Are you questioning God today? How do you pray when you don’t understand what He is doing? You can argue with God. David did.
Let’s be like David, and every time we hunger for life and safety, let’s express to God that we desire spiritual vitality and godliness just as much as life itself.
David prays in Psalm 143, verse 9, “Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies;” verses 11, 12, “O Lord, preserve my life . . . bring me out of trouble; cut off all my enemies and destroy all my adversaries.”
David was a great warrior and no doubt often from the early days when Saul was after him to the end of his fighting career he was beset by enemies who wanted to eliminate him from the scene. And even in times of apparent peace there was the danger of intrigue within his own courts. Remember his own son Absalom tried to steal the hearts of the people away from David.
How can we go on functioning when we know that there are hostile forces surrounding us who may from time to time break in and do us harm?
Won’t this rob us of all peace and put us always on edge and make us tense? Yes, it will, until we have sought God like David and prayed earnestly and argued our way before him into his peace.
This prayer for deliverance from enemies is relevant today. In fact, we see spiritual enemies all around us: violence, natural disasters and disease. And it is true that few of us run the risks with human enemies which David did. But there are hostilities that arise at work and in the neighborhood which could result in abuse. The loved ones of victims of violence and terrorism probably never dreamed that hostilities against them could change their lives forever.
But lest we nevertheless content ourselves that hostile enmity is really not part of our experience, let’s remember what Jesus taught his disciples to pray: “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” We all have an enemy whose hostility against us never ceases and who is bent on our real destruction, that is, the destruction of our faith.
How does David propose to get the godliness and the safety that he wants? The obvious answer is by prayer. This simple fact is especially encouraging to me because David was a great man; we know he was handsome and strong and wise and sensitive and often had lots of human power at his disposal. Yet David unhesitatingly takes on the role of a beggar before God. That is encouraging for me because if David did not have to do that, then I might get the idea that God requires us all to have the strength and beauty of David in order to overcome our problems.
But in fact King David can only pray. But prayer is something all of us can do no matter how homely or weak or slow-witted we are. So it is a great encouragement when we see David submitting to prayer to get what he needs.
In answer to the question, Where can you flee from the judgment of God? There is only one answer which holds out any hope: flee to God. When a little child has disobeyed his father and stirred up his anger, he has got two possibilities. He can run out the back door, which is hopeless not just because his father is faster but because in the father’s house are the food and clothing the child needs to live. The other possibility is to run into his father’s arms and squeeze his neck and plead for mercy. The only escape from the judgment of God is in the mercy of God. And this is where David flees. In God there is escape from all adversaries including God. Never try to run from him; he is always faster. But even more, with him alone is fullness of joy and pleasures forever.
HOW DAVID ARGUES
But how can David hope that God’s allegiance to his own honor will prompt him to save David, instead of punishing him for his sin that he admitted in Psalm 143:2? The answer to this question comes when we look at the other arguments David uses with God.
Besides calling attention to God’s faithfulness, righteousness, mercy, and allegiance to his own name, David brings in two other sorts of arguments: one is his desperate plight, the other is his faith in God. Verses 2–4, “Don’t enter into judgment with me,” because if you aim to punish me I am done for as a sinner, and if you aim to humble me, look: I am already crushed to the ground, my spirit fails, I am appalled at my condition, I am gasping like a parched land. You don’t need to level me. I am on my back.
David argues from his desperate plight.
But that in itself is not very persuasive until the other set of arguments is added, namely, the argument that he has faith. These are crucial. Verses 8–10: “For in you do I trust . . . to you I lift up my soul . . . for I cover myself in you (refuge) . . . for you are my God.” Verse 12: “For I am your servant.” This is the crucial link between the righteousness of God and the answer to David’s prayer. David’s assurance is that if he is trusting in God with all his heart, lifting up his soul with longing to him only, seeking refuge in him alone, and claiming him for his only God, then God’s honor is at stake in David’s deliverance. It would be a blotch on God’s name if one who banked all his hopes on that name was finally destroyed.
So David did find a way to escape the judgment of God—by fleeing into the arms of God and filling his mouth with arguments that showed God’s very name was at stake in whether David was delivered or not.
Let me offer three things briefly in conclusion.
1. Don’t let your sinfulness hinder your seeking help from God. David confessed from the start that if God judged him only with a view to his sin he was done for. We are all sinful beggars before God.
2. When you come to God, fill your mouth with arguments. Argue from your helpless crushed plight; argue from God’s righteous character, that is, his faithfulness to uphold the honor of his name; and argue from your faith or your hope in God. Run into the arms of your Father and fill his ear with arguments.
3. Finally, always and only ask for what will honor God. And one of the best ways to make sure you do that is to season all your prayers with requests for godliness as well as safety. That is, pray not only like Psalm 79:9 which says, “Help us, O God, . . . for the glory of thy name deliver us and forgive our sins, for thy name’s sake”; but also pray like Psalm 31:3 which says, “You are my rock and my fortress, for your name’s sake lead me and guide me.”
By John Piper. ©2017 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org. Used by permission.