Come to Our Help!
It had been a hot summer in the south, but the heat didn’t match that of my own heart. I felt like I was trying to walk through a desert with no water, or slug through mud without getting anywhere. Years of battling chronic pain had worn me down. A ministry plan that didn’t materialize the way I had hoped had eroded my confidence to continue writing, teaching and speaking. I was raising four children, ranging from ten years to six months, and I was homeschooling the older two. I felt very much in need of help. Thankfully, by God’s grace, I cried out to the Lord and I studied Scripture. Through the study of the psalms, like Psalm 44, the Lord came to my aid.
You also know what it is to like to be in need of help, don’t you? Whether it’s a strained relationship, financial difficulty, unemployment, illness or injury, a hard season of ministry, parenting challenges, or marital strife, all of us have cried for aid at times. Perhaps even today you are crying for someone to assist you. Be encouraged, dear believer. Our great King will come to our help in the midst of difficulty.
Delight in the Past
Psalm 44 begins, “O God…our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days…for you delighted in them” (vv. 1, 3). The psalmist’s confidence in the Lord is rooted in the delight He showed Israel in the past. He chose them as the apple of His eye and entered into a relationship with them. The Lord chose Israel to be His treasured possession because He loved them and had made a covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He delivered them from Egypt and gave them the land of Canaan. They won victories by His strength, not their own. Such magnificent stories of redemption were passed from generation to generation in order to encourage the people’s faith. Such delight in the past led to confident assertions, like, “You are my King, O God” (v. 4), as well as continuous praise, “In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever” (v. 8).
Distress in the Present
Although the Lord delighted in His people, they were not spared suffering, “You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstock among the peoples” (Ps. 44:14). At first glance this psalm seems to be describing Israel’s suffering because of their disobedience, like during the days of the exile. However, in the context of this psalm, Israel is innocently suffering, “All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant” (v. 17). Although their “heart has not turned back” (v. 18), the Lord has “broken” them (v. 19). Contrary to the prosperity gospel, the Lord sometimes “covers” His people “with the shadow of death” when they are faithful (v. 19). The Lord often conforms His people to His image through crises for His sake, and His sovereign purposes will prevail without ultimately crushing us. Don’t let the familiarity of Romans 8:28 rob you of its comfort and grandeur, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
Deliverance in the Future
In their distress the people of God know where to turn, “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?…Rise up; come to our help!” (Ps. 44:23, 26). Their plea is based on God’s love, “Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” (v. 26). Notice that even those who are grounded in the faith experience times when they think God is sleeping through their suffering. They are facedown in the dust, wondering why He isn’t coming to their aid. Yet instead of running to other people or other things for help, their hearts are turned to the Lord, their Redeemer.
God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt foreshadowed the greater deliverance of His people through the cross of Calvary. Jesus has saved us from our foes and it is in Him that we can boast continually. He was rejected and disgraced, led like a sheep to the slaughter, so that He could put us out of distress and open the way back to the Father again. He was afflicted and oppressed, bowed down to the dust, in order to redeem us for the sake of God’s steadfast love.
All those who are united to Christ will suffer for His name’s sake. At times we will be tempted to think that Jesus is sleeping through our suffering instead of saving us from it (see Matt. 8:23-27). But for the believer suffering is always beneficial, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Perhaps today you are experiencing a difficult season and you feel like the Lord is asleep instead of coming to your aid. Let Psalm 44 encourage you. Look with eyes of faith to the Lord and affirm, “You are my King, O God” (v. 4). Take comfort in the truth that He ordains your suffering (v. 19). And cry out to Him, “Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love” (v. 26).
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit www.sarahivill.com.