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The Psalmist’s Cry For Help

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It is simply the case that each of us often feels the need for help. In some cases there is no one available to do so. Thus a psalmist complains that the oppressed, “Have no helper” (Ps. 72:12b). Yet in the ultimate sense the opposite can be true, for it is the Lord who will rescue those who cry out for help (Ps. 72:12a). For what, then, can a person hope? Can he even perhaps expect to gain help?  The psalmist asked such a question and reminded himself that ultimately his help came from the Lord, the Creator (Ps. 121:1-2):

I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
The Maker of heaven and earth.

The psalmist’s cry was not one of desperation but an expression of confidence. His question, then, is rhetorical. In terms of need his “help comes from the Lord.” He is the one who, though it was in the past that he appeared to anoint Israel on a mountain (cf. Ex. 19:3, 16-25), is ever available. Yes, such an experience for Israel gave confidence to the psalmist that even in a time of deepest need he can and should look to the Lord. It is He who made the mountains. The psalmist’s rhetorical question (Ps. 121:1), which seems to introduce the remark that he can look to the mountains, is very correct in that all the parts of the whole are fully under His control and helping is an easy matter for Him.”1

The psalmists often cried to the Lord in full confidence of God’s willingness to help. For example, the psalmist declares:

LORD, my God, I cried to you for help,
And you healed me.
LORD, you brought me up from Sheol;
You spared me from among those going down to the pit. (Ps. 30:2-3: cf. Ps. 31:22)

Indeed, by comparison man’s help is “worthless” (Pss. 60:11; 108:12). It is God himself who is man’s “help and shield” (Ps. 33:20) and is ever available in times of deepest trouble: “God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.” (Ps. 46:1). The Lord God is a source of refuge for people who may be facing great difficulties or troubles. He is also the only one who can provide strength and help to those who face such trials. Accordingly, the dedicated believer can be confident of the Lord’s guidance or as Leupold says: “A very present help in trouble.”2 The Lord is not only a help, but mankind’s deliverer (Ps. 40:17; cf. 63:7). The psalmist often declares that he cries to God for help. For example,

I called to the LORD in my distress,
And cried to my God for help.
From His temple He heard my voice,
And my cry to Him reached His ears. (Ps. 18:6; cf. 31:22).

It is of interest to note that Psalm 18 is a wide ranging praise of God. Of special interest are verses 7-15, which contain remembrances of the exodus experience. It is also one of several texts that refer to this amazing and strategic event. In Psalm 18:6, the psalmist tells of his difficult circumstances. The result was that because God listened to his “cry for help,” it flashed through his mind that it was God who also helped Israel during their flight from Egypt (vv. 7-15).  He recalled the epic poem recorded in Ex. 15, an epic that closed with a prediction of the full redemption of God’s people (Ex. 15:17).

That Exodus 15:1-18 provided the basis for a record of epic proportions can be seen in that the closing verses (vv. 17-18) formed a vital part of what later became a classic in that it detailed the completion of God’s redeeming of His people. Such was celebrated in Ps. 18:7-15 as well as in many other OT records (e.g., Judges 5:4b-5; Pss. 77:16-18; 144:5-6). Psalm 18 focuses on the fact that God’s redemptive power was seen in the terrestrial world (v. 7), celestial world (vv.8-12), and the whole natural world (vv. 13-15). Not only in his own circumstances (v. 6) but all Israel had found that in very difficult times the Lord was ever available to help His people. Such remains true even today!

With this background in view, it is a small wonder, then, that our psalmist in Psalm 115 challenges his people: “Israel, trust in the LORD! He is their help and shield” (v. 9). Not just in past times, but even in the psalmist’s day he was Israel’s “deliverer and protector.” Psalm 115 was thus a key psalm in reminding his people that the Lord is an ever available source of help. In the first two verses of Psalm 115 the psalmist reminds them to trust fully in the Lord. To do so and experience God’s help was to stand in sharp contrast to those who put their trust in idols, which can never help (vv. 3-8).  All of this provides a vivid contrast to the Lord, the holy, omnipotent helper (vv. 9-11). His help is experienced as a careful watchman for His people so that He might bless them and meet their needs (vv. 12-15). His omnipotence and his ability to do so are then experienced.  The heavens belong to the Lord, but He has entrusted the earth to mankind (vv. 16-17). Accordingly, people can and should praise the Lord “now and forever” (vv. 18a). The psalmist then closes with his assurance of the everlasting praise of the Lord, with which the poem begins: “Praise the LORD” (v. 18b).

There are many, many scriptural indications, including more than four dozen by the psalmists, of the reality and necessity of help, both divine and human. From all of this we may not only be assured of God’s help but of the goal and need for people not only to help each other but to help spread the message of God’s redemptive plan.  May all of us be so moved, then, that by God’s help we may do so. As Leupold remarks,“Thus the depressing note on which the psalm began has given way to a note of joy and assurance with a prospect of worthy praises of God to be sung by those on whom He has bestowed help”.3 Accordingly, the hymn writer could exclaim:              

O God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Be Thou our guide while life shall last,
And our eternal home.4

1 H.C. Leupold, Exposition of the Psalms (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1869), 868. ouse, 1869

2 Op. Cit, 363.

3 Op. Cit, 803.

4 Isaac Watts, “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

Related Topics: Christian Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

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