The Book of Psalms

Hope in God Alone, Part 2


Theme: How to Approach God
In this week’s lessons we learn how to approach God in prayer, how to address evil, and the need for thanksgiving.
Scripture: Psalm 28:1-9
Yesterday I referred to a parable that has bearing on this psalm. At this point it is hard not to think of another thing Jesus said. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus was led into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He spent forty days fasting and praying, and at the end of that time he was hungry. Satan came to him with the suggestion that he use his divine powers to turn some of the stones that were lying around him into bread. “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread,” Satan said (Matt. 4:3). Jesus’ reply was a citation from the book of Deuteronomy: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (v. 4; cf. Deut. 8:3).
I wonder if you have ever thought about your life in those terms. All Christians speak about spiritual life and how much more important it is than mere physical life. We quote Jesus words: “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul” (Matt. 16:26)? But if the only way life is received and sustained is by hearing the words of God, shouldn’t we be profoundly serious about our relationship to God, indeed, much more serious than we are? If we really believed that we are perishing apart from hearing the voice of God, as David apparently did, wouldn’t we pray more? Wouldn’t we be always crying out to him in prayer and seeking his face through diligent Bible study?
Or let me put it another way. Since David speaks of “the pit,” imagine yourself standing on the edge of a tremendous pit about to topple into it to certain death. Wouldn’t you cry out for help in such circumstances? And if you knew a person was there who could help you, wouldn’t you keep calling out to him or her until the person did?
Here are two more things we need to see about David’s appeal to God in this stanza.
First, his attitude. David is not praying arrogantly or belligerently, as if God owed him anything. God is no man’s debtor. Rather, he is asking for mercy. Later, in Psalm 34, he will report on God’s answer in corresponding terms, saying, “This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles” (v. 6).
Second, the basis of his appeal. The last line of the stanza describes David lifting up his hands toward God’s “Most Holy Place.” This refers to the innermost part of the tabernacle or temple enclosure, where the Ark of the Covenant rested. The significant thing about this is that it was there that the blood sacrifices were offered for the nation’s sin on the annual Day of Atonement.
So when David addresses his appeal toward God’s Most Holy Place he is telling God that he is coming on the basis of the shed blood, a sinner who knows that his sin must be atoned for before he can approach the Almighty. This is exactly the way the tax collector approached God in Jesus parable, praying, “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” (Luke 18:13). In that prayer the words “have mercy on” are actually a reference to the Mercy Seat of the Ark of the Covenant and mean the same thing as David’s invocation. That is, “Receive me on the basis of the blood atonement.” Today we know that the actual, true atonement was made for us by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Charles Spurgeon captured something of this model approach to God when he wrote, “We stretch out empty hands, for we are beggars; we lift them up, for we seek heavenly supplies; we lift them towards the mercy seat of Jesus, for there our expectation dwells.”1
Study Questions:

What two points are made about David’s appeal?
How is the tax collector’s appeal to Jesus in Luke 18 similar to David’s appeal to God?

Application: In what ways do your prayers need to be strengthened according to the teaching of this psalm?
1C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, vol. 1b, Psalms 27-57 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968), p. 21.

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