5. Psalms: Crying Out for Rescue
(Psalms 69, 40, 80)

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson
Audio (42:16)

Statue of the Good Shepherd, from the Catacomb of Domitilla, Rome
The classic symbol of rescue in Christian art is the Good Shepherd rescuing a sheep, very common in the catacombs. "Statue of the Good Shepherd" (third century), 39" high, marble, from the Catacomb of Domitilla, now in Museo Pio Cristino, Vatican.
Many of the psalms are laments that come out of times of great distress and trouble. They are unashamed cries for help, for salvation, for rescue.

These desperate laments may be great Hebrew poetry, but they are not pretty. They speak of times that you and I have faced when all seems lost except for God's intervention. And so at our extremity, we reach out to God and plead for rescue. They have a way of touching the human spirit, of helping us to pray when we are nearly beyond praying.

But most of the laments in our Psalter are not pure laments. Most end on an upswing of hope and praise. Some contain a combination of psalm types, mixing and matching various genre to fit what the poet singer needed to say under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Remember, as you begin to study each of these three psalms of rescue, first read it out loud. Listen to the words, savor them, let them speak to you. After you have done this, then begin to read them carefully to discern specifically what is being said.

Psalm 69 -- Deep Waters and Miry Depths

The first psalm we'll examine is attributed to David, a long one, meant to be sung. Even the tune is given, unfortunately now long lost to us:

"For the director of music. To the tune of 'Lilies.' Of David."

David may be referring to trouble and struggle caused by his affair with Bathsheba which ended in her pregnancy and the murder of her husband Uriah as part of the cover-up (2 Samuel 11-12). Some commentators have seen similarities with Jeremiah's prophecy and speculate that Jeremiah was the author of this psalm.1 There are also some indications that the psalmist may be sick (69:21, 27, 29). We just can't be sure about the details of the psalmist's personal situation.

Going Down for the Third Time (69:1-4)

Whatever the situation, the psalmist is in deep trouble and in that it is easy for us to identify with him. In the first four verses the psalmist describes how he is feeling using the most graphic images:

"1Save me, O God,
for the waters have come up to my neck.
2I sink in the miry depths,
where there is no foothold.
I have come into the deep waters;
the floods engulf me.
3I am worn out calling for help;
my throat is parched.
My eyes fail,
looking for my God.
4Those who hate me without reason
outnumber the hairs of my head;
many are my enemies without cause,
those who seek to destroy me.
I am forced to restore
what I did not steal." (69:1-4)

David's images are vivid. Water which is over his head, overwhelming him. He describes the mire ( ṭîṭ) which settles in the bottom of a cistern or perhaps the sinking, grasping mud of a swamp that seems to have no bottom.2

One of the refreshing things I see in the Psalms is the writers' ability to just pour out their hearts to God, with all the raw emotions, anger, fear that seem to bubble to the surface. They don't try to "compose themselves" before speaking to God. They tell it like it is, as you might unload on a good friend whom you trust implicitly and who you don't feel will judge you negatively. The Psalms are meant to be an exemplar for us, a guide to prayer. What they teach is that we should be real and honest in our prayers.

You Know My Own Guilt (69:5-12)

"You know my folly, O God;
my guilt is not hidden from you." (69:5)

David doesn't pretend here that he is without sin. In fact, his sin and stupidity may have well have contributed to the problems he is facing and enflamed his enemies. If he is referring to the incident with Bathsheba and Uriah in this case, his admission of guilt is quite appropriate. 

He realizes also that his sins have brought shame upon other believers, upon God himself, and upon the nation he ruled. When people of faith in prominent places sin publicly, they bring disgrace upon God. When Christians in families sin, they disgrace God before their children and spouse.

"6May those who hope in you
not be disgraced because of me,
O Lord, the LORD Almighty;
may those who seek you
not be put to shame because of me,
O God of Israel.
7For I endure scorn for your sake,
and shame covers my face." (69:6-7)

When we sin, our sin affects others. As John Donne put it, "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."3

David isn't merely bearing the just consequences for his sins. God's enemies are having a field day with David's infidelity and have amplified his sin even further. David is now isolated, devastated, the laughing stock of his people:

"8I am a stranger to my brothers,
an alien to my own mother's sons;
9for zeal for your house consumes me,
and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.
10When I weep and fast,
I must endure scorn;
11when I put on sackcloth,
people make sport of me.
12Those who sit at the gate mock me,
and I am the song of the drunkards." (69:8-12)

David's Appeal to God's Mercy (69:13-18)

David cannot appeal to his own righteousness in this case.4 Rather he appeals to God's love and mercy as he pleads for deliverance:

"13But I pray to you, O LORD,
in the time of your favor;
in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation.
14Rescue me from the mire,
do not let me sink;
deliver me from those who hate me,
from the deep waters.
15Do not let the floodwaters engulf me
or the depths swallow me up
or the pit close its mouth over me.
16Answer me, O LORD, out of the goodness of your love;
in your great mercy turn to me.
17Do not hide your face from your servant;
answer me quickly, for I am in trouble.
18Come near and rescue me;
redeem me because of my foes." (69:13-18)

I look at David's prayer for deliverance. He appeals to God not on the basis of his own worthiness, but on the basis of God's grace. Let's consider some of the words:

  • "Time of your favor" (NIV), "in an acceptable time" (NRSV, KJV) is the word rāṣōn, "pleasure, delight, favor." Here the shade of meaning seems to be "the 'favor' or 'good will' of God."5 David prays based on God's good will. The New Testament often refers to God's favor as grace.
  • "Love" (NIV), "steadfast love" (NRSV), " mercy/lovingkindness" (KJV) in verses 13c and 16a is the word ḥesed that we studied in chapter 2. It carries the ideas of love, including mercy, perhaps "lovingkindness," spells out the meaning more fully.6
  • "Great mercy" (NIV), "abundant mercy" (NRSV), "tender mercies" (KJV) is raḥămîm, from a root that refers to deep love, rooted in some natural bond, in this case of us being God's children. Because we are his children, even errant children, his attitude towards us is compassion and deep love. A related noun is reḥem, "womb," which suggests the depth of this great mercy.7

Our pleas to God are always based on his graciousness and never on our own merit. This is one of the basic lessons of faith. And since we can rest on the unchanging character of God's love we are secure in that love.

Calls for Salvation and Rescue

David's call to God is for salvation, rescue, and redemption. We've met these words before, but it won't hurt to examine them again, since they are basic to our understanding of salvation:

  • "Salvation" (NIV, KJV) or "faithful help" (NRSV) in verse 13d is yēsha`, "salvation, deliverance." The root in a related Arabic word means "to make wide, make sufficient." It carries the idea of moving from distress to safety, that is, rescue.8 You probably recall that this word is at the root of both the names "Joshua" and "Jesus."
  • "Rescue" (NIV, NRSV), "deliver" (KJV) in verse 14a is nāṣal, "deliver, rescue, save," with the basic physical sense of drawing out or pulling out.9
  • "Rescue" (NIV, NRSV), "redeem" (KJV) in verse 18a is gā´al, "do the part of a kinsman," in ransoming, buying back, delivering, rescuing one's relative when he is in bondage or danger.10
  • "Redeem" (NIV, NRSV), "deliver" (KJV) in verse 18b is pādā, "ransom, rescue, deliver," with the basic meaning of achieving transfer of ownership from one to another through payment of a price or an equivalent substitute.11

Each of these themes is carried over in the New Testament to our salvation from sin through Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, whose death on the cross paid our ransom (Mark 10:45).

Q1. (Psalm 69:12-18) How could David dare to ask anything from God after the shameful things he had done with Bathsheba and Uriah? How does God's grace and mercy function in the face of our sins?




Back to David's Enemies (69:19-28)

Now David's mind turns back to the pain that his enemies are heaping upon him:

"19You know how I am scorned, disgraced and shamed;
all my enemies are before you.
20Scorn has broken my heart
and has left me helpless;
I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
for comforters, but I found none.
21They put gall in my food
and gave me vinegar for my thirst." (69:19-21)

What David meant figuratively in verse 21, was fulfilled literally in Jesus Christ, when his crucifiers offered him wine-vinegar mixed with gall (Matthew 27:34, 48). Unlike Jesus, however, who prayed, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34), David prays for justice, for vindication, for retribution upon his enemies, not for mercy:

"22May the table set before them become a snare;
may it become retribution and a trap.
23May their eyes be darkened so they cannot see,
and their backs be bent forever.
24Pour out your wrath on them;
let your fierce anger overtake them.
25May their place be deserted;
let there be no one to dwell in their tents.
26For they persecute those you wound
and talk about the pain of those you hurt.
27Charge them with crime upon crime;
do not let them share in your salvation.
28May they be blotted out of the book of life
and not be listed with the righteous." (69:22-28)

Sometimes in our pain we lash out in anger and hatred. It is "natural." The progressive revelation of the Bible leads us beyond this typical human instinct to something higher -- the love of God that transcends our humanness and lifts us to something divine. That is revealed in good time through Jesus Christ our Lord. "We love because he first loved us" (1 John 4:19). For more on the psalmists cursing their enemies, see my essay "The Imprecatory Psalms" (www.jesuswalk.com/psalms/psalms-imprecatory.htm).

A Final Plea (69:29)

Once more David calls out for help:

"I am in pain and distress;
may your salvation, O God, protect me." (69:29)

An Outpouring of Praise (69:30-33)

Like most laments in the Psalms, this psalm turns from complaint and misery to faith with an upswing at the end. David does not stay in his pit of misery. Now he climbs out through praise, the language of faith.

"30I will praise God's name in song
and glorify him with thanksgiving.
31This will please the LORD more than an ox,
more than a bull with its horns and hoofs.
32The poor will see and be glad --
you who seek God, may your hearts live!" (69:30-32)

David understands that faith -- expressed by praise and thanksgiving -- is more pleasing to God than going through the outward rituals of atonement and cleansing (also Psalm 51:16; 40:6; 50:8; Hosea 6:6). Ultimately, restoration of a person's relationship with God is not an outward exercise, but an inward assurance by the Holy Spirit. It is the answer to David's prayer in Psalm 51:12 to renew a right spirit within him.

A Prophecy for the Restoration of Israel's Homeland (69:33-36)

This psalm ends with what seems to be a prophetic word for the people of Israel during or at the end of their Exile in Babylon. In 587 BC the Babylonian armies had destroyed Jerusalem and their beloved temple, as well as all the fortified cities in Judah. Now God speaks to them words of hope through this psalm:

"33The LORD hears the needy
and does not despise his captive people.
34Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and all that move in them,
35for God will save Zion
and rebuild the cities of Judah.
Then people will settle there and possess it;
36the children of his servants will inherit it,
and those who love his name will dwell there." (69:33-36)

While it is possible that David penned these verses -- he was a prophet, you know -- I think it is more likely that David's psalm which was being used in the synagogues of Babylon was appended with these by an unknown prophet of the time.

A Psalm for the Brokenhearted

Psalm 69 is a call from the depths of a broken spirit to God. If you've ever been utterly overwhelmed by your circumstances, this psalm can be your prayer to God -- and a model prayer for you in future times of struggle. Pour out your soul to Him. Tell him what you are feeling. Then praise him and give him thanks and you'll find that your spirit will begin to lift, your hope will arise, your faith will come out of hiding. No, this is not a psalm that looks to rituals for healing, but the God who heals the hearts of his people. I hear the psalmist's words ring in my own ears:

"The poor will see and be glad --
you who seek God, may your hearts live!" (69:32)

Grant it, Lord Jesus!

Q2. (Psalm 69:30-32) Why does this lament (and nearly all laments in the Psalms) end with an upswing of hope and praise? What does this teach us about our own laments and prayers? Why is praise, the language of faith, so important in our prayers, especially prayers of desperate pleas for help?




Psalm 40 -- O My God, Do Not Delay

Our second psalm of rescue seems to be, "Out of the frying pan, into the fire." At the beginning of the psalm, David is recounting his long waiting for the Lord to help him and then his spectacular deliverance. He is pumped up by this and shares his testimony "in the great assembly" so that every one knows how great God is. But at the end of the psalm his sins have overtaken him once more, "troubles without number surround me" (40:12a) and he calls out for help and deliverance again. With hope, with expectation, but also with an urgency that concludes, "O my God, do not delay" (40:17d).

If you've read David's life in 1 and 2 Samuel, you'll recall his numerous troubles. At one period of his life he is pursued again and again by his jealous father-in-law Saul, intent on taking his life. Victory at one turn is followed by trouble at the next. At a later tragic period his own son Absalom chases him from Jerusalem into exile, from which he returns in the anguish of a father whose traitorous but beloved son lies dead.

If you're a person who has seen ups and downs, times of great deliverance followed quickly by great extremity, then this is a psalm for you.

He Put a New Song in My Mouth (40:1-3)

The title tells us: "For the director of music. Of David. A psalm." This psalm, penned by David, "the sweet psalmist of Israel" (2 Samuel 23:1), was meant to be sung. It begins with a recollection of praise after a long period of waiting for deliverance.

"1I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
2He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
3He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD." (40:1-3)

"I waited patiently for the LORD," describes many of our circumstances. In the Hebrew text the verbs are doubled for emphasis (the infinitive absolute), "Expecting, I expected," indicating not so much patience perhaps, than a prolonged period of waiting. The NASB renders it, "I waited intently for the LORD." You've been there, haven't you?

David describes his time of trouble as a "horrible pit" (KJV), "the slimy pit" (NIV), "the desolate pit" (NRSV), literally the "pit of tumult" (NRSV margin). In contrast to mud and mire where he could find no bottom on which to stand, God set his feet on the stability of a rock, "a firm place to stand."

Now he is full of praise and song. David sees his experience as a public testimony of God's powerful ability to deliver that will cause many to "put their trust in the LORD." In verse 10 he mentions speaking openly "in the great congregation" of this deliverance. When God delivers you, do you offer praise and share your testimony openly of how God has helped you, or do you keep it to yourself?

Blessed Is the Person Who Trusts in This Caring God (40:4-5)

Now David offers a couple of verses of praise towards the God of infinite care, blessing, and deliverance.

"4Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.
5Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare." (40:4-5)

I am struck by verse 5b: "The things you planned for us no one can recount to you" because of their great number. "Your thoughts toward us" (NRSV). When I meditate on this phrase I am filled with quiet joy, almost tears. I am so insignificant, yet mighty Yahweh thinks about me and my path, about you and your path. We would drown in a sea of data about billions of living humans, but God is not overwhelmed. His love, his caring, is personal, individual, unhurried.

I once asked a neighbor who lived down the street if I could pray for his struggling bicycle business. "No," he said. "I wouldn't want to bother God about something as trivial as my business." How tragic to turn away a God who truly cares for you, whose thoughts are toward us and our needs. Not even a sparrow is forgotten by God, much less you! (Luke 12:6-7).

Q3. (Psalm 40:5b) When you realize that God's thoughts and plans are focused on you in particular, how does that make you respond?




In the Scroll of the Book It Is Written of Me (40:6-8)

The next verses are remarkable -- and prophetic:

"6Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.
7Then I said, 'Here I am, I have come --
it is written about me in the scroll.
8I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.'" (40:6-8)

First, David affirms what other Old Testament prophets have seen: God isn't excited by a heaping up of animal sacrifices. What he wants instead is "an open ear" (6b, NJB, NRSV, "my ears you have pierced," NIV), a willing, obedient spirit, "I desire to do your will" (8a). We see a similar idea in David's great penitential psalm:

"You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise." (Psalm 51:16-17)

So often we are content to absolve our guilt through some kind of external ritual that God has provided for our assurance. But we must go beyond the external to the inward, to the heart that is willing, to the heart that is now grieved for its folly, to the heart that is broken of its pride and is contrite in its intent.

But David's words in Psalm 40 speak of someone beyond himself, Jesus, about whom the scriptures speak in many places. These verses are quoted in Hebrews, following the early Septuagint translation at key points, pointing to Christ's own coming:

"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, 'Here I am -- it is written about me in the scroll --
I have come to do your will, O God.'" (Hebrews 10:5-7)

David's Public Testimony (40:9-10)

"9I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips,
as you know, O LORD.
10I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly." (40:9-10)

Part of our thankfulness and praise is to let others know what God has done for us. We're sometimes afraid of what others might think or that we might not be able to measure up in the future to our high calling, and so we are silent. But we are called to give testimony, both in church and to our friends and neighbors with whom we live. How do we know that a simple and humble word of how Jesus has helped us won't be the very thing that God will use to turn a neighbor's heart towards himself?

Troubles without Number Surround Me (40:11-12)

But David's respite from trouble doesn't seem to last long -- and neither does ours:

"11Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.
12For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me."

David's phrase, "My sins have overtaken me" (nāśag, "overtake, catch up with"12), suggests a man pursued by enemies and problems, some of which are of his own making. Sound familiar? David finds it overwhelming: "I cannot see!" His problems seem innumerable to him and he is suddenly afraid: "My heart fails within me." You've been there, surely!

A Returning Confidence that Expects God's Salvation (40:13-16)

But David recovers quickly from his panic and calls out to the Lord with a confidence borne of experience in trouble and seeing God's deliverance:

"13Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.
14May all who seek to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
15May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
be appalled at their own shame.
16But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
'The LORD be exalted!'" (40:13-16)

There are always those who will see our trouble and say "Aha! I told you so! I knew this would happen!" David contrasts the shame that he prays for his enemies with the blessing that he calls down upon the believers, "those who love your salvation." Instead of cringing in fear and doubt when trouble comes, they call out confidently "The LORD be exalted!" -- or, the way it sometimes comes out of my mouth, "Praise the Lord anyway!"

O My God, Do Not Delay (40:17)

This psalm concludes with faith coupled with humility.

"Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay." (40:17)

Sometimes we become bold in ourselves. David is careful to remember his true state, "poor and needy," while at the same time calling with confidence on God in His true state -- "My Help and my Deliverer!" David concludes with a petition that many of us have felt. Yes, we have waited patiently -- waited and waited (verse 1), but our desire is to get this over with now! "O my God, do not delay!" (verse 17d).

Psalm 40 is a wonderfully human psalm, the desperate cry of one who is in deep trouble. But what inspires us is not its humanness, but its faith and its hope in the midst of this trouble and the psalmist's sincere surrender to the God whose thoughts are focused on him, the God who holds the plan for his life. And so he responds:

"Here I am, I have come....
I desire to do your will, O my God." (40:7-8)
Q4. (Psalm 40:17) In this verse David combines both humility and faith in his prayer to God. Why are both humility and faith necessary? What happens when one of these qualities is missing?



Psalm 80 -- Restore Us, O God

Our third psalm of rescue is a psalm that seems to come from the period of the exile, when the cities of Israel had been destroyed. It was a traumatic time for the people of God, severely chastened for their sin and idolatry, dragged off to a foreign land. They looked with nostalgia upon their days in their homeland and called out to God for restoration. The title reads:

"For the director of music. To the tune of 'The Lilies of the Covenant.' Of Asaph. A psalm."

This psalm came from the musical family of the descendents of Asaph, a temple singer. Even the tune of this song is specified, though no one knows it today.

Rather than studying it verse by verse, read it as it must have been read with its three refrains. Note the powerful images:

  • A shepherd with his flock (80:1a)
  • The presence of God enthroned upon the ark in all his glory in the temple (80:1b)
  • The bread of tears (80:5)
  • The vineyard, once fruitful, now destroyed, whose protective walls or hedges are now broken down (80:8-16)

It is a sorrowful psalm. Instead of being a personal lament like Psalms 69 and 40 which we considered above, this is a national lament, a prayer for national deliverance. Once the nation was young, brought out of slavery in Egypt during the Exodus and planted like a tender vine in the vineyard of Canaan land. But now its hope and promise are but a memory. The nation has sinned and God has punished their persistent idolatry and rebellion with foreign armies that have destroyed its cities and carried its people into exile.

Revive Us Again (80:18-19)

The central petition of this psalm is for rebirth, revival, for restoration of the nation. Look at the final verses:

"Revive us, and we will call on your name.
Restore us, O LORD God Almighty...." (80:18b-19a)

"Revive us" (NIV, NASB), "quicken us" (KJV), "give us life" (NRSV, NJB) is the verb ḥāyā, "live, have life, remain alive, sustain life, revive from sickness."13

"Restore us" (NIV, NRSV, NASB), "bring us back" (NJB), "turn us again" (KJV) is the common verb shûb, "turn, return." It is the word used often for "repent." But here it is a plea for God to turn and return his people from their fallen state in exile to a rebirth of the nation in their homeland. We see a similar sentiment in the exile-era psalm from the Sons of Korah and its plaintive prayer in Psalm 85:

"Restore (shûb) us again, O God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us.
Will you be angry with us forever?
Will you prolong your anger through all generations?
Will you not revive (ḥāyā) us again,
that your people may rejoice in you?" (Psalm 85:4-6)

When I read these words I think of the final verse of a great hymn of a bygone era:

"Revive us again;
Fill each heart with Thy love;
May each soul be rekindled
With fire from above.
   Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
   Hallelujah! Amen.
   Hallelujah! Thine the glory.
   Revive us again."14

And I think of churches -- individual congregations as well as whole denominations and movements -- that need revival in the worst possible way. Unless God quickens us, gives us life again, we are but a shell of the former glory that God shone in our midst. We desperately need revival. We see some younger Christian movements that are vibrant and growing, but too many others that are in decline, that are going through the motions but the "the glory is departed" (1 Samuel 4:21).

God grant revival in our churches. Not that we might pride ourselves as we did in the past, but that you might be seen in our midst as you once were! Revive the Baptists! Revive the Presbyterians! Revive the Congregationalists and Nazarenes and Holiness! Revive the Pentecostals! Revive the Catholics! Revive the Orthodox! We need your revival, your life, your power, your glory. Forgive us for our sins and bickering. We repent of our gradual drift away from your purpose for us. Focus our eyes and desire again on our First Love. And revive your life in us, we pray!

Q5. (Psalm 80) If you were to formulate a personal prayer for revival for your own life or for your congregation, how would you word it? What elements should be present in a prayer for personal or congregational revival? What would this prayer have in common with 2 Chronicles 7:14? How does this kind of prayer pave the way for revival and restoration to take place?



Make Your Face Shine upon Us (80:3, 17, 19)

The refrain of Psalm 80 refocuses the participants in this corporate song and prayer onto God himself:

"Restore us, O LORD God Almighty;
make your face shine upon us,
that we may be saved." (80:3, 17, 19)

It is a three-fold prayer to Yahweh, the God Almighty, the only one who is powerful enough to turn around the decay of the past into the fresh life that we long for.

  1. Restore us
  2. Make your face shine upon us
  3. Save us

What does it mean to ask God to "make your face shine upon us"? We are familiar with the words from the Aaronic benediction that is repeated in many congregations:

"The LORD bless you, and keep you.
The LORD make his face shine upon you,
and be gracious unto you.
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you,
and give you peace." (Numbers 6:25-26)
Experiencing the Psalms, by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson, a Bible study on Psalms in 12 lessons
Now all the lessons are available together in e-book and paperback formats.

In Near Eastern thought, a person's face referred to his presence before you. We looked at this concept in conjunction with Psalm 27 about seeking the face of the Lord. For Yahweh to "make his face shine upon you" and the parallel "lift up his countenance upon you," means to smile when he is with us, to show favor to us because he is pleased with us, "to be gracious toward." To "lift up his countenance upon you" meant to look directly at his people, to give them his full attention resulting in peace. 15

The psalms of lament have taught us much about prayer with praise, about grace and mercy, about our need for revival and renewal. May the prayers of your servants the psalmists be answered in our own lives! Grant it, Lord God.

Exercise. For one of the psalms in this lesson -- or another psalm with a similar theme -- do one of the suggested exercises to help you experience the Psalms (www.jesuswalk.com/psalms/psalms-exercises.htm). These include such things as praying a psalm, meditating, reading to a shut-in, paraphrasing, writing your own psalm, singing, preparing a liturgy, and memorizing. Then report to the forum what the exercise meant to you personally or share what you've written with others.


Lord, you know us. You know our sorrows and our personal laments. Teach us -- teach me -- to turn my laments into a prayer of faith that you can answer. Heal the broken elements of my life that I might be whole. Bring me and my congregation the grace of a God-sent restoration and revival. Restore us again, O God our Savior, to our first love -- Jesus. In His name, we pray. Amen.


  • "Eternal Father, Strong to Save" (Navy Hymn), words by William Whiting (1860), music by John B. Dykes (1861).
  • "He Brought Me Out of the Miry Clay," words Henry J. Zelley (1898), refrain and music by Henry L. Gilmour
  • "He Took My Feet from the Miry Clay," traditional African American spiritual.
  • "I Waited for the Lord" (Psalm 40:1-6), words and music by Bill Bastone (© 1982 Maranatha! Music)
  • "Psalm 5" (Give ear to my words, O Lord), words and music by Bill Sprouse, Jr. (© 1975,Marnatha! Music). Psalm 5.
  • "Revive Us Again," words by William P. Mackay (1863), music by John J. Husband (1815)
  • "Save Me, O God, the Swelling Floods," words: Isaac Watts (1719), Music: Cheshire (1579)
  • "Wait on the Lord," words and music by Bob Cull (© 1978, Maranatha! Music)
  • "Unto Thee, O Lord," words and music by Charles Monroe (© 1971, 1973, Maranatha! Music)


  1. Kirkpatrick, Psalms, p. 397; White, Psalms, p. 106.
  2. Ralph H. Alexander, ṭyṭ, TWOT #796a. See also Psalm 40:2; Jeremiah 38:6.
  3. John Donne, Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions (1624), Meditation 17.
  4. In some cases, David does appeal to God based on his own righteousness or the rightness of his cause: Psalms 7:3; 18:20, 24; 26:1-12.
  5. William White, rāṣā, TWOT #2207a.
  6. R. Laird Harris, ḥsd, TWOT #698a.
  7. Leonard J. Coppes, rāḥam, TWOT #2146b.
  8. John E. Hartley, yāsha`, TWOT #929a.
  9. Milton C. Fisher, nāṣal, TWOT #1404.
  10. Milton C. Fisher, gā´al, TWOT #1404.
  11. William B. Coker, pādā, TWOT #1734.
  12. Nāśag, Holladay 247. This verb often occurs as a complement to rādap "pursue" (Milton C. Fisher, nāśag, TWOT #1422.
  13. Elmer B. Smick, ḥāyā, TWOT #644.
  14. "Revive Us Again," words by William P. Mackay (1863), music by John J. Husband (1815).
  15. R.K. Harrison, Numbers: An Exegetical Commentary (Baker Book House, 1992), p. 133.

Copyright © 2024, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

Sign up now!To be notified about future articles, stories, and Bible studies, why don't you subscribe to our free newsletter,The Joyful Heart, by placing your e-mail address in the box below. We respect your privacy and never sell, rent, or loan our lists. Please don't subscribe your friends; let them decide for themselves.
Country(2-letter abbreviation, such as US)
Preferred FormatHTML (recommended) Plain text