To you, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me,
lest, if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help,
when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.
Someone posed a question to me today. They asked how we could help people in our church look to the Lord and experience joy, peace and hope in the midst of the difficult situations that they are currently facing? I could really appreciate the question.
David tells us in verse one that if the Lord will not hear his prayer that he would be like one of those who go down to the pit. I take this to mean that this was not only a life and death situation but that it had some eternal implications as well. I say this because of verses 3-5 where the wicked men who show no regard for the Lord will be torn down and the Lord will not build them back up again.
I suppose that we could all agree that life has its ups and down's. Those who are struggling today may not be in the future and those that are care free today may have a lot of concerns next week. Here in verse one David is praying from a place of urgency and great need. Life might be so good for you right now that you cannot identify with David here. However, I bet you personally know someone who could be praying like David is right here. There are friends of mine who are facing really tough situations and some are even wondering if they will recover from these things.
When David starts this psalm he prays to the LORD. In other words, David prays by using the personal name of God. He knows who he is praying to and he knows the nature and character of the Lord. I try to keep this in mind when I pray too. If I am facing an overwhelming trial I cry our to the LORD who delivered His people from Egypt and who defeated all of their gods. I pray to the LORD whose steadfast love is enduring and whose mercy is new every morning. When I seek the LORD with these things in mind I am encouraged and my faith is made strong.
I really like verse two. It is this verse that sheds some light on to the specific things David mentioned in verse one. For example, not only does David pray in verse two but we discover that he prays over and over again for mercy. David says, "Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy." I am glad that David models for us the consistency that he had both in prayer and the theology behind his words. David needs help and so he prays and pleas to the Lord for mercy.
Then David says, "...when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary." I love this part. Notice that David lifts his hands and turns toward the most holy sanctuary. Let me share with you what I like about this. Each week I face things that overwhelm me as a pastor. If nothing else does this to me I know that my sermon will. As the week goes on I find myself more and more busying myself with that task. So much so that I loose sleep over it.
Here in this psalm David speaks of wicked men and workers of evil. He speaks of those who speak well to their neighbor but they have evil in their hearts. Yet, even when facing such people David takes time here to raise his hands to the Lord. He ceases from the business of the day and the concerns and lifts his hands. You may think that this is a small thing but I really do not think that this is a minor deal. I bet many pastors struggle to still their hands and stop their work to lift their hands up to the Lord. I want to be more like David.
But then notice what David does next. He turns toward the most holy sanctuary. You see, when my friend asked me how we can help people in our church turn to God in the midst of their troubles I immediately thought of this verse. That is exactly what David does here.
Picture David in your mind praying while looking at these wicked men in front of him. Then all of a sudden David turns from them and sets his gaze to the most holy sanctuary. What an image. Even if he had enemies in that direction it seems to me that David is now looking beyond them to the LORD.
Imagine how transforming it would be for us if we would do this in some way. Say I am struggling with some teaching in scripture. If I would look in the direction of our Holy Lord in that moment things would get clearer. Say that I am struggling to forgive. If I would look at the Holy Lord and what does for me I would quickly forgive. When I find the cares of this world and see the wickedness all around me my greatest comfort would come when I would set my gaze upon the Holy Lord. This perspective would change it all.
Lord, may I look to you and cry out for mercy. May I look to you and seek wisdom from you. Do not be silent lest I be like one of those who goes down to the pit. Lest I be like one of those who does not have any regard for You and what You have done. May my soul look to you today!