The believer cries out to the Lord for help

Theme: /
The believer cries out to the Lord for help
Text: /
Psalm 142
Textpart(s) to read: /
Psalm 142
By: /
Rev. Dr. W.G. de Vries († - at that time emiritus minister reformed church -liberated- at Zwolle)
Dr. W.G. de Vries († - destijds emiritus predikant gereformeerde kerk vrijgem. Zwolle)

Initial translation: H.C.G.W. de Jong, R.J.C. Vos
Editor: Mrs Renee Mulder (FRCA - Mount Nasura, W-Australia)
Original Dutch version:
Ps142 - De gelovige roept tot de HERE om hulp

Delivered at: /
Gehouden te:

Delft on the 16th of July 2000
Originally held in Dutch at Zwolle

Suggestions for the Order of Worship / Aanwijzingen voor de Liturgie

Reading: Ps. 142

Starting song: Ps. 43: 1, 4
(Morning service:) After The Ten Words of the Covenant: Ps. 43: 5
(Afternoon service:) After Confession of Faith: Ps. 43: 5
After Offertory: Ps. 142: 1-6
After Ministry of the Word
Responsive song: Ps. 144: 1, 6
Closing song: Ps. 18: 1, 15

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ

For some Christians faith is a formula for success. Whoever believes is always happy. Whoever believes doesn't know depression. Whoever believes is free from all kinds of diseases. Whoever believes doesn't know addiction. Whoever believes has a perfect life and reaches a state of completeness (fullness?), perfection. And that is why the believers live happily ever after.
This is a 'keep smiling' Christianity which has a lot of followers. The youth especially are attracted to this form of Christianity. A warm and convincing belief, an infectious joy that works enthusiasm, takes you out of yourself and lifts you into the clouds.
On the other hand there are the conventional churches, where everything is organized in a way we've been used to for decades, or even centuries. Set faces, stiff Christians, good old confessions, professional framework. They all look like petrified, fossilized institutes, wherein spontaneity is lost and nothing actually is happening.
Is it a wonder that so-called evangelical congregations attract a lot of people, especially youth? And that the youth search there for what they think is lacking in our church?
Meanwhile, research has shown that most of the people who are attracted to these 'free' congregations are people who do not feel at home in the 'established' churches. It is not the people who are outside the church, but mainly former church members who join the 'free' churches. The people in evangelical churches speak mockingly about 'the circulation of the believers'. Circulating from one to another evangelical congregation.
But meanwhile the drive for perfection of some of these people leads other serious believers to despair. If real faith means that you're always happy, that you don't know depressions, don't know addiction and you can overcome physical and mental diseases, it is possible that the serious believer who achieve this will end up in despair.
Whoever does not find cure in prayer, does not have faith, according to some evangelical groups. The person who is down-hearted and is not able to get out of his situation lacks real faith. As a result, these down-hearted people are left in their misery and sink deeper in their grief and sorrow. This all happens because real faith is absent. With this judgement people are sent home. This can lead to despair, fear of God and even suicide.
But how different God's Word is. God is long-suffering en merciful and not cruel and fanatic. Just take the book of Psalms. That is more real than this superficial and gaudy Christianity. That is why we look for comfort and encouragement in Psalm 142.

I summarize this Psalm in this manner:

The believer cries out to the Lord for help

  1. The complaints of faith
  2. The languishing of faith
  3. The expectation of faith

1. The complaints of faith

This psalm is attributed to David, who has been hunted like a partridge in the mountains: "A Contemplation of David. A Prayer when he was in the cave." This is the way the 'didactic poem' is announced. Maybe this sounds a bit dry and cold, and a lot of people think 'the lesson' in it to be tough and dry. But it is completely different. The 'lesson' makes I come alive. It puts a stamp on life. Like a footprint. The people who want to live 'the lesson' in perfection, drive believers into a corner.

The idea that believers should always be happy, free from diseases and depression and so on, embitters them. When they discover their shortcomings and their lack of happiness and enthusiasm it will bring them into deeper sorrow and trouble.
But David's didactic poem was a prayer 'in the cave', directly out of life. It is the Adullams' Cave where all kinds of people came with their troubles and sorrows (1 Samuel 22: 1-3). Not a happy, cheerful group. They cried out in misery. They cried out aloud to the LORD. They called upon the God of the covenant. They did not clench their fists in any direction, but they pleaded before Gods throne with all their complaints and fears. They truly were believers, who placed their anxiety before God. Here the always-happy-Christian idea melts like snow before the sun. David and his men were in fear because of their faith. God promised to anoint David as king but none of that could be seen yet. His situation was so miserable that he had to take refuge in Moab, a heathen land. But he knew how and where to address his complaints. This also is a way to express faith.

Nowadays there is a lot of talk about the way we should express our faith; this is good and necessary, but it is something completely different than to be happy every day.
Psalm 142 shows a great anxiety. David with his men are imprisoned, as it were. There is no light this cave. It is like a dungeon, a jail. He is stuck. He's been captured. Not literally, but it feels like that. Even though Saul did not capture him, he feels that he is spiritually stuck. Why, God? This is the address of his complaint. This is important. Why does God let this happen? Not, as in modern theology, that God could not change it. Not as though God just looked on. David addresses his complaints directly to God. That is why this Psalm is important to us, today. No, we're not all Davids. But as he was completely stuck then, people are stuck today. No light in their life. They also live in a prison and ask: why does God let this happen? It is anxiety which is not known by others. You cannot smile or cry. You feel like a piece of concrete, devoid of any feeling. You have lost the joy of life. There is just one cry in your heart: Lead me out of this dungeon.

This, brothers and sisters, is expression of faith. It is not only that feeling of warmth, but also feeling dry and cold inside.
With this feeling - the numbness, callousness - you go to God. And you submit your anxiety to Him. You call out of your depth and say: LORD, lead me out of the dungeon, the prison I'm in. This is a different gospel than being happy all the time and shouting 'Hallelujah!' This is the kind of Christianity that is drawn from the depth of the Psalms, fulfilled in Christ. This makes me think of His Word on the cross: "My God, My God why have you forsaken me!" This was a cry out of the depth. Words of a Psalm once exclaimed on earth (by David) - but written with a view to Christ, Who was really deserted, abandoned by God. We can profess that God will never abandon us. But this is something different than never to feel abandoned. This is what Paul meant when he said "Rejoice in the Lord always." At the same time he was in pain. He was in despair about his life. He lived under pressure and needed advice, but had confidence in God (2 Corinthians 1: 9) Like David he addressed his complaints to God.

2. The languishing of faith

This also happens: the second part, the languishing of faith. Because this is what we read: "Look on my right hand and see, for there is no one who acknowledges me." In the Bible, right is a favorable direction and a security. It is the side on which your helper is standing. Therefore it is often spoken of God's right-hand which gives relief. But David doesn't see any help, not from people and not even from God. That is why his spirit languishes. He did not have any spiritual buoyancy. He suffered, was down at heart.
And now we shouldn't say: 'but there was help. He called to the LORD, didn't he? And Who helps but the LORD?' Yes, that is what we see today in the keep-smiling Christianity. Are you desperate, down-hearted? Call to the LORD and you'll be happy. Are you sick? Call to the LORD and you will be healed. Are you spiritually confused? Call to the LORD and become normal again. Are you homosexual? Well, call to the LORD and you'll be cured.

Quite a lot people are driven to despair with these slogans. If this does not work, what then? It follows that your faith is wrong, faulty. It stops people from crying out loud to the LORD, and it sometimes even literally drives people to suicide.
How different the Bible is. Whoever lives in a dungeon cannot be reached by other people. That is what David experienced, together with ten thousands of people. "When my spirit was overwhelmed within me (when every feeling of happiness is completely gone), then You knew my path." That is something the Holy Spirit taught David. And that is what He wants to teach us. It is about the 'hard way' one has to go sometimes.
Let me give you one example of a reformed psychiatrist with decades of experience. He said: you can get affected by the sadness that imprisons people (the dungeon in this Psalm!). These people cannot separate themselves from their sadness. You cannot get through to them. Your words cannot penetrate them anymore. Words bounce off their massive depression like they would on concrete. And you suffer as well, in their need, their impenetrable loneliness and helplessness.

This is part of the load we have to bear today. God's creation suffers in the way Paul speaks of in Romans 8. The way David, the father of Christ, knew the yearn for the Spirit. This was the path known by the Lord. Life can be a struggle, martyrdom. This is revealed in mental and physical illnesses. There are so many deadly diseases. One can have a heart-attack, another suffers from cancer, and a third from a psychological disease. This life is a "nothing but a constant death", says the form for baptism.

But if our spirit longs for the LORD, everything disappears, God knows our path. Then I belong in the land of the living for as long as I live. Even if I do not feel it that way, even if I am not conscious of it. I always remain His property. There is only one result: God leads us out of the dungeon. That impenetrable, hermetically enclosed depression, not approachable by words, either from you or from the Bible. I know how difficult this can be. Especially when these suffering people are loved ones. The older people, but the young as well. But as we once without knowing became part of Gods covenant we will always belong to the covenant of grace. It is possibly shocking for those who consciously experience this suffering. Dying is always shocking, but the LORD knows 'my path', no matter what is on our way. Even if death is on our path. One thing stands firm: The LORD leads out of the dungeon, the dungeon of exile, of loneliness, of mental and physical pain, the dungeon of psychological illness.

The believers can also land in these dungeons. Would you think otherwise? Just imagine: whoever believes in God will not become sick, will not have any accidents, will not be persecuted and will not suffer psychological depression. In that case faith would be the best insurance cover for any disease. My premium: my belief. And God pays out: invulnerability in body and mind, a perfect human without shortages. This is the false gospel preached by the charismatic movement.

The true gospel does not preach this. God's children are inviolable -nobody can snatch them out of the hand of Christ - but not invulnerable. The sufferings of today show how vulnerable they also are in body in mind. The 'dungeon' tells us the same. Someone can be locked in, unapproachable to anyone. It belongs to the suffering of the present day.
Romans 8 says clearly that the redemption in Christ will not be evident in our present-day body. The believers become ill just like the non-believers. They can have an accident. They can have deadly diseases. They can become psychologically ill. It is part of our bodily existence. Body and mind form a unity. To endure life in body and mind belongs to the throes of this century. They point to a new life that is to come. And when this new life comes these throes are forgotten. That is what Christ promises. Therefore don't be afraid, David's prayer, 'Set me free', will be answered. Sometimes the LORD answers this prayer in this life - as He did with David, who was set free. This prayer is also answered when we die and are set free. It will happen in God's time. His time is the best time. Through Christ our Lord, who was forsaken by God, so that we will never be forsaken.

3. The expectation of faith

And then it says: "that I may praise Your name." It is the last point of attention in this sermon: the expectation of faith. David's expectation was not put to shame. He was freed from the cave, the dungeon of exile and loneliness. His solitude was broken through. And then he was able to praise the LORD. Out of this situation, the most beautiful psalms arose. Even so, there were quite a few situations in his life after this moment: his son Ammon committed incest with his sister. The son who was born out of the sexual escapade with Bathsheba, had to die. His other son Absolom killed his brother (2 Samuel 13)...
His family life was ruined and marked by incest and murder. And... David died. "And his tomb is with us to this day," said Peter at Pentecost. 'That's it,' we people would say; but Peter said: "being a prophet..., he (David) spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ." That is why we have to see this Psalm in that context. The praise here on earth does not end in the grave. Yes, according to our sense-organs, we say: "The dead do not praise the LORD, nor any who go down into silence." But in the perspective of faith we can say: above the graves there is a never-ending song in heaven. That is why the Psalm ends like this: "the righteous shall surround me, for You shall deal bountifully with me." David is sure of it here. It will happen, is what he confesses while he is in his misery. And that is true faith. In the middle of the desert, be certain of Canaan. Praise the LORD in the middle of your sorrow and pain. As a church in the desert, know you're a citizen of heaven. That starts here, on earth, because the righteous are the people who are acquitted by God of any guilt. That happens here and now. These righteous form a community. The LORD places the lonely ones in the family. We are gathered here as one big family, don't you agree? The family, united by God, where we should help the restless, the one in pain, the one who is sad. We are sad with the sad, glad with the glad.

Yes, it is true, we must confess that we fall short in these situations. That is why God's Word tells us: "may your love abound." There is an appeal on the congregation to be one in charity. We also read of "comfort of love...affection and mercy." (Philippians 1: 9; 2: 1). Apparently it is not always present and there are lonely people in the church as well. And who is not responsible in this situation? Who does not sin in this situation? The righteous are freed from sin, in this situation too. That is something we do not have to learn from some evangelical churches. Nor do we have to rub out the shortcomings of the church. Every time we take part in the Lord's Supper we confess that we do not have a perfect faith. We do not serve Him in the way He wants us to serve Him. But still we should have the intention to serve Him, His law and our fellow-man.

This is what God wants in a community of people who are justified by faith. A community like the one in Psalm 22: "in the midst of the assembly I will praise You." For this praise you need the assembly. The assembly to whom God promised the inheritance.
This 'road' to God's inheritance for us is known by Him. It is a road through misery to our eternal dwelling-place, God's house. Sometimes it looks like everybody has his own road to travel on.
In the end David praises the LORD for the good He has done to him. Whatever God does is good. That is something we can say with confidence. It may be a hard road, with deep dungeons, yet a road of liberation, a road to eternal peace. Yes, the righteous will surround us. This starts today. God's people are around us. In hope, faith and love. We can see this at times of marriage and death, for example. Poor people who do not feel comforted in the congregation of Christ, in the midst of God's people.
No, it is not a perfect people, not without sin, but a people justified by the blood of Christ. That is why we will meet these same righteous in heaven.
The Lord freed them from the physical and mental dungeon, in which they felt trapped. The ultimate goal has been reached: they are praising the Lord as part of an innumerable crowd. These are the righteous in white robes, as in Revelation 7, washed white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they sing a new song, because they are redeemed from the earth (Revelation 14: 3). It is the fulfillment of the song of praise written by the same David who sits here in the cave. He wrote it in the days when the LORD freed him from Saul (Psalm 18). "The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; so shall I be saved from my enemies."


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