No One Can Help Me

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David uses the phrase “no one” three times in verse 4 of the 142nd Psalm. This verse is also the middle verse of the psalm. Since Hebrew literature often puts the central message in the center, we should start with this verse and then see the message that radiates out from the center. 

In this middle verse, David realizes that no earthly help can sustain him: 

  • no one is at my right hand with any strength to lend to me
  • no one is truly concerned for my wellbeing 
  • no one can help my eternal soul 

Radiating out from this middle verse we see…

  • …God, You watch over me, and You are my refuge (vv. 3, 5)
  • …I pour out my complaint to You, God, and You listen and respond to me (vv. 2, 6) 
  • …God, I cry to You for mercy, and You set me free from my prison (vv. 1, 7)

I find it interesting that David calls it “my prison.” David has learned that God may allow affliction and shaking so that he will see that there is only One who is reliable and stable. Trusting in anything or anyone else becomes, in essence, a prison. 

In verse 7, David mentions God’s “goodness to me.” Sometimes this word for goodness is translated “bountiful,” and it comes from a Hebrew word that can mean “to be weaned.” David is sharing with us that our afflictions can wean us from all human help so that we can fully enjoy the bountiful goodness of our loving God! 

When it appears that there is no one around to help me, that is actually a good thing.

It’s a good thing because it means that now that everything else has been cleared out of my way, I can clearly see The Only One that truly cares about me both today and forevermore! 

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Blessing Over Judgment

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My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. (Psalm 57:7) 

David is on the run, hiding in a cave. The bad guys are described as lions, ravenous beasts with teeth like spears and arrows, and tongues like swords. They hotly pursue David, setting traps for him everywhere he would go. So it’s no wonder that David begins this prayer crying out to God, 

Have mercy on me, O God have mercy on me, for in You my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings until the disaster has passed (v. 1). 

As David is prone to do in many of his psalms, he inserts the word Selah, reminding both himself and his readers to pause for a moment. He records how God answers his prayer: “God sends from heaven and saves me, rebuking those who hotly pursue me” (v. 3). 

But the Selah comes in the middle of the verse, almost as if David is pausing to ask, “How exactly does God save me?” In this instance, it’s not so much God rebuking the wicked as it is God blessing David. After the Selah pause he says, “God sends forth His love and His faithfulness. 

By blessing His righteous servant David, God rebukes the wicked and vindicates David by creating a longing in those wicked men to also be blessed by God. 

In the New Testament we see that the arrival of Jesus was an act of God’s kindness: “Because of and through the heart of tender mercy and loving-kindness of our God, a Light from on high will dawn upon us and visit us” (Luke 1:78). And it is God’s kindness that continues to draw us to Himself: “…Are you unmindful or actually ignorant of the fact that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repent—to change your mind and inner man to accept God’s will?” (Romans 2:4). 

David foresees his enemies falling into the very traps they have set for him (v. 6). And then once again he calls for a Selah pause to consider how God has and is blessing him. 

From this point on, David expresses no more thoughts about the wicked people pursuing him, but all of his words through the remainder of this psalm are worship, praise, and exaltation (vv. 7-11). 

When evil people are assailing you perhaps you could pray this prayer: 

O God, that my heart could be so transformed that I desire Your blessing on my life more than I look for Your judgment or retribution on the wicked! I pray that my heart would be a place of continual praise to You, and not a hotbed of anxious thoughts about wicked people. Father, may Your kindness to me be such a powerful testimony to even evildoers, that they will repent—change their mind to accept You as their God too. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Never Give Up On Grace And Mercy

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Never Give Up On Grace And Mercy

Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25) 

     My friends, it is one thing to go to church or chapel. It is quite another thing to go to God. …

Coming to God is not what some of you suppose, that is, now and then sincerely performing an act of devotion but giving to the world the greater part of your life. You think that if sometimes you are sincere, if now and then you put up an earnest cry to heaven, God will accept you. And though your life may be still worldly and your desires still carnal, you suppose that for the sake of this occasional devotion God will be pleased, in His infinite mercy, to blot out your sins. I tell you, sinners, there is no such thing as bringing half of yourselves to God and leaving the other half away. …  

     If I should see a sinner staggering on his progress to hell, I would not give him up, even when he had advanced to the last stage of iniquity. Though his foot hung trembling over the very edge of perdition, I would not cease to pray for him. And though he should in his poor drunken wickedness go staggering on till one foot was over hell and he was ready to perish, I would not despair of him. Till the pit had shut its mouth upon him I would believe it is possible that divine grace might save him. See there! He is just upon the edge of the pit, ready to fall. But before he falls, free grace bids, ‘Stop that man!’ Down mercy comes, catches him on her broad wings, and he is saved—a trophy of redeeming love. 

From Salvation To The Uttermost 

My friend, if you don’t have a personal relationship with God through the forgiving work that Jesus accomplished on the Cross, I implore you to come to Him before another minute passes. When Jesus said from this Cross, “It is finished,” He told you that He paid in full your debt that would have kept you separated from God forever. 

Now you just need to come to Him in faith. Simply pray something like this: “God, I acknowledge that I am a sinner separated from You. But I believe that Jesus paid the penalty for all of my sins when He died on the Cross. Because of that payment, I am asking You to forgive me and bring me into a full relationship with You. I pray this in the name of Jesus. Amen.” 

And let me speak to you, my Christian brother or sister who has been praying earnestly for the salvation of someone dear to you. Let me encourage you to not give up! God’s mercy and God’s grace are so swift that even with the last breath they can swoop in to save. Never cease to pray for them and know that Jesus is interceding for them before God’s throne too!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Never Beyond God’s Love

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Never Beyond God’s Love

Lost, perishing sinners, hear the voice of God, for it speaks to you. 

“Where art thou? for I am come to seek thee.” 

“Lord, I am in such a place that I cannot do anything for myself.” 

“Then I am come to seek thee and do all for thee.” 

“Lord, I am in such a place that the law threatens me and justice frowns upon me.” 

“I am come to answer the threatenings of the law, and to bear all the wrath of justice.” 

“But, Lord, I am in such a place that I cannot repent as I would.” 

“I am come to seek thee, and I am exalted on high to give repentance and remission of sins.” 

“But, Lord, I cannot believe in Thee, I cannot believe as I would.” 

“A bruised reed I will not break, and a smoking flax will I not quench; I am come to give thee faith.” 

“But, Lord, I am in such a state that my prayers can never be acceptable.” 

“I am come to pray for thee, and then to grant thee thy desires.” 

“But, Lord, Thou dost not know what a wretch I am.” 

“Yes, I know thee. Though I asked thee the question, ‘Where art thou?’ it was that thou mightest know where thou art, for I know well enough.” 

“But, Lord, I have been the chief of sinners; none can have so aggravated their guilt as I have.” 

“But wherever thou mayest be, I have come to save thee.” 

“But I am an outcast from society.” 

“But I am come to gather together the outcasts of Israel.” 

“O but I have sinned beyond all hope.” 

“Yes, but I have come to give hope to hopeless sinners.” 

“But, then I deserve to be lost.” 

“Yes, but I have come to magnify the law and make it honorable, and so to give thee thy deserts in the person of Christ, and then to give thee My mercy because of His merits.” —Charles Spurgeon

My friend, there isn’t anything you can do to make God love you any less or any more—God IS Love. You are never beyond His love! 

There is never a hole so deep, or a burden so heavy that God cannot rescue you—God IS All-mighty. You are never beyond His rescue! 

You cannot escape the powerful love of your Heavenly Father. Jesus purchased your salvation with His blood, and the Holy Spirit is calling to your heart today. Will you come to Him in faith? O, please, my friend, receive God’s love today! 

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Poetry Saturday—Depth Of Mercy

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Depth of mercy! can there be
Mercy still reserved for me?
Can my God His wrath forbear,
Me, the chief of sinners, spare?

I have long withstood His grace,
Long provoked Him to His face,
Would not hearken to His calls,
Grieved Him by a thousand falls.

Kindled His relentings are:
Me He now delights to spare;
Cries, “How shall I give thee up?”
Lets the lifted thunder drop.

There for me the Savior stands,
Shows His wounds and spreads His hands.
God is Love; I know, I feel;
Jesus weeps, but loves me still. ―Charles Wesley

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Mercy Finds The Loophole

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Mercy Finds The Loophole

And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.” (Genesis 8:21) 

     To begin, then, with the text, we have here a most painful fact that man’s nature is incurable. ‘The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.’ You will remember, before the flood, in the fifth verse of the sixth chapter, it is written, ‘Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually’ (Genesis 6:5). After the flood it was just the same. … 

     You might have hoped that after so terrible a judgment, when only a picked and peculiar few, that is, eight, were saved by water, that man began anew with better stock.… It is not one wit so. The same God who, after looking at men, declared that his imagination was evil before the flood, pronounces the very same verdict upon them afterward. …

     I believe that God might justly have condemned the whole race of Adam on account of Adam’s sin and their own guilt. But I do think that this was a blessed loophole through which His mercy could, as it were, come fairly to the sons of men. ‘No,’ He says, ‘I made them not distinct individuals but a race. They fell as a race; they will rise as an elect race. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22). And ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).’ … 

     I must have more than nature can give me. More than my mother gave me, more than my father gave me, and more than flesh and blood can produce under the most favorable circumstances. I must have the Spirit of God from heaven.

From Human Depravity And Divine Mercy

When Adam and Eve sinned, God wasn’t scrambling to come up with a Plan B. Jesus is described as the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8), meaning that God had His merciful plan of redemption ready before He even created humans! 

The atoning sacrifice Jesus made on the Cross was the “loophole” that God’s mercy used to pardon our sins. We can never earn our salvation because we are still people with evil hearts. But we can put our faith in the One who took our punishment upon Himself so that His righteousness can be our righteousness. 

O what a Savior! O what mercy God has shown! O how great is His love for us! How shall we escape appropriate retribution if we neglect and refuse to pay attention to such a great salvation…? (Hebrews 2:3)

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The Mercyseat

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Hear my cry for mercy … He has heard my cry for mercy (Psalm 28:2, 6).

For David, his cry for mercy was never a one-and-done action. The verb in verse 2 makes this verse read more like, “Hear my cry for mercy as I am continually calling to You for help, as I am continually lifting up my hands toward Your Most Holy Place.” 

Why the Most Holy Place? What was there? Inside the Most Holy Place was the ark of the covenant of the Lord which represented the presence of God. 

What was on top of the ark of the covenant, covering and superseding the Law that was inside the ark? It was the mercyseat (or the “atonement cover” in some translations). The mercyseat is where the high priest sprinkled the blood of the sacrificial lamb every year to make atonement for sins.

Jesus became the once-for-all sacrificial Lamb to make ultimate atonement for all who would believe in Him. When Jesus had finished His work on the Cross, the curtain separating us from the Most Holy Place was torn in two. The ark of the covenant of the Lord with its covering mercyseat—the presence of God—was now accessible to all of us! It was accessible because it was in Jesus, and when I have taken Jesus as my atonement, He is in me and He takes me in to the Father. The mercyseat of my heart has been sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb (see Hebrews 9:1-5, 11-14; 10:19-22). 

Whether David was saying, “Hear my cry,” or “He has heard my cry,” the Hebrew word means to listen with interest and full attention. Whenever you pray, God listens to you with interest and full attention because you are praying right in His presence! Your very breath can be a continual crying, a continual lifting of your voice toward the mercyseat where God meets with you! 

God is not far away from us. He is closer than we usually think. That’s why David says, “My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him”! 

Keep this in mind the next time you are asking God to hear your cry: He listens to you with full attention because Jesus has taken you right into His presence.

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The Lord Has Provided

At different times when people encountered Jehovah God in a profound way, they would give Him a name that was representative of what He did. The first instance of this is when God miraculously provided a substitute sacrifice for Issac, prompting Abraham to call God Jehovah Jireh. This name means the One who foresees perfectly and knows just what to provide to meet the need. God’s provision is perfectly proportioned and perfectly timed. 

God’s perfect provision is seen at least five times in the story of Jonah. 

  1. Jehovah sent a great wind on the sea. It was a perfectly proportioned and perfectly timed storm that caused pagan sailors to fall on their knees in worship of the one true God. 
  2. Jehovah provided a great fish to rescue Jonah. It was a perfectly proportioned and perfectly timed vehicle of rescue that caused Jonah to acknowledge salvation only comes from God. 
  3. Jehovah provided a uniquely-prepared prophet. He became a perfectly prepared and perfectly timed messenger of God’s mercy. Prior to Jonah’s visit, Nineveh had experienced two plagues (765 and 759 BC) and a solar eclipse (763 BC), which put the people in a state of heightened expectation. When Jonah arrived in the city, he was a whale-bleached prophet[*] of Jehovah which showed up with a message of God’s impending judgment unless the people repented. The response: the Ninevites believed God. 
  4. Jehovah provided a vine that shielded Jonah from the sun, even though Jonah was waiting for God’s judgment to fall on Nineveh. 
  5. Jehovah provided a worm to destroy the vine and get Jonah’s attention. 

I believe this story gives us three important lessons and three introspective questions—

  1. God is sovereignly in control of everything—storms, fish, prophets, plants, worms, astrological events, and agricultural calamities. God foresees perfectly and knows just what to provide to meet the need or to get someone’s attention.  

Question: Will I let Jehovah Jireh be Jehovah Jireh for others, or will I try to tell Him what to do and when to do it?

  1. God is supremely merciful—God cares about everyone, as the apostle Peter reminds us.

Question: As Peter asked, “What kind of people ought you to be?” Will I allow God to extend as much mercy as is necessary to others, just as He extended it to me? 

  1. God’s saving grace is boundless and undeservedSalvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. (Ephesians 2:9 NLT) 

Question: I love that this book ends with an unanswered question from God Himself, because it is our question to answer today: Should I not be concerned about that great city? What will I do with the good news that Jehovah Jireh has gone the full measure to make His grace and mercy and love and forgiveness available to ALL people? 

I hope you will take the time to prayerfully consider these questions. 

[*] “Ambrose John Wilson in the Princeton Theological Review for 1927 mentions a case of a sailor on a whaling ship near the Falkland Islands who was swallowed by a large sperm whale. The whale was later harpooned, and when it was opened up on the deck the surprised crew found their lost shipmate unconscious inside its belly. Though bleached from the whale’s gastric juices, he recovered, though he never lost the deadly whiteness left on his face, neck, and hands.” —Walter Kaiser 

If you have missed any of the other messages in our series Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Don’t Let Prejudices Rob You

Imagine you had a family member killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City or Washington, DC., and then after that horrific event God asked you to go to Osama bin Laden’s headquarters to talk to him about a personal relationship with Jesus. 

I bet you would have felt much like Jonah did when God said, “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). The Assyrians were some of the most brutal peoples of history, perpetrating almost unspeakably grotesque torture on everyone they attacked. 

And if you or I feel that way, it’s a good bet we would have responded like Jonah responded: “Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish” (v. 3). You probably know the rest of the story: Jonah spent three days in the gut of a huge fish before he finally agreed to obey God’s directive. 

It’s interesting to note that God was sending Assyria as His agent of punishment against Israel for all their vile idolatry, AND He was sending Jonah from Israel to Assyria to call them to repentance for their grotesque torture practices.

That tells me something we all need to remember: God cares for ALL people, and He will use whatever means necessary to get the good news of His mercy and love to them. 

Why is the story of Jonah in the Bible? Perhaps to teach us that although we think some person or people group is so beyond hope, God still loves them. It’s a reminder that God extends grace and mercy to everyone—even to those who are the least deserving of His grace and mercy. People like you and me (Romans 3:23, 5:8). 

In Hebrew literature, the main point of the story is found in the middle. In the case of this story, the middle is the prayer in chapter 2, especially verses 8-9 where Jonah contrasts the worthlessness of trying to cling to our prejudices versus trusting who God is and what He says. 

In light of that, I think this story should prompt us to ask three introspective questions: 

  1. What prejudices am I clinging to that are out of alignment with God’s Word? David’s prayer in Psalm 139 is one we should regularly pray. 
  2. Who have I thought is beyond God’s reach? God’s grace isn’t earned by anyone, but no one is beyond the reach of it! 
  3. Can I say as Jonah did, “But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will obey You, God. What I have vowed I will make good” (2:9)? It’s better not to make a vow to God than it is to make the vow and not follow through on it. 

Let’s all learn from the life of Jonah how much God loves ALL people. Don’t get so hung up on your prejudices that you miss out on the incredible things God has for you, as well as the incredible things God wants to do through you. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this series on Major Lessons From Minor Prophets, you can access the full list by clicking here. 

Trespassers

Psalm 59 is the prequel to David being betrayed by the Ziphites as well as the incident in the cave between himself and King Saul. 

This psalm is also called an imprecatory psalm, which is the theological way of saying, “Get ‘em, God!” Since King Saul has sent assassins to try to kill David, you can understand why David is praying this way. But I sort of wonder why he inserts a Selah pause after two rather angry-sounding sentences in verses 5 and 13. 

When we are reading—or even praying—an imprecatory prayer, here are some important things to keep in mind: 

  • This prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit. All of the words in the prayer, including the Selah pauses, are directed by the Holy Spirit. Getting our angry thoughts out in God’s presence is the safest place to vent. 
  • This is a prayer for justice because an injustice has been done, not just a prayer because David is upset with someone. 
  • Since this prayer says, “Get ‘em, God,” it’s a prayer that turns matters over to God as the Ultimate Judge, taking the judgment out of my hands. 

Really this is a prayer that seeks to balance something vital: The desire to see evil punished while at the same time desiring to see all evildoers come to salvation. 

Think of it this way: When I sin, do I want to meet a God of justice or a God of mercy? Since we are to treat others the way that we would want to be treated, if I want to receive God’s mercy, I have to desire that for others too. Even those evildoers who have hurt me. 

David’s first Selah pause comes after saying that he is innocent of any offense or wrongdoing. When we pray an imprecatory prayer, we would do well to ask the Holy Spirit to search our hearts to reveal any trespasses we have committed (see Psalm 19:12-13; 139:23-24). 

David’s second Selah pause comes after he says, “Then it will be known to the ends of the earth that God rules over Jacob.” Is my “Get ‘em, God” prayer a desire for me to be seen as the overcomer or for God to be seen as glorious? 

As long as my focus is on my trespassers, my focus is off my God. 

I cannot be consumed by thoughts of “them” because then I rob myself of thoughts of Him! 

So when you get angry enough at someone who has trespassed against you that you want to pray a “Get ‘em, God” prayer, Selah pause and pray, “Holy Spirit… 

  • …show me my trespasses; 
  • …help me forgive my trespassers; and
  • …help me to focus on my God, and not on my trespassers or my forgiven trespasses.” 

If you have missed any of the other messages in our Selah series, you can find links to all of them listed here. 

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