As is often the case, we do not know the circumstances that led David to write Psalm 70, but once again he was in need of urgent deliverance. He expressed his desperate plea for deliverance, arguing that he could not face his trial alone, but a standout element of this particular psalm is David’s confession of need in bad times and good.
The seventh-century Christian theologian, Isaac of Nineveh, wrote that Psalm 70 offers a devotional formula that is “absolutely necessary for possessing the perpetual awareness of God.” Commenting on how this psalm—and, in particular, its opening verse—has been a source of encouragement to God’s people for centuries, he writes, “This verse should be poured out in unceasing prayer so that we may be delivered in adversity and preserved and not puffed up in prosperity.”
David prayed, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!” (v. 1). (Observe, incidentally, that David himself found it difficult to wait patiently for the Lord. See yesterday’s devotion.) The fact that he didn’t specify what his adversity was gives us reason to embrace these words as our own prayer in whatever adversity we face.
At the same time, David wrote, “May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’” (v. 4). Both those who were waiting for God’s salvation and those who had experienced God’s salvation needed the truth of this psalm. Here is the truth encapsulated into a single verse: “But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O LORD, do not delay!” (v. 5).
Psalm 70 wants to remind us that we are poor and needy, which should drive us to live in perpetual awareness of our need for God. That truth is easy to embrace when we are under affliction. When we are at the end of our rope, it is almost reflex to call to God for help. But we tend to forget that, even when things are going well—the job is secure, the bills are paid, and the health is stable—we need God. Too often, we become like the Laodiceans, boasting that we are rich, have prospered, and need nothing—including God. Meanwhile, God wants to remind us that we are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked (Revelation 3:17).
So how do we maintain a sense of perpetual awareness when things are going well? How do we keep before us our poverty and neediness when all our needs are seemingly met? Let me suggest three truths to keep before you as you seek to maintain a healthy awareness of your neediness.
First, reflect on the cross of Christ. It was necessary for Jesus to die to save you from your sins. You could do nothing to save yourself. Paul rebuked the Galatians for foolishly allowing themselves to be bewitched and distracted from the cross (Galatians 3:1). The cross, like nothing else, displays our great need before a holy God, and when we are tempted to self-sufficiency, reflecting on the cross will help us.
Second, reflect on the reality that your salvation came by faith, not works (Galatians 3:2). You were absolutely helpless to earn your salvation. Whatever sense of achievement you have, the reality of salvation by grace alone will serve as a reminder that you are poor and needy.
Third, reflect on the fact that the only the Spirit, who initiated your salvation, can complete your salvation (Galatians 3:3). Apart from the Spirit, you are helpless. Even on your best day, you can add nothing to the salvation you have been given in the Spirit. You cannot complete in the flesh what was started by the Spirit.
As you head into a new day, remember that, whatever lies before you—affliction or victory—you remain poor and needy. Apart from God’s grace, you can do nothing. Make the deliberate effort today to reflect on your neediness and allow God’s all-sufficiency to encourage you in good times and bad.