The Desire of the Afflicted

I love the Psalms.  It is an Old Testament book chock-full of worship songs.  They portray the full range of human emotions from deep sorrow to exuberant joy.  Whenever I find myself somewhere along that spectrum, I mosey over to the Psalms for seeking either comfort, encouragement, or instruction.  Sometimes I do not know my motivation for turning to this Old Testament book, but invariably, I will land on a Psalm that speaks to my heart and soul.  For example, I parked myself on the following verses over the weekend, which close out the tenth Psalm:

17 O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear 18 to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed, so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more” (Psalm 10:17-18, ESV).

These words go deep.  They are what my soul longs to hear in addition to what every soul longs to hear.  The entire tenth Psalm is a plea for God to deliver the afflicted from the clutches of the wicked.  To be sure, there are many Old Testament examples of this that predate Psalm 10: Noah and his family during the days of the Flood; Lot and his family from Sodom and Gomorrah; and the Israelites from their bondage to Egypt (Genesis 6-8; 19:12-26; and Exodus 15, ESV).  What I find intriguing about Psalm 10 is that the author does not appeal to those past, historical accounts of God’s deliverance.

There are numerous Psalms where the writers do exactly that with their words.  Instead, the writer of Psalm 10 appeals to God and his character for deliverance.  The Psalmist declares about God that “…[he] hears the desire of the afflicted, strengthens their hearts, and inclines his ear to do justice toward the fatherless and the oppressed…” (Psalm 10:17-18, ESV).  Each of those pronouncements reveal the depth of the Psalmist’s faith and confidence in the Lord.  Clearly, his faith did not spring up in a vacuum.  It goes without saying that Psalm 10 never would have been written without the author being in a personal, relationship with God.  Another way to express this is to say that the Psalmist knows God rather than merely knowing about him.

When I step back and reflect on the tenth Psalm, I see how it serves as a model for coming into God’s presence with boldness.  The very first verse begins with the Psalmist saying, “Why, O Lord, do you stand far away?  Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble” (Psalm 10:1, ESV)?  These are not questions of doubt regarding God and his character rather questions that reveal to the Lord that the Psalmist knows him.  Abraham responds in a similar fashion in the fifteenth chapter of Genesis where he voices his anguish over being childless even though God has promised him a land and countless offspring (Genesis 15:1-5, ESV).  Moses speaks out God’s promises to his Lord and his anguish over being the chosen leader of a stubborn people; however, the Lord responds in kind like he did to Abraham (Exodus 33:12-19, ESV).  Here is where I am going with this train of thought.    

In the New Testament, the Spirit of God has provided every follower of Christ with explicit examples of men and women in the past, who walked by faith and approached the throne of grace with confidence.  Both Abraham and Moses end up as examples of them in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews (Heb. 11:8-10, 17-19, 23-28, ESV).  This is only the beginning.  The tenth chapter of Hebrews explains how Christ’s vicarious atonement on the cross is the ground for the believer’s boldness and confidence before the Lord.  Old Testament saints like Abraham, Moses, and the writer of Psalm ten looked forward to Christ whereas New Testament believers look back to the cross.  The object of our faith is the same: Jesus and him crucified.  The Father’s gift of his Son paves the way for the believer’s boldness while displaying his bold heart and concern for his people.

From my point-of-view, it seems to me that the Lord has the character to handle bold and challenging prayers from his people.  He responds to Abraham and Moses with firm words of assurance about his purposes and plans.  It is true that the author of Psalm ten does not include an explicit response from the Lord to whom he prays.  That being said, the Psalmist’s words illustrate bold, assurance in the Lord, which suggests quite strongly that the author had prior experiences with God’s deliverance.  If this is not the case, then the words themselves have no meaning whatsoever.  Of course, the Psalmist’s words do mean something within their historical context; however, they also transcend it by pointing to a time when God will vindicate the fatherless and the oppressed once and for all.  In New Testament language, this is Christ’s second advent also called the blessed hope (Titus 2:13; Revelation 19:11-21, ESV). Marantha, come Lord Jesus!

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