Psalms - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 1 Lesson 04 - The Lord Hears and Delivers

Teachers Comments
Jan 20 - Jan 26

Key Text: Psalm 34:17

The Psalter is a book of prayer. Whatever the subject—whether praise, lament, the Messianic hope, the kingdom of God, or redemption ­history—the psalmists manifest strong confidence in the Lord. No matter what their needs or circumstances, they trust that the Creator will abide with them.

Last week, we considered the supremacy of God and how, as Divine Sovereign, He is depicted in the Psalms—that is, as our Creator, King, and Judge. These depictions, and the statements of faith that grow out of them, inspire the psalmists with confidence to believe that God will deliver His children from any difficult circumstance. Let’s carefully consider, and internalize, this wonderful assurance. Be ready to share with your class members the enthusiasm this hope engenders.

Part II: Commentary

God Hears

The psalmist constantly pleads with the Lord to hear him. Several psalms start with a cry for YHWH to listen: Psalm 4:1, Psalm 13:3, Psalm 17:1, Psalm 27:1, Psalm 28:2, Psalm 54:2, Psalm 55:2, Psalm 60:5, Psalm 61:1, Psalm 64:1, Psalm 86:1, Psalm 102:1, Psalm 108:6, Psalm 130:2, Psalm 140:6, Psalm 142:6, and Psalm 143:1. In such songs, the psalmist cries out to God, his heart filled with grief: “O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!” (Ps. 84:8, NKJV; emphasis supplied). In their prayers, the psalmists insist on being heard (Ps. 30:10; Ps. 38:16; Ps. 39:12; Ps. 66:16; Ps. 69:13, 16, 17; Ps. 119:145, 149). They cry out in the assurance that “the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles” (Ps. 34:17, NKJV).

Sometimes the writers of the Psalms affirm that God has heard their complaints and needs (Ps. 22:24, Ps. 28:7, Ps. 31:22, Ps. 34:4, Ps. 40:1, Ps. 66:19, Ps. 116:1, Ps. 120:1): “I cried out to God with my voice—to God with my voice; and He gave ear to me” (Ps. 77:1, NKJV). Remembering God’s answers to prayer in the past strengthens the psalmists in the assurance that He will answer them now and in the future. In full confidence of a divine response, the psalmists state repeatedly that the Lord will answer their prayers (Ps. 4:1; Ps. 6:8, 9; Ps. 10:7; Ps. 17:6; Ps. 65:2). They assure us that God is available to hear our prayers morning, noon, or night (Ps. 5:3, Ps. 55:17). Experience has proven that, even if family fails them, God will hear their cry (Ps. 106:44).

“To hear, to listen” (Hebrew shamah) means more than to perceive the voice or register a sound. In the context of the Lord as auditor, the word hear, or listen, also means to act. That is, we can trust that God will act for His people in response to their prayers. When Israel was enslaved in Egypt, the Lord “heard” (Exod. 2:24), and He delivered them. The book of Psalms is an invitation to us to have this same level of confidence.

God Cares

In the book of Psalms, the Lord is depicted as a powerful King, ready to fight for His people. At the same time, He also is represented as a kind and loving God who cares for those who believe in Him. Various images are used to portray God’s tender care. God is depicted as a tender Shepherd taking care of His defenseless sheep (Psalm 23). As their Shepherd, He provides everything for them (Ps. 23:1)—rest, food, and water (Ps. 23:2); comfort and guidance (Ps. 23:3); His presence in the valley of the shadow of death (Ps. 23:4); abundance (Ps. 23:5); and goodness and mercy (Ps. 23:6).

The psalmist also uses the figure of a bird, protecting its young under its wings, to portray God’s watch care (Ps. 91:1, 4). God, our Keeper, is ever alert to the needs of His children (Ps. 121:4). He is like a father who pities his children (Ps. 103:13) and also is the Protector of the fatherless. Yet, God’s love and protection transcend even the human, parental bonds of love: “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take care of me” (Ps. 27:10, NKJV).

What tender depictions of God’s solicitude on behalf of every one of us. May such pictures inspire us to lean fully on Him and trust His care in every aspect of our lives.

God Is Our Shelter

The Bible is stingy in its use of adjectives. To compensate for this paucity of modifiers, the Hebrew poets strongly depend on comparisons to articulate their ideas, using a wide array of rich metaphors to express, for example, how God protects His followers in a complicated world: “For You have been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy” (Ps. 61:3, NKJV). Let’s take a brief moment to consider the connotations of the specific images in these comparisons:

  1. Shelter—(Ps. 61:3, Ps. 143:9). This image suggests a safe place amid war, a refuge from storm and heat.

  2. Tower—(Ps. 61:3). Towers in biblical times had a much stronger meaning as a safeguard than they do today. In times of war or persecution, the people hid in a tower, as in the cases of Gideon (Judg. 8:17) and Abimelech (Judg. 9:50–52).

Psalm 18:1, 2 provides a collection of other metaphors applied to YHWH, drawn from the rest of the Psalter:

  1. Strength—This term alludes to the idea of firmness, as in the One who is our support.

  2. A Rock—Usually this term in the Hebrew language referred to a big stone on a cliff that afforded protection from attacks. The remnant of Benjamin fled and hid in the rock of Rimmon (Judg. 20:47). Thus, they were spared from annihilation.

  3. A Fortress—Fortresses were small, well-defended military posts. Jehoshaphat built many such fortresses in the land of Judah to protect his kingdom (2 Chron. 17:12).

  4. A Shield—This piece of armor was the soldier’s greatest defense on the battlefield (see also Ps. 114:2).

  5. A Stronghold—Symbols of security, strongholds were defensive structures built in the mountains (Judg. 6:2) or in the wilderness (1 Sam. 23:14, 19).

Imagine the ways in which these images might be reinvented in modern terms to help us understand God’s watch care and protection for us today. For sure, the Lord provides us with His guardianship, day by day, amid the perils of this world.

God Is Our Defender

God is our Vindicator, our Advocate, and our Champion. This imagery is obviously drawn from the legal realm (Job 5:4) and is primarily employed in the context of the widow and the fatherless. The book of Job and the Psalms depict the Lord as the Defender of widows and orphans (Ps. 68:5, Hebrew dayin, meaning “judge”). Dayin is paired with “my right and my cause” (Ps. 9:4), or parallels with judgment, as in Psalm 76:8, where God is depicted as the Defender of the needy and the oppressed (Ps. 10:17, 18; compare with Deut. 10:18, Ps. 10:14). God is praised by the poor (Ps. 74:21) because “He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard” (Ps. 22:24, NKJV). YHWH always defends the oppressed (Ps. 72:4, Ps. 103:6, Ps. 146:7).

God, Our Deliverer

All the terms and metaphors we have considered depict various aspects of God’s watch care over His followers. Hence, the Lord is called our Deliverer. Four times He is called Deliverer in the book of Psalms, as follows:

  1. Psalm 18:2 names God as Deliverer in the context of the psalmist’s struggles with his enemies. As we have seen, this song depicts the Lord as a mighty warrior.

  2. Psalm 40:17 talks about deliverance from sin. David acknowledges the crushing reality that “innumerable evils have surrounded me; my iniquities have overtaken me” (Ps. 40:12, NKJV).

  3. The psalmist calls on his Deliverer (Ps. 70:5) when he is attacked by those who seek his life and desire to do him harm.

  4. In Psalm 144, the psalmist asks his Deliverer (Ps. 144:2) to rescue him from the one “whose mouth speaks lying words, and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood” (Ps. 144:8, NKJV).

As the Psalms show, God wants to deliver us from our sins, anxieties, and problems with other people. Thus, in the fullest sense of the word, Jesus is our Savior.

Help From the Sanctuary

The purpose of our study this week is not simply to admire the literary prowess and artistry of the psalmists. More than the pleasure such skillful imagery affords us, the figures and metaphors of the Psalms furnish us with deep insights into the work of God in the redemption of humanity. David says: “I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me from His holy hill [His sanctuary]” (Ps. 3:4); and “He heard my voice from His temple” (Ps. 18:6, NKJV). Thus, God’s work of deliverance and His tender watch care begin with His work for us in the sanctuary in heaven.

Several key moments in the book of Psalms teach us that the Lord works on behalf of humans in His heavenly headquarters (see Ps. 11:5, 6; Ps. 20:2; Ps. 29:9; Ps. 33:13, 14; Ps. 60:6; Ps. 68:35; Ps. 96:1–13; Ps. 102:20, 21; and Ps. 150:1–6). After a study of these passages, along with other Old Testament texts related to the sanctuary, Elias Brasil de Souza states: “The heavenly sanctuary is also depicted as a place of worship where heavenly beings adore YHWH, source of help, and place of atonement, where cleansing and forgiveness are granted.”—“The Heavenly Sanctuary/Temple Motif in the Hebrew Bible: Function and Relationship to the Earthly Counterparts” (dissertation, Andrews University, 2005), p. 358.

Our Defender and Deliverer hears from His holy hill and works in our behalf. For the most part, as Seventh-day Adventists, when we hear the expression “heavenly sanctuary,” we most often think of the Day of Atonement and the pre-Advent judgment. Of course, that’s central to “present truth.” At the same time, we should strive to focus on the work of forgiveness, defense, care, and protection that our Lord offers us from the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary—even before the closing work of the Day of Atonement. Christ’s work of priestly intercession on our behalf is essential. All heaven is involved in the redemption of us sinners.

Part III: Life Application

The Psalms is a book of strong emotions that run the gamut from the ecstatic to the elegiac, and from the complex to the uncomplicated. But Psalms also is a book of deep theological concepts. The Bible truths studied this week, rich with imagery and metaphor, contain wonderful promises that we may claim in our daily struggles. As we read the imagery and figures of the Psalms, we should take time to meditate upon them, using our imagination to understand better the truths encapsulated in these profound word pictures.

The focus of this week has been to understand that the Lord of heaven is our Defender and Deliverer. He hears our prayers and petitions. He cares for us. “The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men” (Ps. 33:13, NKJV). With a compassionate and tender heart, the Lord scrutinizes us and our families. From the heavenly sanctuary, He weighs our works with infinite love and justice.