- Express Your Anguish to God
- Ask God for Help (I): General
- Ask God for Help (II): Things to Appeal To
- Praise and Rejoice in God
- Epilogue: God Does Respond to Suffering and Cries
Prayer is probably the most prominent positive response to hard times. The Bible shows us a great deal about praying to God in such times. The psalms in particular contain a number of prayers of people faced with great difficulties and suffering, from which we can learn much.
- Tell God of your plight and how you feel . . .
- . . . Pour out your heart to God
- Prayer anxiously speaking of God’s seeming remoteness and of apparent isolation from him . . .
- . . . Consequent longing for God amidst suffering
- Prayer despairingly speaking of God as even the source of one’s suffering
- Prayer desperately asking God how long suffering and his apparent inaction or wrath is to continue
Note that the themes of some these subsections are not applicable or appropriate in all experiences of hard times. See also the introductory comments below on Prayer anxiously speaking of God’s seeming remoteness and of apparent isolation from him . . ., and Prayer despairingly speaking of God as even the source of one’s suffering.
- Examples of God’s people undergoing hard times
- Examples of God’s people even attributing hard times to God
Ps 22:6-8, 11-18 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. 7All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; 8“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” ▤ … 11Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. 12Many bulls encompass me; strong bulls of Bashan surround me; 13they open wide their mouths at me, like a ravening and roaring lion. 14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 16For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feetq— 17I can count all my bones— they stare and gloat over me; 18they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots. ▤
q Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac; most Hebrew manuscripts like a lion [they are at] my hands and feet
This psalm is quoted or alluded to in the NT more often than any other psalm. It is used in the NT in relation to Jesus’ suffering.
Ps 25:16-19 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses. 18Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. 19Consider how many are my foes, and with what violent hatred they hate me. ▤
Ps 31:9-13 Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also. 10For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away. 11Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances; those who see me in the street flee from me. 12I have been forgotten like one who is dead; I have become like a broken vessel. 13For I hear the whispering of many— terror on every side!— as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life. ▤
Ps 35:11-12, 15-16 Maliciousr witnesses rise up; they ask me of things that I do not know. 12They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft. ▤ … 15But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; 16like profane mockers at a feast,t they gnash at me with their teeth. ▤
r Or Violent
s Hebrew it is bereavement to my soul
t The meaning of the Hebrew phrase is uncertain
Verse 11 appears to be speaking of the psalmist being accusingly questioned over false accusations made against him, things he knows nothing about.
The question mentioned was used as a taunt (cf. NLT).
Ps 55:2-5 Attend to me, and answer me; I am restless in my complaint and I moan, 3because of the noise of the enemy, because of the oppression of the wicked. For they drop trouble upon me, and in anger they bear a grudge against me. 4My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. 5Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me. ▤
Ps 59:3-4 For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord, 4for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. Awake, come to meet me, and see! ▤
Ps 69:1-4, 19-20 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.u 2I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. 3I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. 4More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore? ▤ … 19You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you. 20Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none. ▤
u Or waters threaten my life
Ps 109:1-5, 22-25 Be not silent, O God of my praise! 2For wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me, speaking against me with lying tongues. 3They encircle me with words of hate, and attack me without cause. 4In return for my love they accuse me, but I give myself to prayer.v 5So they reward me evil for good, and hatred for my love. ▤ … 22For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me. 23I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust. 24My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat. 25I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads. ▤
v Hebrew but I am prayer
In v. 23b the psalmist speaks of feeling as if he has been tossed aside like an insect (cf. CEV).
Ps 142:3b-4, 6 In the path where I walk they have hidden a trap for me. 4Look to the right and see: there is none who takes notice of me; no refuge remains to me; no one cares for my soul. ▤ … 6Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low! Deliver me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me! ▤
Ps 143:3-4 For the enemy has pursued my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. 4Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. ▤
To pour out your heart to God involves earnestly telling God about all your concerns and feelings. In a sense it is to empty your heart of all its troubles, laying them out before God.
Lam 2:19 “Arise, cry out in the night, at the beginning of the night watches! Pour out your heart like water before the presence of the Lord! Lift your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint for hunger at the head of every street.” ▤
Ps 42:4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. ▤
Note that here “pour out my soul” possibly simply means that the psalmist’s heart was breaking (cf. GNT, NCV, NLT) rather than necessarily involving him pouring out his emotions and problems before God.
1Sam 1:10, 12-16 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. ▤ … 12As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15But Hannah answered, “No, my lord [Eli], I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. 16Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.” ▤
Hannah’s deep distress (v. 10) and “great anxiety and vexation” (v. 16) led her to pour out her soul or heart to God (v. 15) in prayer.
One could say that David poured out his troubles to God.
The things said in this and the following subsections are not necessarily exemplary in the sense of being things that we ought to say to God amidst hard times. But they do show how one can express anguish to God and suggest that it is acceptable, even productive, for the most part to say/express such thoughts and emotions. (See also the introductory comment below on Prayer despairingly speaking of God as even the source of one’s suffering.)
Ps 22:1-2 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? 2O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. ▤
The question that begins this psalm was quoted by Jesus on the cross (cf. Matt 27:46; Mark 15:34). As far as David understood, God had forsaken him; he had cried out to God day and night, but God did not answer.
w Or in my haste
Job 23:3, 8-9 Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat! ▤ … 8“Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; 9on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. ▤
Here Job is speaking to his friends rather than to God in prayer. Similar to the above prayers, amidst his trouble Job speaks of his inability to find God – pointing to God’s apparent remoteness from him in his dreadful circumstances.
x Revocalization yields and see the face of God
Isa 26:8-9 In the path of your judgments, O Lord, we wait for you; your name and remembrance are the desire of our soul. 9My soul yearns for you in the night; my spirit within me earnestly seeks you. For when your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world learn righteousness. ▤
Verse 8b is speaking of desiring or longing for either God (cf. GNT, NASB, NCV, NKJV) or his honor (cf. CEV, NLT) – or perhaps both.
Psalm 84 is a prayer which speaks of longing for the house of God, in essence for God’s presence. It may have been written in difficult times, possibly expressing the longing of one who had been prevented from going to the temple in Jerusalem. Alternatively, it may simply be speaking of the longing of one making a pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem.
- Longing for God’s salvation:
Ps 119:81, 123, 174 My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in your word. ▤ … 123My eyes long for your salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous promise. ▤ … 174I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. ▤
Those suffering in the Bible did not always speak of God as the source of their suffering (particularly when wicked opponents afflicted them). In reading the following examples of those that did, bear in mind that such people were not necessarily always correct or fair in what they said and how they expressed it.
Job 7:13-16 When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ 14then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, 15so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. 16I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath. ▤
Ps 60:1-3 O God, you have rejected us, broken our defenses; you have been angry; oh, restore us. 2You have made the land to quake; you have torn it open; repair its breaches, for it totters. 3You have made your people see hard things; you have given us wine to drink that made us stagger. ▤
The first two clauses in v. 2 speak metaphorically of the devastation of the people and their society.
Ps 80:5-6 You have fed them [God’s people] with the bread of tears and given them tears to drink in full measure. 6You make us an object of contention for our neighbors, and our enemies laugh among themselves. ▤
Ps 88:6-9a, 15-18 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. 7Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves. Selah 8You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horrory to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; 9my eye grows dim through sorrow. ▤ … 15Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless.z 16Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. 17They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. 18You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.a ▤
y Or an abomination
z The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain
a Or darkness has become my only companion
Psalm 88 has been called the saddest psalm, poignantly illustrating intense and sustained suffering, with little or no sign of hope or resolution. Verse 18b speaks either of darkness being the psalmist’s only companion (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV), or his companions in their absence being as if they were in darkness (cf. NASB, NRSV).
b Or (with Targum) I cried for help
The expression “breaks all my bones” figuratively depicts Hezekiah’s devastated state.
- In his pain, Jeremiah complained to God that God had let him down:
In his intense suffering, Jeremiah distraughtly and unfairly portrays God as deceptive or unreliable, comparing him to a supply of water that at times appears to be plentiful, but dries up.
Ps 13:1-2 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? ▤
This psalm was composed during the time of the Babylonian exile. The psalmist asks how long would God allow himself to be dishonored by the enemy – with his people in such a subjugated position (cf. vv. 1-2) and his sanctuary in ruins (cf. vv. 3-7).
c Hebrew How many are the days of your servant?
- Further discouragement over God’s apparent inaction:
Jer 14:8-9 O you hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler who turns aside to tarry for a night? 9Why should you be like a man confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot save? Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not leave us. ▤
Verse 8b is likening God to a disinterested stranger.
- When facing trouble, call on God . . .
- . . . Cry out to God for help
- Ask God and Jesus Christ for mercy
- Ask God for strength
- Ask God to guide you
- Ask God to preserve and protect you
- Ask God to deliver you
- Ask God to hear and answer your prayer . . .
- . . . Ask God to quickly answer and help you
- Persist in prayer to God
- Note: Prayer asking for retribution for wicked enemies
- Making Requests
- Determine and promise to praise and thank God for deliverance
- [In persecution:] Pray to God, asking for help
d Or Make thanksgiving your sacrifice to God
Joel 1:19-20 To you, O Lord, I call. For fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness, and flame has burned all the trees of the field. 20Even the beasts of the field pant for you because the water brooks are dried up, and fire has devoured the pastures of the wilderness. ▤
In this time of devastation of the land even the wild animals seemingly looked to God (v. 20), indicative of it being the best course of action.
Jonah 2:1-2, 7 Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, 2saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. ▤ … 7When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple. ▤
e Some manuscripts omit verses 43 and 44
f Hebrew but I am prayer
David may well be meaning that in the face of his enemies’ accusations he turns to prayer. But note that the meaning of the Hebrew text for the final clause is not clear (cf. CEV text note, GNT text note).
1Ki 8:37-38 If there is famine in the land, if there is pestilence or blight or mildew or locust or caterpillar, if their enemy besieges them in the land at their gates,g whatever plague, whatever sickness there is, 38whatever prayer, whatever plea is made by any man or by all your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart and stretching out his hands toward this house, … ▤
g Septuagint, Syriac in any of their cities
Here Solomon speaks of people in affliction calling on God.
Note that this and the following extracts may not explicitly speak of asking God for help, but this is clearly implied.
In the second and third statements the people of Jerusalem are called upon to weep ceaselessly, as they cry out to God.
2Chr 20:9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment,h or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ ▤
h Or the sword of judgment
2Chr 32:18, 20 And they shouted it with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, in order that they might take the city. ▤ … 20Then Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed because of this and cried to heaven. ▤
i Greek he
- Condemnation of not sincerely crying out to God:
In the final clause Habakkuk asks God in the midst of his wrath to be merciful.
Matt 20:30-31 And behold, there were two blind men sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was passing by, they cried out, “Lord,j have mercy on us, Son of David!” 31The crowd rebuked them, telling them to be silent, but they cried out all the more, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!” ▤
j Some manuscripts omit Lord
k Or to my judge
In view of God’s great wisdom and power (cf. vv. 4-13), Job realizes that he could not successfully argue his case with God, even if he were innocent. All he could do would be to plead with God for mercy.
l Or the iniquities of former generations
- Where applicable, appeal to God for justice:
m Hebrew lacks O God
This use of “arm” is a figurative reference to strength (cf. AMP, CEV, NCV, NASB, NIV, NLT).
- Ask God to uphold you amidst trouble:
Akin to asking for strength (cf. GNT), the psalmist asks God to support and sustain him.
In asking to be led “in your righteousness”, David may be appealing to God to act in accordance with his righteousness (cf. CEV). Alternatively he may be asking to be led along a way that is in accordance with God’s righteousness – as appears to be the case with “Lead me in your truth” in 25:5 immediately below. (See also the comments below on 27:11 and 43:3.)
In this context, a “level path” (cf. Ps 143:10 ↓) quite possibly means a “safe path” (GNT). Alternatively, it could be a “right path” (CEV; cf. NCV, NLT) encompassing both righteous living and the resultant stability and protection.
The reference could be to being guided by the “light” and “truth” of God’s word or ways (cf. Ps 25:5 ↑). However more likely the psalmist is asking God to guide him by God’s favour/salvation (“light”) and because of God’s faithfulness (“truth”).
n Or in the ancient way (compare Jeremiah 6:16)
The term “the way everlasting” probably refers to the long-standing, time-proven ways of God (cf. CEV, NRSV text note), which will forever be the right and best way (cf. NIrV). It has alternatively been interpreted to speak of the way that leads to “everlasting life” (NCV™, NLT).
Ps 143:8, 10 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love, for in you I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. ▤ … 10Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground! ▤
The “rock that is higher than I” denotes a place of safety, that seems to be beyond the psalmist’s reach. Quite possibly it alludes to God himself (cf. vv. 3-4).
David similarly asks God for guidance in the midst of warfare in 2 Samuel 2:1 and 5:19, 23. Note that David probably made such inquiries of God through the priest and the use of lots.
Ps 31:1-2, 15-16 In you, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me! 2Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! ▤ … 15My times are in your hand; rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors! 16Make your face shine on your servant; save me in your steadfast love! ▤
Ps 69:14-15, 18 Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. 15Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me. ▤ … 18Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies! ▤
o Or Turn us again; also verses 7, 19
Ps 144:7-8 Stretch out your hand from on high; rescue me and deliver me from the many waters, from the hand of foreigners, 8whose mouths speak lies and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood. ▤
- Ask God to act so as to make you glad:
Ps 90:14-15 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. ▤
In Psalms 86:4 David similarly asks in a difficult time that God would bring joy to him – “Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.”
Neh 1:6a … let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. ▤
In the first sentence David appears to be appealing to God as the one who establishes his righteousness (cf. AMP) and/or vindicates him (cf. NET, NLT, NRSV).
Ps 27:7, 9 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud; be gracious to me and answer me! ▤ … 9Hide not your face from me. Turn not your servant away in anger, O you who have been my help. Cast me not off; forsake me not, O God of my salvation! ▤
David pleads with God to hear and answer his prayer (v. 7), as opposed to rejecting him (v. 9).
Ps 28:1-2 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. 2Hear 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.p ▤
p Hebrew your innermost sanctuary
In v. 2 David asks that his prayer be acceptable to God like the stipulated daily incense offerings and evening sacrifice.
Dan 9:17-18 Now therefore, O our God, listen to the prayer of your servant and to his pleas for mercy, and for your own sake, O Lord,q make your face to shine upon your sanctuary, which is desolate. 18O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. ▤
q Hebrew for the Lord’s sake
1Ki 8:28-30, 44-45, 52 Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O Lord my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, 29that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. 30And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive. ▤ … 44“If your people go out to battle against their enemy, by whatever way you shall send them, and they pray to the Lord toward the city that you have chosen and the house that I have built for your name, 45then hear in heaven their prayer and their plea, and maintain their cause. ▤ … 52Let your eyes be open to the plea of your servant and to the plea of your people Israel, giving ear to them whenever they call to you. ▤
Here just prior to the actual dedication of the temple, Solomon asks God to hear and answer his people’s prayers for help. Note that the temple signified God’s presence amongst his people, particularly as it contained the ark of the covenant. As such, when the people prayed to God, they prayed toward the temple (cf. Ps 28:2 ↑).
Ps 40:13, 17 Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me! O Lord, make haste to help me! ▤ … 17As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me. You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God! ▤
- Prayer that God would answer at “an acceptable time”:
- Ask persistently + ref.
The psalmist tirelessly lifted up his hands in prayer (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT).
r Hebrew but I am prayer
Neh 1:4-6a As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven. 5And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. ▤
Luke 18:7-8 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? ▤
- Denunciation of not turning to God in trouble:
Job 35:9-11 Because of the multitude of oppressions people cry out; they call for help because of the arm of the mighty.s 10But none says, ‘Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night, 11who teaches us more than the beasts of the earth and makes us wiser than the birds of the heavens?’ ▤
s Or the many
Verse 9 is most likely not speaking of crying/calling out to God. As such this is censuring people for not calling on God (v. 10) in times of trouble (v. 9). But if v. 9 is speaking of crying out to God (cf. CEV), then Elihu would be condemning people for only calling on God in trouble without any intention of turning to him and his ways.
In some respects at least, the following verses would appear to be at odds with some NT teaching – such as loving one’s enemies. But Christians can concur with these verses in at least the following aspects: the disdain of ungodliness; the acknowledgment of the ultimate fate of the ungodly who do not repent; and the desire for God’s justice to be manifested and vindicated.
Neh 4:4-5 Hear, O our God, for we are despised. Turn back their taunt on their own heads and give them up to be plundered in a land where they are captives. 5Do not cover their guilt, and let not their sin be blotted out from your sight, for they have provoked you to anger in the presence of the builders. ▤
The reference is the wicked adversaries of those rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem.
Ps 35:4-8, 26 Let them be put to shame and dishonor who seek after my life! Let them be turned back and disappointed who devise evil against me! 5Let them be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away! 6Let their way be dark and slippery, with the angel of the Lord pursuing them! 7For without cause they hid their net for me; without cause they dug a pit for my life.t 8Let destruction come upon him when he does not know it! And let the net that he hid ensnare him; let him fall into it—to his destruction! ▤ … 26Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether who rejoice at my calamity! Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor who magnify themselves against me! ▤
t The word pit is transposed from the preceding line; Hebrew For without cause they hid the pit of their net for me; without cause they dug for my life
Ps 69:21-28 They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink. 22Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.u 23Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually. 24Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them. 25May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents. 26For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded. 27Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you.v 28Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous. ▤
u Hebrew; a slight revocalization yields (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Jerome) a snare, and retribution and a trap
v Hebrew may they not come into your righteousness
In v. 22 “their own table before them” may well allude to the food metaphors depicting their ill treatment of the psalmist in v. 21. In v. 26 the psalmist speaks of the wicked persecuting those already suffering God’s punishment.
Ps 140:9-11 As for the head of those who surround me, let the mischief of their lips overwhelm them! 10Let burning coals fall upon them! Let them be cast into fire, into miry pits, no more to rise! 11Let not the slanderer be established in the land; let evil hunt down the violent man speedily! ▤
Jer 17:18 Let those be put to shame who persecute me, but let me not be put to shame; let them be dismayed, but let me not be dismayed; bring upon them the day of disaster; destroy them with double destruction! ▤
- David prayed against the deeds of the wicked:
Dan 9:16 O Lord, according to all your righteous acts, let your anger and your wrath turn away from your city Jerusalem, your holy hill, because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and your people have become a byword among all who are around us. ▤
Note that the fact that God’s love is often referred to as “steadfast” points to his faithfulness.
w Or Distinguish me by
David appears to appeal to God to act in accordance with his steadfast love, in part at least for the sake of its reputation.
Ps 109:21, 26 But you, O God my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me! ▤ … 26Help me, O Lord my God! Save me according to your steadfast love! ▤
Dan 9:18 O my God, incline your ear and hear. Open your eyes and see our desolations, and the city that is called by your name. For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. ▤
Ps 86:14-16 O God, insolent men have risen up against me; a band of ruthless men seeks my life, and they do not set you before them. 15But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. 16Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. ▤
- David appealed to God’s “abundant mercy” for forgiveness:
x Or Be gracious to me
2Ki 20:1-3 In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die; you shall not recover.’” 2Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, saying, 3“Now, O Lord, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. ▤
2Chr 14:11 And Asa cried to the Lord his God, “O Lord, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O Lord our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O Lord, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.” ▤
In the final sentence Asa appears to indicate that as the Lord was Judah’s God, defeat for Judah would in effect be equivalent to defeat for the Lord.
In the last clause David quite possibly means that God was the only one that he would ever pray to (cf. NLT).
Ps 26:1-3, 6-8 Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. 2Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.y 3For your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in your faithfulness. ▤ … 6I wash my hands in innocence and go around your altar, O Lord, 7proclaiming thanksgiving aloud, and telling all your wondrous deeds. 8O Lord, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells. ▤
y Hebrew test my kidneys and my heart
Along with the other things mentioned here, David’s blamelessness (vv. 1, 6) is indicative of his devotion to God. In v.3a, David appears to mean that he persistently kept God’s love in view. In v.3b, he is likely speaking either of being faithful to God (cf. AMP, CEV, NRSV) or living in a manner consistent with God’s faithfulness, which likewise implies faithfulness to God.
In describing God’s people as God’s “heritage”, David was emphasizing that they belonged to God as his “special possession” (NLT).
Ps 31:2-4 Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily! Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! 3For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me; 4you take me out of the net they have hidden for me, for you are my refuge. ▤
As is implied in some of the other references (e.g. Ps 5:2 ↑; Ps 40:17 ↓; Ps 71:5-6 ↓; Ps 86:4 ↓), David seems to claim that God alone is the one to whom he has always looked for help and protection. And it is in part to this exclusive reliance on God that David appeals.
Ps 71:4-6 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. 5For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. 6Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. ▤
Ps 86:2, 4, 16 Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God. ▤ … 4Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. ▤ … 16Turn to me and be gracious to me; give your strength to your servant, and save the son of your maidservant. ▤
Ps 119:94, 121, 153, 173-174 I am yours; save me, for I have sought your precepts. ▤ … 121I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. ▤ … 153Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law. ▤ … 173Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your precepts. 174I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. ▤
In conjunction with his devotion to and relationship with God, in v. 121 the psalmist appeals to his righteous ways.
Ps 119:28, 38, 41, 49, 58, 76, 116, 154, 170 My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! ▤ … 38Confirm to your servant your promise, that you may be feared. ▤ … 41Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; ▤ … 49Remember your word to your servant, in which you have made me hope. ▤ … 58I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your promise. ▤ … 76Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. ▤ … 116Uphold me according to your promise, that I may live, and let me not be put to shame in my hope! ▤ … 154Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your promise! ▤ … 170Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to your word. ▤
Gen 32:11-12 Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. 12But you said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ ▤
Ex 32:12-13 Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. 13Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ▤
Neh 1:5-6, 8-11 And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 6let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant that I now pray before you day and night for the people of Israel your servants, confessing the sins of the people of Israel, which we have sinned against you. Even I and my father’s house have sinned. ▤ … 8Remember the word that you commanded your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the peoples, 9but if you return to me and keep my commandments and do them, though your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of heaven, from there I will gather them and bring them to the place that I have chosen, to make my name dwell there.’ 10They are your servants and your people, whom you have redeemed by your great power and by your strong hand. 11O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man.” Now I was cupbearer to the king. ▤
Twice Nehemiah appeals to promises of God (vv. 5, 8-9) before asking God to answer his prayer (vv. 6, 11).
Ps 74:19-20 Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild beasts; do not forget the life of your poor forever. 20Have regard for the covenant, for the dark places of the land are full of the habitations of violence. ▤
Note that it is Israel that is referred to here as God’s “dove” (v. 19), or “turtledove” (AMP, NASB, NRSV). As such the term appears to allude to God’s love for Israel and possibly also to her defenselessness (cf. GNT).
This was part of an appeal to God for help (cf. vv. 7, 21 ⇓).
The general thrust of the following prayer excerpts is that as the petitioners are God’s people, for God to not save them and allow them to continue in their suffering – or be destroyed – would be a great slight on his name.
Jer 14:7, 21 Though our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake; for our backslidings are many; we have sinned against you. ▤ … 21Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. ▤
In v. 21a, “your glorious throne” refers to the temple in Jerusalem, amidst and identified with his people who were enduring great hardship.
Josh 7:8-9 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name? ▤
In view of Israel’s defeat (v. 8) and subsequent increased vulnerability (v. 9a), Joshua effectively appeals to God to act on their behalf for the sake of his great name.
This was written sometime after the Babylonian defeat of Judah. With his people in exile and his temple destroyed (cf. vv. 3-7), the psalmist appeals to God to act – in part at least – for the sake of his name.
Deut 9:27-28 Remember your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not regard the stubbornness of this people, or their wickedness or their sin, 28lest the land from which you brought us say, “Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land that he promised them, and because he hated them, he has brought them out to put them to death in the wilderness.” ▤
In the face of God’s threat to destroy the people because of their wickedness, Moses in effect appeals to the sake of God’s name and reputation. He reasoned that if God destroyed the people the Egyptians may claim that he had done so because he was not able to take them into the land he had promised them.
- David asked God to exalt himself by saving him:
Ps 57:4-5 My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords. 5Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! ▤
David implies that by delivering him from his predicament (v. 4), God would be exalted and glorified (v. 5).
The psalmists often concluded prayers for help by asserting that their requests would not go unheeded – as is the case with most, if not all, of the following references. Note that the following section – Praise and Rejoice in God – contains a number of verses that similarly reflect belief that God would hear and answer prayer in hard times.
Ps 6:7-9 My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes. 8Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. 9The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer. ▤
Ps 22:19, 23-24 But you, O Lord, do not be far off! O you my help, come quickly to my aid! ▤ … 23You who fear the Lord, praise him! All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel! 24For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him. ▤
Ps 55:16-18 But I call to God, and the Lord will save me. 17Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. 18He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. ▤
Although David speaks in general terms, this note of confidence in God’s deliverance was written during a time of distress (cf. vv. 1-6, 14-17).
Ps 57:1-3 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. 2I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. 3He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! ▤
Ps 71:12, 20-21 O God, be not far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! ▤ … 20You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. 21You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. ▤
2Chr 20:9 ‘If disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgment,z or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you—for your name is in this house—and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save.’ ▤
z Or the sword of judgment
- [In persecution:] Rejoice
2Chr 20:15, 18-22 And he [Jahaziel] said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. ▤ … 18Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. 19And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice. 20And they rose early in the morning and went out into the wilderness of Tekoa. And when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Hear me, Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem! Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be established; believe his prophets, and you will succeed.” 21And when he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army, and say, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 22And when they began to sing and praise, the Lord set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. ▤
Presumably the worship, praise and thanksgiving would have had God’s sure deliverance at least partly in view.
Job 1:20-21 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” ▤
Ps 59:3, 16-17 For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me. For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord, ▤ … 16But I will sing of your strength; I will sing aloud of your steadfast love in the morning. For you have been to me a fortress and a refuge in the day of my distress. 17O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love. ▤
a Hebrew under
b Or and he was exalted with my tongue
The psalmist cried out to God for help, but also praised God in his prayer for help.
Ps 71:4-8, 14-20 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man. 5For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth. 6Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you. 7I have been as a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. 8My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. ▤ … 14But I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more. 15My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge. 16With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone. 17O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. 18So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. 19Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? 20You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. ▤
In v. 7a, the psalmist speaks of appearing to other people to be an example or a wonder, either as someone: who has suffered significantly, apparently in being punished by God; or who has been delivered by God from much trouble. In v. 15, the psalmist says that God had done far more in righteously bringing salvation than the psalmist could know (cf. AMP, CEV, NASB, NRSV).
Ps 109:1, 30-31 Be not silent, O God of my praise! ▤ … 30With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord; I will praise him in the midst of the throng. 31For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. ▤
This concludes a psalm involving petition for help in great need (cf. vv. 1-5, 21-29). As such amidst his trouble, the psalmist speaks of praising God in light of his readiness to save the needy.
Acts 16:22-25 The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. 23And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. 24Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, … ▤
- Give thanks in all circumstances:
- [In persecution:] Rejoice and take pride “in” Jesus Christ
Ps 13:1-2, 5-6 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? 2How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me? ▤ … 5But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. 6I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me. ▤
Despite God’s apparent lack of concern and his troubles (vv. 1-2), the psalmist trusts in God’s steadfast love, confident of God’s salvation (v. 5). This leads the psalmist to rejoice (v. 5b) and sing praises to God for his goodness (v. 6).
Ps 28:1, 6-7 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. ▤ … 6Blessed be the Lord! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy. 7The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. ▤
The tone of vv. 6-7 and particularly the phrase “my heart exults” (v. 7b) indicate that the psalmist rejoices, confident that God has heard his cry for mercy (v. 6b).
David asserts that hearing of what God had done for him in adversity (cf. vv. 4-6) gives similarly afflicted people reason to be glad or “rejoice” (NASB, NIV) – not least because of the hope it provides them in their predicament.
Hab 3:17-19a Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. ▤
Even amidst the sorrow Paul encountered in his work, Paul always had reason to rejoice.
- “The joy of the Lord is your strength”:
Neh 8:10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” ▤
The people – who had been weeping as they listened to the law (v. 9) – would draw strength from the joy they had in the Lord, with all the blessings that come from their relationship with God.
Ps 42:10-11 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 11Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. ▤
Ps 43:1, 4 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me! ▤ … 4Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God. ▤
“O Lord, open my lips” (v. 15) appears to be a plea from David to answer his earlier requests for forgiveness and restoration (vv. 1-2, 7-14) so as to enable him to give praise to God with his mouth.
Ps 71:20-24 You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. 21You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. 22I will also praise you with the harp for your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praises to you with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel. 23My lips will shout for joy, when I sing praises to you; my soul also, which you have redeemed. 24And my tongue will talk of your righteous help all the day long, for they have been put to shame and disappointed who sought to do me hurt. ▤
As with vv. 20-21, in vv. 23-24 the psalmist is probably confidently speaking of God redeeming him (cf. CEV, NCV) – at which such time he will praise God – rather than indicating that his redemption has already occurred.
Ps 79:9, 13 Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of your name; deliver us, and atone for our sins, for your name’s sake! ▤ … 13But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise. ▤
Ps 35:9-10, 17-18 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in his salvation. 10All my bones shall say, “O Lord, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?” ▤ … 17How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions! 18I will thank you in the great congregation; in the mighty throng I will praise you. ▤
The phrase “glory in your praise” speaks of exulting in praising God.
Ps 9:13-14 Be gracious to me, O Lord! See my affliction from those who hate me, O you who lift me up from the gates of death, 14that I may recount all your praises, that in the gates of the daughter of Zion I may rejoice in your salvation. ▤
In the face of death, the psalmist implies that in contrast to the dead he will praise God if he is delivered from his precarious predicament.
- The psalmist promised that if God delivered him, he would obey God:
Ps 119:134, 145-146 Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your precepts. ▤ … 145With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your statutes. 146I call to you; save me, that I may observe your testimonies. ▤
- Ps 30:11-12 ⇓; 2Chr 20:27-28 ⇓
- Further testimony to God answering prayers in suffering and trouble
- Further specific examples of God answering prayers in suffering and trouble
Ps 30:1-4 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 2O Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3O Lord, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.c 4Sing praises to the Lord, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.d ▤
c Or to life, that I should not go down to the pit
d Hebrew to the memorial of his holiness (see Exodus 3:15)
Ps 34:1-4 I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. 2My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. 3Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together! 4I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. ▤
Ps 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry. 2He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. 3He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. ▤
Ps 107:5-16, 18-22, 27-31 … hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. 6Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 7He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. 8Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 9For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things. 10Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 11for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. 13Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 14He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. 15Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 16For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron. ▤ … 18they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. 19Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 20He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. 21Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! 22And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! ▤ … 27they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end.e 28Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 29He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. 30Then they were glad that the watersf were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. 31Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! ▤
e Hebrew and all their wisdom was swallowed up
f Hebrew they
Dan 2:17-20, 23 Then Daniel went to his house and made the matter known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions, 18and told them to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that Daniel and his companions might not be destroyed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon. 19Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20Daniel answered and said: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. ▤ … 23To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.” ▤
Luke 17:12-18 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers,g who stood at a distance 13and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” ▤
g Leprosy was a term for several skin diseases; see Leviticus 13
Luke 18:41-43 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God. And all the people, when they saw it, gave praise to God. ▤
2Cor 1:10-11 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. ▤
Here Paul speaks of other people giving thanks for his deliverance in response to prayer (cf. Luke 18:43 ↑).
h Hebrew horn
Hannah rejoiced in God, delighting in his deliverance from both torment (cf. 1:6) and the humiliation of her childlessness, through the birth of Samuel.
Ps 30:11-12 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever! ▤
Note that “my glory” (v. 12) alludes to one’s whole self.
Ps 126:1-3 When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. 2Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” 3The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad. ▤
Isa 51:11 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. ▤
Isa 52:7-9 How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” 8The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they see the return of the Lord to Zion. 9Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem. ▤
Joel 2:20-23 I will remove the northerner far from you, and drive him into a parched and desolate land, his vanguardi into the eastern sea, and his rear guardj into the western sea; the stench and foul smell of him will rise, for he has done great things. 21“Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice, for the Lord has done great things! 22Fear not, you beasts of the field, for the pastures of the wilderness are green; the tree bears its fruit; the fig tree and vine give their full yield. 23“Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given the early rain for your vindication; he has poured down for you abundant rain, the early and the latter rain, as before. ▤
i Hebrew face
j Hebrew his end
The “northerner” (v. 20) refers to an incredibly great plague of locusts that had brought desolation to the land.
Zeph 3:14-15 Sing aloud, O daughter of Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter of Jerusalem! 15The Lord has taken away the judgments against you; he has cleared away your enemies. The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall never again fear evil. ▤
Here David calls upon others to rejoice in God’s deliverance of him from hard times. Similarly Isaiah 49:13 below figuratively calls on creation to rejoice in God’s deliverance of his people, reflective of their own joy.
- Judah’s rejoicing over God’s miraculous deliverance, in answer to their prayer:
2Chr 20:12, 24, 27-28 O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” ▤ … 24When Judah came to the watchtower of the wilderness, they looked toward the horde, and behold, therek were dead bodies lying on the ground; none had escaped. ▤ … 27Then they returned, every man of Judah and Jerusalem, and Jehoshaphat at their head, returning to Jerusalem with joy, for the Lord had made them rejoice over their enemies. 28They came to Jerusalem with harps and lyres and trumpets, to the house of the Lord. ▤
k Hebrew they
- God is near us in hard times and when we pray
- God does not ignore the suffering and cries of the afflicted
- God comforts his people in hard times, and in delivering them
- God hears the cries of the godly and rescues them . . .
- . . . God has compassion on his people, saving and blessing them
- Further testimony to God answering prayers in suffering and trouble
- Further specific examples of God answering prayers in suffering and trouble
- God’s discipline and testing can be intense, but God brings his people through
- 19. God’s Care of His People
- In spite of his people’s troubles, God will fulfill his plans and purposes for them
Obviously God is always near us – or with us. However the following verses largely seem to suggest that in prayer and hard times we are more open to a deeper awareness or experience of God’s presence.
l Or in my haste
Ex 2:23-25 During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. 24And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25God saw the people of Israel—and God knew. ▤
Ex 22:22-23, 26-27 You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, ▤ … 26If ever you take your neighbor’s cloak in pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down, 27for that is his only covering, and it is his cloak for his body; in what else shall he sleep? And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate. ▤
m Or the valley of deep darkness
The shepherd’s rod and staff were used to rescue, protect and guide the sheep. In this most famous of psalms, where God is spoken of as a shepherd, they are used to allude to God’s protection and guidance – which bring comfort to his people.
The term “consolations” is indicative of “comfort” (GNT, NLT; cf. CEV, NCV).
God’s promise gave the psalmist reason to hope and so ask that God’s steadfast love would comfort him (v. 76).
n The Hebrew for you is singular in verse 1
Isa 40:1-2 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfareo is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. ▤
o Or time of service
Isa 51:3, 12 For the Lord comforts Zion; he comforts all her waste places and makes her wilderness like Eden, her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the voice of song. ▤ … 12“I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, … ▤
Isa 61:1-3 The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;p he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;q 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.r ▤
p Or afflicted
q Or the opening [of the eyes] to those who are blind; Septuagint and recovery of sight to the blind
r Or that he may display his beauty
Verses 1-2a of this prophecy were fulfilled by Jesus as he stated in Luke 4:18-21. References to the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives and the like may well have a literal application but they are usually viewed in a spiritual sense (cf. Matt 5:4 ↓). Most commentators interpret Jesus concluding his quotation immediately prior to “the day of vengeance of our God” to indicate that he will fulfill the remainder of the prophecy on his second coming.
2Cor 1:3-5 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. 5For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.s ▤
s Or For as the sufferings of Christ abound for us, so also our comfort abounds through Christ
Verse 5 is speaking of God’s comfort overflowing into our lives through Christ (cf. NCV, NLT).
This appears to be speaking of comfort from Christ’s love (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT). In referring to this comfort, Paul may well have had in view the hard time that the Philippians were enduring, spoken of in the verses immediately preceding this (cf. 1:29-30).
- A blessing pertaining to Christ’s and God’s comfort:
2Thes 2:16-17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. ▤
Paul prays that they would be comforted and given strength in everything they do and say for the Lord.
- God answers those who obey and please him . . .
- . . . For God saves and protects those who take refuge in him
- Praise and thank God when he answers prayer made in hard times
- Rejoice in God’s deliverance from hard times
t Or Make thanksgiving your sacrifice to God
Ps 55:17-18, 22 Evening and morning and at noon I utter my complaint and moan, and he hears my voice. 18He redeems my soul in safety from the battle that I wage, for many are arrayed against me. ▤ … 22Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. ▤
Ps 91:14-15 Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. 15When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. ▤
The phrase “in truth” may refer to one or more of: sincerity (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT); righteous integrity; and genuine faith.
Luke 18:7-8 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? ▤
Note that v. 8b points to the need to persist in faith (cf. AMP) – as is required in persistence in prayer – doing so until Christ’s return.
Ps 18:6, 16-21, 24-27 In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. ▤ … 16He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters. 17He rescued me from my strong enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me. 18They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. 19He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me. 20The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me. 21For I have kept the ways of the Lord, and have not wickedly departed from my God. ▤ … 24So the Lord has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his sight. 25With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; 26with the purified you show yourself pure; and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. 27For you save a humble people, but the haughty eyes you bring down. ▤
David cried to the Lord (v. 6), who rescued him (vv. 16-19), according to David’s righteousness (vv. 20-27).
u Septuagint judge
In association with his vindication of his people, God would have compassion on them and take action accordingly. Note that “there is none remaining, bond or free” may well have exile in view.
Judg 2:18 Whenever the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. ▤
The second part of the verse speaks of the blessing and enrichment that God’s love and mercy bring to his people.
Isa 49:10, 13-15 … they shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them. ▤ … 13Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. 14But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.” 15“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. ▤
Note that Psalms 136:23 also speaks of God not forgetting his people in hard times – “It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever; …”
Isa 54:7-8 For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. ▤
Isa 63:7, 9 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. ▤ … 9In all their affliction he was afflicted,v and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. ▤
v Or he did not afflict
“In all their affliction he was afflicted” (v. 9) underlines God’s empathy for his people, a key factor motivating his compassionate acts (vv. 7, 9).
The reference is actually to ungodly nations, who God would pluck out of their lands, sending them into exile. God’s compassion on them is aimed at their repentance (cf. vv. 16-17).
Lam 3:22, 32 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;w his mercies never come to an end; ▤ … 32but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; … ▤
w Syriac, Targum; Hebrew Because of the steadfast love of the Lord, we are not cut off
Zec 10:6 I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them. ▤
- God heals the brokenhearted:
Ps 10:17-18 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear 18to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more. ▤
Ps 116:1-9 I love the Lord, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. 2Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live. 3The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish. 4Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul!” 5Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; our God is merciful. 6The Lord preserves the simple; when I was brought low, he saved me. 7Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. 8For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; 9I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. ▤
The “simple” (v. 6) are those who have “childlike faith” (NLT). Note that v. 2 points out that God’s answering of prayer for help gives good reason to continue to call on him for help in the future.
x Hebrew you made me bold in my soul with strength
Lam 3:53-58 … they flung me alive into the pit and cast stones on me; 54water closed over my head; I said, ‘I am lost.’ 55“I called on your name, O Lord, from the depths of the pit; 56you heard my plea, ‘Do not close your ear to my cry for help!’ 57You came near when I called on you; you said, ‘Do not fear!’ 58“You have taken up my cause, O Lord; you have redeemed my life. ▤
Judg 10:11-12 And the Lord said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. ▤
Here and in Ps 81:7a below God himself testifies to answering his people’s calls for help.
- Examples and affirmations of God answering prayer
- Praise and thank God when he answers prayer made in hard times
- Rejoice in God’s deliverance from hard times
Ex 3:7-10 Then the Lord said, “I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters. I know their sufferings, 8and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 9And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have also seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. 10Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” ▤
Deut 26:6-8 And the Egyptians treated us harshly and humiliated us and laid on us hard labor. 7Then we cried to the Lord, the God of our fathers, and the Lord heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. 8And the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great deeds of terror,y with signs and wonders. ▤
y Hebrew with great terror
Judg 3:9, 15a But when the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, the Lord raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. ▤ … 15Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord, and the Lord raised up for them a deliverer, Ehud, the son of Gera, the Benjaminite, a left-handed man. ▤
1Sam 1:10-11, 19-20, 27 She was deeply distressed and prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11And she vowed a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.” ▤ … 19They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord; then they went back to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20And in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said, “I have asked for him from the Lord.” ▤ … 27For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to him. ▤
z Samuel sounds like the Hebrew for heard of God
2Ki 13:4-5 Then Jehoahaz sought the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to him, for he saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Syria oppressed them. 5(Therefore the Lord gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians, and the people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly. ▤
2Chr 32:18-21 And they shouted it with a loud voice in the language of Judah to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten and terrify them, in order that they might take the city. 19And they spoke of the God of Jerusalem as they spoke of the gods of the peoples of the earth, which are the work of men’s hands. 20Then Hezekiah the king and Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, prayed because of this and cried to heaven. 21And the Lord sent an angel, who cut off all the mighty warriors and commanders and officers in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned with shame of face to his own land. And when he came into the house of his god, some of his own sons struck him down there with the sword. ▤
Neh 9:9, 11 And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt and heard their cry at the Red Sea, ▤ … 11And you divided the sea before them, so that they went through the midst of the sea on dry land, and you cast their pursuers into the depths, as a stone into mighty waters. ▤
Acts 4:29, 31 And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servantsa to continue to speak your word with all boldness, ▤ … 31And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. ▤
a Greek bondservants
Acts 12:5, 11 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. ▤ … 11When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” ▤
- God blessed Joseph greatly following his suffering:
b Ephraim sounds like the Hebrew for making fruitful