God Listens When You Callby Ed de la Cour on July 31, 2013
"God Listens When You Call" - Psalm 34
By Ed de la Cour
It’s not a hard task to scan through the Bible trying to find answers to prayer. In every book of the Bible you can find many faithful people seeking the face of God for needs that are beyond man’s ability. Then you read on and find God answered those prayers in some powerful way. Aaron and Hur held up the arms of Moses in prayer as Israel fought – and then defeated – the Amalekites. Joshua prayed to God to allow him to defeat the five kings of the Amorites, and God made the sun stand still and extended the day to enabling Israel to win. Hannah prayed in anguish for a son, and God heard her cry. Jehoshaphat prayed, and while the army praised and worshiped the Lord, God ambushed the overwhelming armies on their way to destroy Judah.
That was then, but what about now? Those were mighty men and women of God, but what about me? Will God hear my small voice? Will He respond to a insignificant man, a powerless woman? That is what we want to discover today.
While many of the answers we see in Scripture are in response to extreme circumstances, the truth is that it is frequently through these 9-1-1 calls that God is able to get our attention. Sadly, for many of us prayer has been reduced to just an emergency response system. We all know that prayer is something in which we should be involved every day, but then, life happens and we become busy so prayer is the first thing to fall off the grid. It’s not really due to busyness, because, even in the frantic living of life, we do not forget to be involved in many other, far less important activities. If the truth were told, the reason we stop praying is we are stubborn, rebellious, and self-sufficient. The active pursuit of godliness is the first casualty in the life of a person who is becoming worldly.
Suddenly – and seemingly out of the blue – we find ourselves in trouble. But don’t kid yourself – there’s no such thing as “suddenly.” Perhaps you “suddenly” realized you’re in trouble, but that trouble has been building, growing, brewing, and taking shape for some time. Only now, when the eruption has caught you off-guard, are you sensing you are out of your depth.
So you get down on your knees and you pray. You humble yourself before God and you ask God to forgive you for allowing your relationship with Him to become the mess it is. You plead with the Lord to forgive your rebellion and your stubborn attitude, and then you get down to business. And all the while you are crying out to God, you are also wondering: is God listening when I call on His name?
As you see from the verse used as today’s Word for the Week, taken from 1 Chronicles 5: 20, “He answered their prayers, because they trusted in Him.” Child of God, God listens when you pray. That’s one of the many wonderful truths about our God. He listens. He will even listen to us when we have only just begun to come in from the cold. He answers to faith. He responds to trust.
One day I woke up realizing I had once again moved away from God and I was lonely for Him. In my heart, I knew my walk with God had become nearly nonexistent. God had not changed. The problem was with me. So I got into my car with my Bible and notebook and drove off, looking for just the right place to meet with God. After about two hours of driving, I found that perfect place. I was on a remote country road. Off in the distance there were wooded hills and in front of me there was a stone wall the overlooked a large meadow with tall grass waving in the breeze. I took out my Bible, opened to Psalm 34, and I began to read. That afternoon, the cry of David’s heart became the cry of my heart as God used this Word of God to renew me and to restart my relationship with my Lord.
The Word of God is so encouraging, and for me this psalm is the epitome of that encouragement. Psalm 34 is a life-giving spring of refreshment to a man who had quite willingly wandered away, not once, but many times. This was my welcome home. This was my affectionate hug from God for me as a person.
What must the presence of God have meant to David? I have a hard time imagining what it must have been like for David to live day after day in the midst of his enemies all the while pretending to be insane, drooling in his beard and dribbling in his coffee. He must have been living in constant fear for his life. He knew that at any time, someone among his enemies could realize his bizarre behavior was only a clever ruse.
It was during days like that when David prayed to God for protection, and I’m thinking he prayed this over and over because his life was hanging by a thread. Yet, what did he declare in verse 4? He says, God “delivered me from all my fears.” Did you see what else it says? “He answered me.” In a situation fraught with danger, when David was alone, afraid, and without any margin for error, God answered him. David was able to come away from those dark days, not only with his walk with God intact, but he was confident that God would never, ever betray him into the hands of his foes. Verse 5:“Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.” Child of God, God will answer you. Verse 5 is the voice of triumph in the heart of a believer.
I have found God never turns us away when we turn to Him. He really does not drive away any who would come to Him. God has grace today for you, my friend, if you will call on Him. That was David’s testimony. In verse 6, he referred to himself as “this poor man.” David’s experience, the experience of a very imperfect man, was that when distress ate away at his heart, when difficulty surrounded him; God was willing to reach out and save him.
It is the presence of God that meets the child of God with the sufficiency of God. Verse 7: “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear Him, and He delivers them.” God is fully able to meet us where we need Him. He is sufficient to provide for our need. We speak of God calling us to be a Safe Harbor. Well, here is God saying the same thing in different words. May I say to you that if God has made His camp all around you – you’re safe! You’re secure. You have found a home.
David wanted everyone to find what he had discovered. He encouraged those who listened to his song, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him.” God’s goodness is not for the one who finds refuge in God, but for the one who seeks refuge, the one who reaches out and takes refuge in God. Can you see the difference?
Here is what the Lord is saying: If you are searching for relationship with God, start one. If you are seeking a place of safety, here is where you find it. If you are looking for shelter in the storm, you won’t find it until you enter into the shelter God provides. But when you ask, when you knock, when you seek, you will find. That’s God’s promise to you when you ask… when you knock… when you seek. Doing the seeking is prayer. Very simply, prayer is asking God.
Whenever you pray, you are proactively advancing in your relationship with God. You simply cannot stand still in prayer. Even if you are meditating and waiting on God, you are not standing still; nor are you stuck. If you are seeking God, you are moving forward. There is no way whatsoever that allows prayer to be understood as a passive response to life.
God values your trust. He blesses your faith in Him. Hebrews 11: 6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please God.” He enjoys your reliance upon Him and He takes great pleasure in your trust. God “rewards those who diligently seek Him.” God is literally watchful, observing the ways of people who trust Him. Verse 15 says, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are attentive to their cry.” You can see the theme emerging quite clearly. God listens, He hears, and He acknowledges the prayers of His people. Inherent in the listening is the promise to answer. God does not hear and ignore. He is not the hen-pecked husband who, with resignation in his voice, says, “Yes, dear.” God is attentive. He pays attention. When you pray, He is not distracted. He is not busy elsewhere. He will never put you on “hold.”
Many people will say that God doesn’t listen to them and He doesn’t answer their prayers. They may be right! God is not bound to answer those whose lives stand against the Lord. Verse 16 shows us that there are indeed people who should not expect answers from God. Those who are seeking their own way, people who major in doing evil, and who do refuse to seek a relationship with God, do find that God will stand against them. Why? They have built their lives against God. They have constructed a bulwark against Him and His promises. God says even the memory of them will be wiped off the face of the earth.
You do not have to be numbered among the rebellious because God promises to hear the cry of the righteous. You are righteous in God’s sight if your life is hidden in Christ. Not only does God promise to listen, but He also promises to deliver you out of all your troubles. If you are in God’s good hands, your life is safe. David found rest in the presence of God even while he was living in the court of his enemy.
I don’t know all that David experienced while he was in the court of Abimelech. Certainly, he was devastated because he was forced into exile from his own country. Back home in Israel, he was a hunted man. There were informers telling the king wherever David happened to be. Can we say David was brokenhearted? I am certain he was. In a very real way, he was a man without a country. Where would his help come from? How could he ever find hope in the situation in which he found himself?
Humanly speaking, there was not much that could be done. David would not kill King Saul. Even though Saul may have deserved killing, he was the Lord’s anointed. David could not rely on the size of his army or the strength of his own strategies. He could not put his hope in money or in foreign governments. He might have trusted in his own brain, in his own native abilities, which had certainly served him well, but David also understood that Saul had followed that route. So in the middle of the enemy camp, David put his hope in God. If the Philistine king ever discovered that David was sane, David knew he was a dead man.
This psalm comes to us off the anvil of human experience and not as a deep and weighty theological treatise. Though there is great depth of insight here, it is insight gained from life, not from seminary. David learned to trust God while he was tending sheep. He faced and fought wild predators that sought to make a meal of the flock. He eventually had to face Goliath, and he did so alone and unafraid. If God were not worthy of his trust, David’s life would have been forfeited many times over. But he found he could trust God. He found that, yes – the righteous man will have many troubles. But those troubles will not defeat him. He found no lack of enemies, no lack of opponents to come against him, but he also found no lack of deliverance from his enemies.
It may be that in your life today, your trust in God is being forged on that same anvil. You decided to follow Jesus and life has not been easy. One problem after another has arisen in an attempt to destroy you, kill your joy, destroy your children, or thwart the plan of God for your life. You cry out to God in your distress. Does He hear you? Will He answer you? Is He faithful to deliver you out of this dark time?
I counsel you to take God at His Word. If this is the first experience in your life where you are deciding to trust God, then you are learning as you go. You never trusted God before and so you have no experience in knowing if He is trustworthy. No pastor can learn this lesson for you. You must learn it yourself. You have to discover for yourself that God does answer the prayers of His children. The only book that can give assistance is this Book. The only words that have power to encourage you are the words contained here.
Psalm 34: 22 ends with this thought: “The Lord redeems His servants; no one will be condemned who takes refuge in Him.” Begin by taking refuge, by finding shelter in the Lord, and then stand by and watch Him move in deliverance in your life.
Edmund C. de la Cour, Jr.
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