Wednesday, July 15, 2009

If Only We Would

Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Psalm 107.8 (KJV)

Saved from Ourselves

Psalm 107 is interesting for many reasons, one of which is its structure. It reads more closely to a traditional hymn than most other psalms: stanza-chorus, stanza-chorus. The first stanza is about people who can’t find a home. “Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them.” (v5) and the Lord delivers them out of the their troubles (v6-7). Hence the chorus: “O that men would praise the LORD for His goodness…”

Then, the song takes a fascinating turn. It becomes about how God saves us from ourselves. The second stanza is about rebels “against the words of God” (v11) who land in prison. God brings them “out of darkness and the shadow of death.” (v13) Stanza three focuses on people whose cravings for pleasure supplant their will to survive. “Their soul abhors all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death.” (v18) Yet, despite their self-indulgence, God “sent His word and healed them and delivered them from their destructions.” (v20). The next stanza talks about people whose over-reliance on intelligence results in hubris. “They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble.” (v26) Still, God saves them. He makes the storm calm; He brings these explorers to “their desired haven.” (v30) And after every example of God’s merciful guidance out of self-inflicted trouble, a chorus rises: Oh that men would praise the LORD!

Help That Happens

Whether it’s a rebellious nature, insatiable craving, or intellectual pride that gets us into trouble, in the end, we’ll need God’s help. And, as the psalm says, help will come. Many times, however, our problems get compounded because we’re so caught up in our drama we won’t accept God’s help because (from our view) it’s out-of-scale with our turmoil. In 1 Kings, we see the prophet Elijah hiding in a cave because he’s opposed Ahab and Jezebel, the idolatrous monarchs of Israel. He waits for God to save him. A big wind howls, but God isn’t in the wind. An earthquake shakes the ground beneath him; no God there, either. A fire breaks out; sorry, no help there. Then, a still, small voice whispers into the cave: “What are you doing here, Elijah? Get up and get going. I’ve mounted an army in your defense.”

What utter arrogance to think we can dictate the scale and nature of our rescue—as though big trouble deserves big salvation. We don’t need help that impresses; we want help that happens. Many of you already know this proverbial story, but it bears repeating. A flood sweeps through a town and sends one of its citizens to his roof. A boat comes by and offers him a lift. “No thank you,” he says, “I prayed and God’s going to save me.” Later, a helicopter pilot lowers a lifeline but the man waves him away. “Thank you, but no—God’s going to save me.” The water eventually overtakes the man, who now stands before his Maker with disappointment and anger crossing his face. “I thought you were going to save me,” he complains. “I sent a boat. I sent a helicopter,” God answers. Psalm 107 assures us God will lift us out of our despair and anxiety; we may not care for His mode of transportation—it may not suit our “style”—but He will lift us. If only we would praise Him for this, instead of passing on the boats and helicopters and continuing to fret about how we’ll be saved!

Praising With All

“Praise the LORD, O my soul,” Psalm 103.1-2 reads. “All my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.” The help and salvation we seek are on their way. In many cases, they’ve already come. If only we would praise God instead of doubt He’s coming to our assistance or complain about how He’s working in our lives. Psalm 22.3 tells us our praise is God’s throne; the glory we raise to Him becomes His dwelling. Therefore, ensuring and activating God’s presence in our situations starts with praise. And when He’s present, help is present. So, if we connect the dots, praise makes help happen. If only we would stop getting into trouble and start praising our way out!

Instead of being concerned about HOW help happens, we should praise God THAT help happens.

(Tomorrow: Seeing God)

No comments: