To you, Lord, I call;
you are my Rock,
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I shall be like those who go down to the pit.
Hear my cry for mercy
as I call to you for help,
as I lift up my hands
towards your Most Holy Place.
Do not drag me away with the wicked,
with those who do evil,
who speak cordially with their neighbours
but harbour malice in their hearts.
Repay them for their deeds
and for their evil work;
repay them for what their hands have done
and bring back on them what they deserve.
Because they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord
and what his hands have done,
he will tear them down
and never build them up again.
Praise be to the Lord,
for he has heard my cry for mercy.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
my heart trusts in him, and he helps me.
My heart leaps for joy,
and with my song I praise him.
The Lord is the strength of his people,(Ps. 28:1-9 NIV)
a fortress of salvation for his anointed one.
Save your people and bless your inheritance;
be their shepherd and carry them for ever.
The number of times that the Psalmist has prayed for help as he faces his enemies should alert us to the fact that we too face daily battles with spiritual forces. The apostle Paul speaks of his battles:
And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour? I face death every day – yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord.(1 Cor. 15:30-31 NIV)
The Psalmist looks towards the covenant LORD and toward the Most Holy Place. This brings into focus the source of answered prayer. The significance of the Most Holy Place is that that is where the presence of the Lord resided. Prayer is the privilege of God’s covenant people. The Lord has instructed His people that they should turn to Him in prayer. It is not known what the particular issue was behind this particular prayer. That is deliberate because the prayer is generalised so that it can be of use for all of God’s people.
The cause of the Psalmist’s lament is that he again needs reassurance that God is listening. The Lord again is addressed as ‘my Rock’, but reassurance is needed so he pleads that God will not turn a deaf ear to his plea. Using human features such as ear, eye, hand or arm etc to refer to God is called an anthropomorphism. The Psalmist frequently does this. It doesn’t mean that it teaches that God has an ear or eye etc, but the Psalmist uses this kind of image to help him express how he needs God to respond to him. We can understand how the Psalmist feels as he prays. He speaks in prayer but he does not hear any audible reply from God. So when you are in urgent need, you desire to have a speedy reassurance that God has heard your prayer.
If God remains silent then the Psalmist will be like those who die. He uses the term ‘go down to the pit’ to describe death. He repeats the need to be heard, he cries for mercy and lifts up his hands (empty hands) towards God’s most Holy Place. He is lifting up his hands from the pit because his sense of need is so great. His hands are empty because he has nothing to give or offer to God.
If the Lord does not respond now it will be as if the Psalmist is being treated like the wicked, dragged away to death along with those who do evil and act hypocritically speaking well of their neighbours but really having only evil in their hearts.
The Psalmist prays down judgement on the wicked. The same concept is evident in the NT:
Alexander the metalworker did me a great deal of harm. The Lord will repay him for what he has done.(2 Tim. 4:14 NIV)
The wicked have had their opportunity, but they showed no regard for the deeds that the Lord has done. God has worked in creation and redemption, but this has all been ignored. God will bring down these strongholds permanently and they will never rise again to oppose the work of the Lord.
Once more we learn the benefit of the presence of God. The Psalmist moves from lament to praise. There is no evidence of any response from God mentioned in the Psalm, but the Psalmist’s confidence in the Lord has grown.
It is reassuring as we reflect on God as our strength and shield and our rock. It is important to remember that these Psalms were for singing. Singing Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs gives us courage.
We underline verses in our Bible and turn to those verses when we feel our need. When we are stuck for words for prayer it is good to turn to these ancient songs and prayers. We pray these prayers in every generation. Of course we have our favourites, Ps 23, 46, 98, 139, and you will have others.
The mood of the Psalmist has changed, he now leaps for joy and he reaches for songs to enable him to capture and express his joy.
The Psalmist also has the needs of the whole community in his heart and mind. The anointed one refers to the kings of the Davidic line and ultimately anticipates the coming of the Messiah.
The Lord lifts the Psalmist and His people out of the pit and like a shepherd he carries them forever.
Lord you have lifted us out of the mire of the pit and set our feet upon the rock, and like a shepherd you carry us through this life and throughout eternity. Lord we thank you that Jesus is the good shepherd and that he gave His life for us. You have filled us with joy and we need to sing songs of thanksgiving to keep expressing the joy of our salvation. Receive our thanks in our Saviour’s name. Amen