This is the next message in the book of Psalms and follows on from last Sunday’s message. We see the raw honesty of David’s cry to God and how this cry resolves in prayer and confidence.
As usual the video is recorded ahead of our Sunday service for those who are unable to attend. The notes below are a summary for those who have no access to either face to face services or the internet.
This psalm starts with an almost shocking statement. It doesn’t start with praise or a declaration of what God has done. It doesn’t even start with “O Lord, help!” It starts with – “Why?”
We’ve been told it is wrong to question God. But here it is! “Why?” But there is more than just “Why?” There is an accusation – “Why do you stand far away? Why do you hide Yourself?” David, who is praying here, is saying that He cannot find the Lord. And worse, it is “in times of trouble.” We may feel God’s favour more easily when things are going well, but here David is saying that in the troubled time, it appears that the Lord has hidden Himself and will not be found by David.
So, David feels alone and he feels that God isn’t acting. Some of you have never felt this way, but I’m sure many of you have.
But is this right? Should David be praying like this? Should we? This is the word of God. But verse 1 does not stand alone. And as we go through Psalm 10, we see that verse 1 will begin to resolve itself into confidence in God. If you are feeling verse 1 right now, it is not wrong, but the word of God does not give us permission to stay in verse 1.
So, let’s follow David’s journey from desperation to confidence.
1) Cry of the heart (v1)
The nature of the cry. This is a cry of desperation. He knows anyway, so let’s not keep silent.
The direction of the cry. It is towards the Lord. It is not a discussion and a complaint to others, but it is a cry to the Lord (“You”). When we let off steam to people around us we are venting.
When we pour out our hearts before God in the reality of our trouble and doubts and even anger, we are lamenting. This is why the psalms are so precious. Andrew Wilson: “People aren’t big enough to absorb your grief. God is.”
The cry is a result of faith. Psalm 9 and 10 are linked. Psalm shows what the Lord is like. This is what leads to the cry of Psalm 10:1. If God were not the God of Psalm 9, there would be no expectation for His to act. But because of who He is, there is this desperate call.
We also see that faith goes up and down. Psalm 9 was full of bold declarations about who God is. Then David comes down the heights to Psalm 10:1 before the confidence in Psalm 10:16-18. We go up and down. Sometimes prayer doesn’t resolve in joy (although this one does). Look at Psalm 88:18 – “darkness has become my only companion.” What a way to end a prayer! What a way to start a prayer here in this psalm! But God remains faithful – and we will pray again, and He will hear again – and, even if it does not happen today, the despair will turn to joy.
2) Condition of the needy (v2-11)
Last week we said we look to the Lord, but we need to look at the problem also. Faith is not blind to the danger and reality of trouble, but faith doesn’t stop with looking at the trouble. It looks at the trouble in the light of who God is.
V10 tells us the problem, and the rest of this section tells us what it is caused by. The helpless are crushed by the wicked, so David brings to God what the wicked are doing. The wicked are:
- pursuing the poor (v2).
- boasting (v3).
- cursing, lies and oppression (v7) – this is quoted in Romans 3:14.
- Looking out to cause trouble (v8), even murder.
- Trying to capture the poor (v9).
This is the way the powerful often behave. It may be less in countries where there is a strong rule of law, but it is still present.
Notice also the attitude:
- Renouncing the Lord (v3)
- Saying there is no God (v4)
- Arrogance and assurance as to self-made prosperity and protection (v5-6).
The language is poetic and is a reflection on the nature of unbelief in general. Most people who don’t know the Lord think that God doesn’t see them and assume that their behaviour doesn’t matter. This is why, although we live in the world, we are not part of it, it is not our home, we know that the Lord sees and we are called to live with His eye upon us at all times.
But there are those who go further than “average”. They are God-haters, they are the exploiters, ungodly leaders, terrorists, those who get rich at the expense of the poor. We see them all over the world. We’ve seen it with the pandemic. We see it with people trafficking. We see it with abortion. We see it with persecution.
We see this supremely in the enemy of souls. He is the supreme God-hater, and Christ hater, and pursuer of the believers seeking someone to devour. Whether the hatred of the enemy leads to us being attacked by people or by circumstances, it can feel like we are crushed (v10). And it can feel like the Lord has forgotten (v11).
3) Call for deliverance (v12-15)
David calls on God to act to deliver His people:
- Arise (Numbers 10:35).
- Lift up Your hand. Symbolic of His power to act.
- Forget not (see v11). The wicked are saying God forgets, but He does not.
- He wonders why the wicked are like this (v13)? They think God will not take account/avenge (9:12).
- But they are wrong, because He does see, He does take note (compare v7), He does repay (v14b)
- So the helpless (same as verse 8 and 10) can commit himself (literally, “abandon”, give himself into the Lord’s hands).
- And as we give ourselves into His hands, so we can trust Him to act – to bring to account wrong and evil (v15). He asks God to break the power of the wicked.
But there is also something very precious here. V15b: “call his wickedness to account until You find none.” We deserve God’s judgement also. But on the cross, God “called our wickedness to account”. A full account of our wickedness was paid for – by Christ. He became sin for us; He died in our place and suffered for us. We, the helpless, are rescued because of Him.
4) Confidence in the Lord (v16-18)
From this prayer, David now expresses confidence.
- Who God is (v16a). He is king permanently. This is not some passing thing like the wicked, but He is truly forever.
- He defends His people (see 9:5-6). He will defeat the enemy.
- He hears prayer (v17a). He hears our deepest desires.
- He leans down to listen (v17c)
- He is the God of justice – the defender of the fatherless and oppressed. This repeats the praise of Psalm 9:9. The psalmist has returned to faith; having spoken to the Lord about the trouble, he is now confident in the Lord again.
- Ultimately man shall not triumph (v18b), which links to Psalm 9:20. Both these psalms give us that assurance. Evil will not win. God rules. He is working out His purposes. Christ is coming again.
In the meantime, while we wait for that day, He strengthens their hearts (v17b). So He is the source of strength. That strength remains even when we are still waiting for the answer.
Trouble is real. Our enemy is the enemy of souls but he uses people, circumstances and pressures. We should not be surprised at trouble.
So remember who you are. If you are on the path of the righteous (mentioned in Psalm 1), then you don’t belong to this world. We are to live in the light of God’s presence. He sees and knows. And He knows our troubles.
The importance of true sight. Be honest about the trouble but see who God is. We don’t pretend all is well when it is not well, we can come with great and bold cries. We speak to Him about the things that trouble us even about what He has done or not done. Yet, it is good to keep going – as we pray to see who He is.
Don’t despair at feeling despair. Read these two psalms together – see the ups of praise, the cries of anguish, the prayer for deliverance and then the confidence at the end. So don’t give up when you have those days when all you can do is groan to the Lord. Those days will pass, keep reflecting on who He is and your perspective will change.
The end is coming. Christ is on the throne. Man will terrify no more. And until that day, He will “strengthen your heart.”