The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


It doesn’t take long in watching the daily or nightly news, reading the paper (if anyone does that anymore) or surfing the Internet until the overwhelming flood of bad news and terminal sin gets to you and you just have to cry out “Help!” For many people this sense of demise, disaster, or depressive state is compounded by personal problems that flood in causing us to cry out all the more “Help!” Maybe right now you’re crying out “Help!” If you’re at the end of yourself, if you’ve just about had it, had it with the state of our nation, had it with the state of our economy, had it with people around you and the myriad problems that make up your present personal plight, just had it with everything, then I have some help to offer you. I personally don’t have the help. But I can point you where to get help. God is exactly who you need when you cry “Help!”

The best thing for you to do in trouble is to cry out to God. He hears our cries of “Help!” And He is not silent; He speaks today. How does He speak? He speaks through an inner still small voice of the Spirit for those who know Him personally. If we hold on to sin in our life He waits silently until we confess it to Him and seek forgiveness through faith in His only Son Jesus (Psalm 66:18; Rom. 6:23). When we do that, God not only forgives us, but He regenerates us; He gives us spiritual eternal life (John 3:1-21; Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 2:9-14; Titus 3:5). When we turn from our sins to God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Lord gives us eternal life through the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit, “another Helper,” one just like Jesus who testifies of Jesus (John 14:16; 15:26). It is the Spirit who helps us when we are weak (Rom. 8:26). So if you want to hear God, or more accurately, be heard by God, turn from any sin in your life, surrender to Him, and put your faith in Jesus. This is the first indispensible step in getting help from God when you’re crying “Help!” Sin is repulsive to God (Hab. 1:13). Sin separates us from God (Is. 59:2). Sin has a murderous killing affect on the sinner (Rom. 6:23a). Therefore sin must be dealt with; it’s a big part of the reason we are crying “Help!” Deal with it.

God also speaks very tangibly to us through His word. When I’m in trouble, when I’m at the end of myself or simply overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, I go to God’s word. The Bible is the word of God. The Bible has been inspired or literally God breathed by the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible is the language of the Spirit and therefore is only understood by those who have the Spirit indwelling them to translate its meaning (1 Cor. 2:9-14).

The particular portion of the Bible where I have found the most help in times of need is the Psalms. Let me show you an example. Psalm 20 is a psalm where God tells us what He’ll do when we cry “Help!” to Him. Let’s look at this psalm and see what help God offers.

Psalm 20 is “To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David.” The Psalms are the hymn book of Israel. This psalm is written to the Chief Musician because its lyrics were originally set to music or for the Chief Musician to set them to music. Music and worship are a great means to get us out of the darkness and into the light of God (e.g. Col. 3:15-17). It is also a “Psalm of David,” which means King David is the human author through whom God delivered these precious words.

The first verse says, “May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble; May the name of the God of Jacob defend you; . . .” The word “May” expresses the possibility and hope that you would turn to the LORD for help. The word “LORD” identifies God as the great “I Am.” That’s how God refers to Himself because with this name He is telling us I Am and always have been and I am all that I ever need to be. There is no situation so dire or dark that God who will, “answer you in the day of trouble,” can’t reach down and help you through it or up and out of it.

The phrase “the name of the God of Jacob defend you,” is an interesting way to refer to God’s help. You see the name Jacob means heel catcher. Jacob was a conniver who for a great deal of his life depended on his own guile and deception to get his help. One day that all came crashing down on him and he had to cry out to God for help. The account is found in Genesis 32 and the answer to Jacob’s cry for help was that God transformed him and taught him a life lesson. Jacob needed to learn that he needed to rely on God not himself for help. Jacob was taught by God that he had to be governed by God. God gave him a life reminder of this with a new name Israel. Israel means governed by God. Maybe you can relate to that. Maybe you need a new name. Maybe you need to surrender and be governed by God. See what I mean about God speaking and getting help from Him?

Verses two and three say, “May He send you help from the sanctuary, And strengthen you out of Zion; 3 May He remember all your offerings, And accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah.” Next we are told of another place where we can find help, “the sanctuary.” The sanctuary today could be equated with the church. I’m not talking about a building as much as I’m talking about the Body of Christ that is composed of people who have been born again of the Spirit of God through faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). We’re not talking about a religious group but a group that has the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, dwelling in and ministering through them. God sends us help “from the sanctuary.” You may want to look for a place like this when you’re looking for help.

We can find help and strength “out of Zion” because this refers to Jerusalem, the City of God, the place where God dwells (Ps. 135:21). We need to seek strength and refuge in the presence of God. In God’s presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are eternal pleasures (Ps. 16:11).

Since God is everywhere all the time and knows everything, even our innermost thoughts, He will remember all that we’ve done for Him (cf. Ps. 139). God remembers all that we do for Him and it makes a difference (Heb. 6:10). It isn’t as though through good works we can move God’s hand. It’s that God the Father looks down on us in love and wants to help His struggling children.

The burnt sacrifice was a worshipful offering to express total devotion to God. When a child of God expresses their love and devotion to God, it moves the heart of God. But keep in mind, “We love because He first loved us” (1 John 4:10, 19). We’re products of His grace (1 Cor. 15:10). Every good thing done is the product of God’s handiwork (James 1:17). We can’t really take credit for anything (Is. 64:6). And we can’t manipulate God by our efforts. You aren’t going to make God love you more than He already does. God loves you as much as is possible, no matter what. God loves us even when we’re sinners (Rom. 5:8). Nothing can separate the child of God from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39). That’s an incredible truth and we need to meditate on that. “Selah” means pause and meditate. That would be a very appropriate thing for us to do at this point.

Verse four says, “May He grant you according to your heart’s desire, And fulfill all your purpose.” See the progression? Turn away from your Jacob like self reliance. Come into the presence of God who loves you. Then it speaks of God granting your heart’s desire and fulfilling your purpose. Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” That verse and verse four of Psalm 20 doesn’t mean God gives us carte blanche to request anything and He will give it to us. That may sound good but there are a lot of things we might ask for that wouldn’t be good for us. Like a child who watches there Daddy shaving and then asks him to allow them to shave with a razor, that may be cute, but the cuts that would result prevent the Daddy from complying with the request. No, the heart’s desires and purposes God does fulfill are those He puts in our hearts. He wants His best for us. If he says “No” to something we’ve requested it’s for our own good. The desires He puts in our hearts are the ones that are best for us and will help us to experience the abundant life promised by Jesus (John 10:10).

Verse five is a call to get back to basics, to the rudimentary and foundational aspects of who we are in Him. It says, “We will rejoice in your salvation, And in the name of our God we will set up our banners! May the Lord fulfill all your petitions.” We need to remember the blessing of our salvation from sin and eternal life graciously given through faith in Christ. We need to take joy in that and set up banners that pronounce salvation to others. We might see this as a call to evangelism. Let people know about your joy of salvation. When it says, “May the LORD fulfill all your petitions” it’s connected to spreading the good news of salvation. To petition is to pray. Pray for a rekindling of the joy of your salvation. Pray for the lost. Pray to spread the good news of salvation to the lost world. It’s amazing how getting off of ourselves as our all consuming preoccupation and serving others will lift a person out of depression. That’s because we weren’t created to serve ourselves. We were created to serve the LORD and others (Mark 10:45; Eph. 2:10; Rev. 4:11).

Verse six offers us an assuring word. It states, “Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.” The LORD does save us and we can know that we are saved and going to heaven (e.g. 2 Tim. 1:12). The apostle John was inspired by God to write an entire epistle about how we can know we have eternal life by the Spirit who indwells the true believer (e.g. 1 John 3:19, 24; 5:13). The word “anointed” likely refers particularly to the King’s anointing. It could also refer to the priests who were anointed or ordained. The anointing was done ceremonially with oil. Oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit (Zech. 4:1-10).

The anointing with the Spirit is fully realized in the New Testament (Joel 2:28-29; Acts 2). In the New Testament we are told that the Christian is sealed with the Spirit as a guarantee of our salvation (2 Cor. 1:22). The presence of the Holy Spirit who indwells the believer gives us assurance of our eternal salvation. God “will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand” by the Holy Spirit who empowers the believer (e.g. Acts 1:8). The assurance and empowerment of the Holy Spirit are vital sources of help in times of trouble.

Verses seven and eight state, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. 8 They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright.” Our help doesn’t come from worldly resources like chariots or horses. We may get temporary help from secular resources but such help is nothing like the help we receive from God. Relying on earthly resources can actually result in us being cheated from God’s best (cf. Col. 2:8). It would be much more helpful, much more beneficial and sustaining to sink our roots down into our relationship with the Lord and get established and built up in our faith (Col. 2:6-7).

Those who rely on alternatives to God’s help will run out of strength, bow down and fall. But those who trust in “the LORD our God” will rise and stand firm. Jesus spoke of such stability when He called His disciples to rely on Him and obey His word (Mat. 7:24-27). The apostle Paul exhorted us to not be tossed to and fro with false teachings delivered by charlatans. Instead we need to grow and mature in our faith. There are no shortcuts in this regard. We need to work at studying and applying God’s word to our lives (2 Tim. 2:15). He instructed us to rely on the balance of the loving action of the Spirit guided by the loving inspiration truth of God’s word (Eph. 4:11-16).

The final verse of this psalm concludes, “Save, Lord! May the King answer us when we call.” That’s a prayer. It’s as though the psalmist David is saying, “With all of this in mind, we come to You and ask ‘LORD save us!’” He ends with the words, “May the King answer us when we call.” Jesus is the King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). He will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5). That is where you need to go for help. That is where your cry for “help!” will be answered. As a nation, as individual people, we need to turn to the LORD for our help. Crying for “Help!”? “May the LORD answer you in the day of trouble.” God bless.

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