July 19, 2016
Title: Urgent Cry for Deliverance
(To the chief musician, a Psalm of David, to bring to remembrance)
Theme: The psalmist prayer for a speedy deliverance by God.
Psalm 70 (KJV)
1 Make haste, o God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord.
2 Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt.
3 Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.
4 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.
5 But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.
Introduction to Psalm 70
The title (specifically, the line below the title) tells us that this psalm was designed to bring to remembrance; that is, to remind God of His mercy and promises (which is what we do when we pray to Him and plead with Him: “. . . review the past for me” (Isaiah 43:26)—not that the Eternal Mind needs help remembering.
This psalm is a repetition, with some alterations, of the last five verses of Psalm 40. The Apostle Paul said, “To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe” (Philippians 3:1). This seems to be the practice of the psalmist as well. One commentator calls this psalm “a fragment of Psalm 40, made into a separate psalm because of its use as an emergency prayer.”
The title ascribes authorship to David, and there is no reason to doubt this. David appears to have written the full-length psalm by extracting verses 13-17 from Psalm 40, and then altering these verses for a special occasion. Since the next psalm (71) is untitled, some have suggested that 70 and 71 constitute a single psalm.
You may get the impression from reading the psalm that David felt God had forgotten him and his pressing personal needs, even though his prayers had been ascending like burning incense to the throne of God. His problem, as he saw it, was that God did not seem to be responding with sufficient speed.
Have your circumstances ever overwhelmed you; have I ever been overwhelmed by mine? When you pray, do the heavens seem as if they are made of steel? Then this is the psalm for us! It must often have been used as an emergency prayer by Israel in the long course of that nation’s troubled history. Psalm 70 stands by itself in our Bibles as a little poem designed by the Holy Spirit to teach us how to pray in an emergency.
Something very special happens when we pray—God’s great heart overflows with love. Our faintest whisper thunders in His heart, He hears and understands even those agonized longings we find so hard to verbalize. The SOS signals we send up, those sky telegrams which bombard His throne are read and recorded even before they take on the form of prayer.
David always knew where to turn when his troubles overwhelmed him, he turned to God. The Psalmist prayed for deliverance, help (1, 5), vindication in the face of scorn (2-3), and blessing for the people of God (4).
The corresponding verses of Psalm 40 are given for each verse of Psalm 70. You will notice how much the verses are alike.
1 Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord. (Psalm 70:1)
“Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me: O Lord, make haste to help me” (Psalm 40:13).
We have all had occasions when we felt like praying that way. The psalmist was desperate, his circumstances were urgent, his enemies were gloating over his misfortunes. God did not seem to be acting fast enough. The need was pressing, but God seemed to be taking His time. In essence, this is what David is saying, “I will die if help doesn’t come quickly; I have no one else that I can expect help from. You are my help and my deliverer. You have promised to be so to all that seek You; I depend upon You to be so to me; I have often found You so; and You are sufficient, all-sufficient, to me; therefore make haste to help me.”
The verses are almost identical, except the phrase “be pleased” is replaced by “make haste,” presumably to increase the urgency of the request. David’s prayer became more specific as he asked for a quick deliverance (make haste) from his troubles, and for the downfall of his enemies. His appeal is for rescue from enemies who seek to end the psalmist’s life. David believed that God would save him again as He had before. “Deliver me” from my enemies was the deeper meaning behind David’s remorse, and it was like the very language our Lord used during His Gethsemane agony. The Lord’s actual recorded words were: “If it be possible, let this cup pass from Me, nevertheless, not My will but thine be done.”
The very best saints see themselves in trouble, unless continually well-looked-after by the grace of God. But see the frightful view the psalmist had of sin. This made the discovery of a Redeemer even more welcome. In all his reflections upon each step of his life, he discovered something was wrong. The site and sense of our sins must at the least distract us, if we do not at the same time have faith in the Savior. If Christ has triumphed over our spiritual enemies, then we, through Him, shall be more than conquerors. This may encourage all that seek God and love his salvation to rejoice in Him, and to praise Him. No worries or poverty can make those who fear the Lord miserable. Their God, and all that He has or does, is the source of their joy.
2 Let them be ashamed and confounded that seek after my soul: let them be turned backward, and put to confusion, that desire my hurt. (Psalm 70:2)
“Let them be ashamed and confounded together that seek after my soul to destroy it; let them be driven backward and put to shame that wish me evil” (Psalm 40:14).
After pleading for immediate attention (70:1), David requests that his enemies’ punishment be suited to their crimes. For their attempts on his life he wishes that they would be “ashamed,” “confounded (baffled),” “turned backward, and put to confusion.” Their “shame” is due to their plans and hopes being blocked by the Lord. However, here, as in other psalms, his enemies may well be the temptations and feelings of guilt that keep on welling up inside him and which seek to snatch away his life [“that seek after my soul” (my life), “to destroy it” (40:14)]. Real life is fellowship with God. Anything that deprives me of this blessing of life which is God’s gift should be shamed out of existence.
He further requests that seekers of God may truly “rejoice” and magnify the “Lord” (70:4). He believed that the Lord, in rescuing him, should confound all those who wanted to take his life and those who plotted his ruin [“May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay” (35:4; NIV)], with the intention of dethroning him.
Truly, those who persecute the people of God and wish them ill have God Himself with whom to reckon. They are touching the apple of His eye. In His grace He will wait, giving the offenders a space to repent, but in the end He always acts. No matter how strong and numerous his adversaries; no matter that “the conspiracy was strong” (as the historian says concerning Absalom’s rebellion; no matter that Ahithophel, the most intelligent and clever of David’s counselors, had gone over to the other side—God is mighty! One, with God, is a majority!
3 Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha. (Psalm 70:3)
15 Let them be desolate for a reward of their shame that say unto me, Aha, aha. (Psalm 40:15)
Once again, the two verses are practically identical. Although his troubles appear to overwhelm him, he knows where his help comes from, so he prays for the Lord to help him defeat his enemies. For gloating over his misfortune he would like to see them shocked by the depth of their own humiliation; therefore, he asked the Lord to “turnthem back for a reward” (make them “desolate for a reward”; 40:15) for their shameful behavior. “Their shame,” refers here to their sinful and shameful actions. His foes were expressing malicious pleasure in the misfortunes that were his. David had no doubt the Lord would take note of that. He always does. If someone objects that these judgments are incompatible with a God of love, I would only remind him that in refusing love, man deliberately chooses his own punishment.
The psalm contrasts (a) the perverted glee of those who say “Aha, Aha!” with (b) the enthusiastic joy of those who love “making,” “creating” God’s shalom (peace), which Jesus speaks of in Matthew 5:9, 12 [“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God . . . Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:9, 12; NIV)], for it is something that comes alive in the Christian community.
Our trouble is that we have such puny, microscopic ideas about God. We’ve scaled Him down to our size or we make Him just a little bigger than ourselves. We need to think great thoughts of God. We need to magnify Him. We need to think of Him in terms of all the suns and stars of space, all of which are mere pebbles under His feet.
4 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified. (Psalm 70:4)
16 Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The Lord be magnified. (Psalm 40:16)
If Christ has triumphed over our spiritual enemies—which He has—then we, through Him, shall be more than conquerors. There is pleasure and joy even in seeking God, for it is one of the fundamental principles of religion that God is the “rewarder of all those that diligently seek him.” This may encourage “all those that seek” God and “love” His “salvation” to “rejoice” in Him, and to praise Him. The psalmist prays that they might always find their enjoyment in the Lord. He hopes that all those who “seek” God “will rejoice and be glad in” Him, and that “such as love” His “salvation” will “say continually,” “The Lord be magnified!” These would be the effects of God’s answer to his prayer.
Most of all, David wanted “the Lord to be magnified” and His people to be blessed as they served Him. This desire is linked with a desire for blessings upon all who can join from a heart in His song of praise. “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the Lord and put their trust in him” (Psalm 40:3; NIV). Magnification always glorifies God. We can’t take anything man has made, put it under a microscope, magnify it, and its defects and imperfections will be exposed. But put the works of God under a microscope, magnify them, and more and more wonders will be seen! Magnification only glorifies God. His works in creation and redemption will bear the closest scrutiny and the more they are “magnified” the more amazed and astonished we shall be! It is the work of the scientists to magnify God as Creator; it is the work of the saint to magnify God as Redeemer. The direction of praise is always toward God.
It is no hopeless thing to trust the Lord! Sooner or later He always brings His people through to the place of trust and triumph. Weeping may endure for the night but joy cometh in the morning. “Let God be magnified.” That’s it! That is exactly what He is after in allowing us to go through life’s trials and tribulations. He wants to be magnified in us.
How the Lord Jesus magnified God! He could not make him any bigger than He was, but He could bring Him into focus so we might better appreciate what it means for God to be God. He did this along every line of God’s being. Whether it is His wisdom, His love, or His power—Jesus has magnified it for us. Take, for instance, God’s grace. Think how Jesus magnified that!
It is possible to gather from creation something of the wonder of God’s wisdom and power. But what about His grace? We gather something of that from Calvary. At Calvary God has demonstrated once and for all that He is a God of infinite love. One of the astonishing facts revealed to us is that God has made peace through the blood of Christ’s cross. Men took God’s beloved Son and hammered Him to a tree. Yet that cross, that emblem of suffering and shame, that hateful Roman gallows, the very emblem of the curse, has become the instrument whereby God offers salvation to the guilty sons of Adam’s ruined race!
I have read that there is no word in the Old Testament for “religion.” The Epistle of James (1:27) reminds the early Christians what true “religion” is all about—no sacrifices, as the psalmist has found, no saying of creeds, not even prayer and fasting; it is basically obedience, shown in loving service to others, and to the God who has given his loving service to us.
5 But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying. (Psalm 70:5)
17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God. (Psalm 40:17)
“But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God.” This is always an effective plea with God! God cannot do much with the man who is “rich and increased in goods” and who feels he has need of nothing; He must leave him to find out how “poor and needy” he really is. The person, however, who comes to God like the publican, who stood there beating his breast and crying: “God be merciful to me a sinner,” can expect to see God act on his behalf. God never blesses the flesh, never blesses the man who has full confidence in his own abilities to plan and scheme. The essence of prayer is dependence. Prayer is, by its very nature, an expression of need and weakness, as well as longing and trust.
As for himself, the psalmist knows his strength is small and his need is desperate. But he takes comfort in the fact that the Lord thinks about him. As someone has said, “Poverty and need are not barriers to the thoughts of God.” Realizing his own inadequacy, the psalmist exclaims “I am poor and needy”; yet he remains confident that “God” thinks about him (40:17) and will prove to be his “helper” [“Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my helper” (Psalm 30:10; KJV)] and “deliverer.” No griefs nor poverty [“The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright” (Psalm 37:14; NIV)] can cause those to be miserable who fear the Lord. Their “God,” and all that He has or does, is the source of their joy. Just to know that we are constantly on God’s mind is sweet encouragement for the soul—Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
As for “God” Himself, He is the “help and deliverer” of His beloved Son. And so in the final salvo of supplication the Lord Jesus prays, “make no tarrying,” “O my God (40:17).” The answer is not long in coming. On the third day the Father reaches down and delivers Him from the desolate pit (see the first part of Psalm 40). This vividly suggests the promise, “Before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear” (Isaiah 65:24).
What is this Glory of God? It is many things, but here it is His concern for the “poor and needy,” for the powerless, for the disenfranchised, for the wretched of the earth—“Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you. (Proverbs 23:10-11). Such people are not “hands” in a factory, or statistics in a United Nation survey. Each one is a me, a human soul, a child of “God.” And some sin. And “the Lord thinketh upon me,” ceaselessly. And, of course, “I am” bound up in the bundle of life, in and with the living “God”—“Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling” (1 Samuel 25:29).
David couldn’t see what lay ahead, but “God” knew the future and had everything under control. And as he often does, David prayed for speedy deliverance (“make no tarrying”)—“O God, be not far from me: O my God, make haste for my help” (Psalm 71:12; see also 7:1, 5; 22:19; 38:22). “I am—thou art” says it all. The great “I AM” is adequate for every need. Poverty and need are not barriers to, but arguments for, the consideration of God.
The psalm’s whole expression of praise, its reliance upon God’s promise and its plea for “help” are caught up and crystallized in the words of this last verse: “But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.” No one other than the Lord can “help”; no one else is asked for “help.”
In this way, then, we reflect back to the ideas that were found at 40:6—“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—but my ears you have opened—burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require.” But in all this He is “my help and my deliverer.” Who else would think about the “poor and needy?” That, however, is just the kind of God we have! A merciful God! And this is what the psalm does in fact do for us. It reminds us once again that we are all “poor and needy” creatures, so that our only hope is in God.