The collection of psalms in Book II express lament and distress about present circumstances and conditions while looking to the faithfulness of God.
If you’re anything like me, you consider yourself entirely self-sufficient and able to solve any problem—until it’s too late and you’re hopelessly overwhelmed. We instinctively think of ourselves as saviors and solvers rather than weak and needy. We’re slow to ask for help or admit failure, and inevitably we end up in a worse bind whether the problem is spiritual, relational, or physical.
It seems like many of the psalmists weren’t much different. They found themselves in all sorts of trouble, but they were much better at asking God for help. Actually, “asking” and “help” are too limp a description. They cried out to God for deliverance, and in so doing they showed us exactly how we should respond when facing problems.
What kinds of problems did they face? It wasn’t just external circumstances or crises. They saw their need for deliverance from what happened in their hearts, so they asked God to save them from their own sin and guilt and His judgment. They knew they couldn’t outwit or overpower everyone who was against them, so they asked for deliverance from their adversaries and all the traps, plots, schemes, and ambushes they might come up with. They felt the weight of their weakness and fear and asked for deliverance from it too.
When I think of being delivered, the first thing that comes to mind is the benefit to me. Certainly, the psalmists thought of that, but it is striking how they pray for deliverance. They don’t just ask to be free from their burdens or problems. They ask for their joy of salvation to be restored. They praise the character and faithfulness of God, and they ask that He would act so that His name would be praised and exalted. Ultimately, they ask for deliverance so God would be famous and be feared, not simply for their gain.
One final admission (since I have already declared my stubborn pride and my opportunistic selfishness): I often think of God’s deliverance as transactional, not relational. That is not at all what today’s psalms, each written by David, show us. They refer to God’s faithful love and abundant compassion. They call upon His grace and declare that He is for us. They ask for God to fulfill His purpose for us and proclaim confidence because of God’s faithfulness. They call God a stronghold, someone in whom we take shelter.
None of this is a mere transaction, a trade of a request for a benefit. When Psalm 57 says, “I will seek refuge in the shadow of your wings until danger passes” it’s not like someone ducking under an overpass until the rain ends (Psalm 57:1). It’s the picture of a mother bird sheltering her helpless, vulnerable chicks. That is the kind of deliverance we need in all sorts of circumstances. We are more helpless than we care to admit, but God is more living and capable than we can imagine. And He is for us.