scriptures.

Thus Isaiah describes certain people of his day as those whose feet “run after evil, and they rush to shed innocent blood” (Isa. 59:7).1 Hodge suggests that such a statement undergirds the truth that, “Human nature is depraved.”2 The author of the biblical book of Proverbs (Prov. 6:16-19) speaks of “six things that the LORD hates,” even “Seven things that are an abomination to Him” (v.16). The fifth of these is “feet that are swift to run to evil” (v.18).

In words commonly attributed to Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes we read:

Guard your step when you go to the house of God. Better to draw near in obedience than to offer the sacrifice as fools do, for they are ignorant and do wrong. Be not hasty to speak, and do not be impulsive to make a speech before God. God is in heaven, and you are on earth, so let your words be few. (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).

Similarly, such can be seen in James’ instructions to his readers: “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” (James 1:19). By way of practical application Guthrie comments,

The virtue of being a ready listener who knows how to control the tongue, and the corresponding moral danger of being a hot head, hasty talker, are widespread in both Hellenistic and Jewish literature.3

Our particular study takes us to the book of Psalms. As frequently in the Psalms, the 102nd Psalm begins with a prayer for God’s help. The Psalmist pleads for God to hear him and come to his assistance

LORD, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come before You.
Do not hide your face from me in my day of trouble.
Listen closely to me; answer me quickly when I call. (Ps. 102:1-2).

The Psalmists often asked for God’s help. A good example of this is found in the 143rd Psalm. Having begun his Psalm by pleading for the Lord’s help, the Psalmist subsequently asks for God’s quick reply.

Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails.
Don’t hide your face from me,
Or I will be like those going down to the Pit. (v. 7).

Futato points out that the sense of urgency in his plea is “emphatic.” He goes on to say, “In the Hebrew text, where the word translated “quickly” is actually an imperative, “Hurry!”4

The plea for God’s quick interceding for the Psalmist is felt in many of the Psalms. Thus we read in Psalm 69:17: “Don’t hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress. Answer me quickly!” Instead, the Psalmists often asked for the Lord’s quick and helpful answer. Thus in the very familiar Psalm 22, the Psalmist cries to the Lord “But You, LORD, don’t be far away. My Strength, come quickly to help me” (v. 19). The Psalmists often cry for God to come quickly (see, e.g., Pss. 31:2; 38:22; 70:1, 5; 71:12; 141:1). Thus in Psalm 40:11-13 the Psalmist cries out with deep compassion:

LORD do not withhold your compassion from me;
Your constant love and truth will always guard me.
For troubles without number have surrounded me;
My sins have overtaken me; I am unable to see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
And my courage leaves me.
LORD, be pleased to deliver me;
Hurry to help me, LORD.

Such a plea is often relevant to his readers, not only then but now. For we also often find ourselves “overwhelmed” by difficulties. Thankfully, most of them are not as serious as in David’s case (v. 12) but whatever the situation the Psalmist plea is certainly relevant for us, “Hurry and help me!” (v. 13).

May we, then, be ready to petition the Lord in the midst life’s uncertainties. As the hymn writer expresses it so passionately:

Help me then, in ev’ry tribulation,
So to trust Thy promises, O Lord,
That I lose not faith’s sweet consolation,
Offered me within Thy holy Word.
Help me, Lord, when toil and trouble meeting,
E’er to take , as from a Father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land.5

1 All Scriptural citations are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

2 Charles Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), 79.

3George H. Guthrie, “James,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary 13 vols. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006), 13:225.

4 Mark D. Futato, “The Book of Psalms,” Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, 18 vols.  (Carol Stream: Tyndale, 2009)7: 423.  

5 Carolina V. Sandell-Berg, “Day by Day.”

Related Topics: Prayer

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