Posted November 06, 2015
 Out of my distress I called on the LORD;the LORD answered me and set me free. The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.What can man do to me? The LORD is on my side as my helper;I shall look in triumph on those who hate me. It is better to take refuge in the LORDthan to trust in man.
Psalm 118 rings out as a beautiful psalm of thanksgiving and praise, from beginning to end. Verses 1-4 call all of God’s people to give thanks for His goodness and steadfast love; in verse 5, the psalmist begins to recount his own personal experience of this goodness and steadfast love. This experience came to the psalmist amidst distress, some form of imprisonment or slavery (“He set me free”), whilst also experiencing both fear and being surrounded by enemies. Because this psalm is part of the “Egyptian Hallel,” this could be a reference to God’s liberating His people from Egypt. What did the psalmist see of God in the midst of hardship?
The God Who Answers and Liberates
The psalmist was distressed; he was helpless and needed the intervention of Someone stronger. He was powerless to do for himself what was ultimately needed, but he knew where to run. Charles Spurgeon commented, “Prayers which come out of distress generally come out of the heart, and therefore they go to the heart of God. It is sweet to recollect our prayers, and often profitable to tell others of them after they are heard. Prayer may be bitter in the offering, but it will be sweet in the answering. The man of God had called upon the Lord when he was not in distress, and therefore he found it natural and easy to call upon him when he was in distress. He worshipped he praised, he prayed: for all this is included in calling upon God, even when he was in a straitened condition.” Distress in life will come and you will run somewhere and call out to someone or something for help. Who or what will that be? The psalmist knew God was his only hope. Not only did the psalmist cry out, but God answered him. How do we know God answered? Because the psalmist was set free. Whatever it was that was constraining or imprisoning him no longer held him down. God is the Great Hearer and Liberator! He’s ever attentive and ever active to free His children.
The God On Our Side
This God who answers & frees points to a further truth: God is on the side of His people. Often when we hear this phrase, we can misconstrue its meaning. We think that we’re the center of the universe, and God functions as the one who carries out the desires of our hearts. He’s the One who ensures we’re happy by accessorizing our lives with whatever whims we may have. This is not what this phrase means! The truth is that God is ultimately the One for Whom all creation exists for, and we live to carry out His desires. Why is God on the side of His people? Because they are on His side; they are His people. He is for them because He is their God. He has marked them as holy and set apart. God’s people exist to make much of God, not the other way around!
The God Who Helps
This is the amazing truth: that though God is at the center of the universe, He doesn’t use His status as an excuse to simply be served; He serves and helps. Isn’t that amazing? As we think of earthly rulers and powers, that can often lead to a lack of empathy and help for others. Not for God! He is our example of what power should look like for the good of others. For further reflection, consider Jesus as the powerful servant in Philippians 2:5-11 and John 13:1-20 who uses His authority to serve those around Him. It’s not one that gets annoyed with the neediness of others, but rather one that responds and reaches out and helps. Not only is He on our side, but He is on our side to help us. We are always in the role of those who need help, and He is always in the role of the helper! This is the way God intended our relationship to be… One of beautiful reliance.
The God Who Is A Refuge
Not only does God help us, but He also opens His protective home to us; He is a perfect refuge to us. He doesn’t merely snap His finger from afar and have a servant do His bidding for us. Rather, He opens wide His doors to invite us into His home as a refuge from the storm and the enemies. In fact, He is the only safe refuge there is; no other refuge can provide true refuge. Why is it better to take refuge in the Lord instead of trusting in man? Because God is the only One who can truly follow through with His word. Many boast of being a safe refuge, like money or political power, but ultimately anything else other than God can and will fail us.
We trust in Jesus, not our own works or the work of another man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord and not in anyone or anything else; His wounds are our only sure refuge and steady foundation.
Song by Ryan DeLange.
Artwork by Roary Tubbs.
Devotional by Joel Limpic.