By James Boice
Theme: An Appeal to Be Heard
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
At the end of the last study I wrote about waiting for the Lord, which is where Psalm 27 ends and what we must learn to do better, since God does not usually respond to prayer according to our timetable. We do not expect to have to wait for God forever, of course. But what should we do while we are waiting? The answer is that we need to keep praying, to persevere in prayer. Significantly, this is the point to which Psalm 28 takes us. It is about importunity.
This reminds us of a story Jesus told, introduced by the words: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). He said that there was once a judge who cared nothing for God, the law or other people. There was a widow in his town who had a case that needed to be heard. The judge wasn’t interested. She had nothing to bribe him with. But she kept coming, and finally the judge said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually wear me out with her coming” (vv. 4, 5)!
Jesus’ comment was: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (vv. 7, 8).
Jesus was not teaching that God is an unjust judge, of course, or even that he is indifferent to the cries of his people. On the contrary, his point was that God is the exact opposite of the indifferent magistrate of the story and that for this reason alone you and I should be bold and persistent in praying. We need to be persistent, because God’s answers do not always come at once, which is why the story is introduced as showing that we should always pray “and not give up.”
The structure of Psalm 28 is a common one. It is called dipodia, which means stanzas of two verses. Each of the four stanzas has two verses except the second or central one, which has three. The first stanza is an appeal to God to hear the psalmist’s prayer, a prayer he had apparently been making for quite a long time.
Why do I say this? It is because David appeals to God no longer to “remain silent.” If he is appealing to God not to remain silent, it must be because he has been silent for a while. He has not been answering, and David is appealing to him to break silence and speak to him at last. He has a good argument too. For he reminds the Lord that if he remains silent, David “will be like those who have gone down to the pit” (v. 1). It is worth thinking about this on several levels.
First, the pit is Sheol or the abode of the dead. Because of the way the sentence is written we are probably not to think that David is saying that he will die or be killed if God fails to intervene, however. That might be an appropriate thing for him to have said in other psalms where he is being threatened by hostile armies. But here his plea is for justice, particularly a vindicating judgment upon the wicked who surround him with hypocritical smiles and schemes (vv. 3-5). What David seems to be saying is, not that he will be killed or die but that spiritually speaking he will be as good as dead unless God speaks to him. If God refuses to answer his prayers, how will he differ from the dying godless who have no relationship to God whatever?
- What is Jesus teaching us about prayer from his parable of the widow and the unjust judge?
- How do we know that David had been making his appeal to God for some time?
- What does David mean by “the pit”?
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