THE PRAYER OF THE POOR
Mr. E. Roe
March 13th, 1966
“But do Thou for me, O God the Lord, for Thy Name’s sake: because Thy mercy is good, deliver Thou me. For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.” Psalm 109, vs. 21 and 22.
When our Lord walked on the road with His two disciples after His resurrection He explained to them that He was written about in the Book of Psalms. In Acts 1 it is stated the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David in this Psalm spake these things concerning Christ. When you read a quotation in the New Testament from the Old, remember it is more than a quotationÂ—it is an explanation as well. I mention this because this Psalm has been bitterly condemned by a good many who denounce it as not breathing the spirit of Christ. One of those Psalms is called the Imprecatory because of the terrible things prayed that might descend upon certain people. Well, the Holy Ghost applies it to Judas, the betrayer of Christ, and after all, let us remember there is such a thing as justice. It is high time that we repudiated that kind of religion that cannot bear to think of God inflicting punishment
upon evil doers. The marvel to you and me is that He does not inflict a lot more. It is a marvel to you, is it not, that He has not destroyed you long ago? Carry that sense of justice, moral consciousness, right across the whole universe, and, were God to sweep the whole nation away to destruction, would He be wrong? “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” There is such a thing as the vindication of truth and God will do it sooner or later.
But in this Psalm we have Jesus Christ-Jesus Christ in all the sinless weakness of His human nature. Look at Him. “I am poor and needy and my heart is wounded within Me.” It is the profoundest mystery of the Gospel that God became Incarnate, clothed upon with human flesh. The Deity was not lost in the humanity. The humanity was not lost in the Divinity. The two were distinct but they were joined. “Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3.16). The Babe in Bethlehem, the carpenter Lad, that poor Man that trod this earth and went about doing good, healing all that were possessed of the devil and who eventually laid down His life at the cross as a sacrifice for His people’s sins, that ‘poor Man’ was none Other than God Almighty revealed in human form. “He was rich yet for your sakes became poor”-so poor that He had not where to lay His head. “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man,”Â—the Son of God,Â—”hath not where to lay His Head” (Matthew 8.20). Would you not have given Him your best room had you been there? Would you not have counted it your greatest privilege so to do? If that is in your heart you have a deal more than you think, friend. Nature has not put it there; the devil would not put it there; the grace of God has put it there, unity, affinity with the Son of God. What a blessing that is! You often look for wonderful revelations and manifestations of God, I doubt not, and you miss so much by not looking closely at what your heart would be like and would do if it could.
Well, this is the Son of God in His poverty and His heart was wounded, dissolved, broken to pieces by reason of the afflictions that He bore. And yet what was it all for? It was that verse 21 might become a real experience in the heart of sinners. “Do Thou for me O God the Lord for Thy Name’s sake: because Thy mercy is good, deliver Thou me.”
Now I want to speak to you this morning as it relates to the people of God. Note first, the Object of prayer, “Do Thou for me, O God the Lord.” It is a great favour to have a distinct view of that God to whom you are talking when you try to pray. You cannot always get it. The devil will have a good many things to hurl into your mind when you try to pray. He hates to see you and me pray or try to do so, and if he can block the way he will. If he can twist your mind out of a holy thing, he will do it. But, if, as helped of God, you are enabled clearly, however faintly it may be sometimes, to believe that you are speaking to Three
Divine Persons it will loosen your heart; it will enlarge your petitionsÂ—it will indeed.
“O God the Lord”, the Father. “The Father of all mercies” of all compassions, a Father, not a tyrant, not one standing with a rod or sword in His hand ready to smite or cut you and me down to a thousand pieces. This solemn discovery of judgment is often pictured before one’s mind when he tries to pray. Is that which is pictured in yours? I hope so, because that will make you value something else, there is God the SonÂ—He Who is the alone but all-sufficient Mediator to stand between that God you dread and yourselves. A Mediator must be a Mediator of two partiesÂ—cannot be a Mediator of one, and in this case the two parties are the Divine and the human. God on the one hand and you and me on the other. And how can these two be brought together? Can you get near to God without a Mediator? No. Why not? Sin blocks it. The law of God forbids it. The justice of God will not tolerate it. The holiness of Jehovah would be all awry with itÂ—it is impossible. If you are just there this morning in your feelings you will appreciate what I am trying to say, but if you are not, you cannot. You may know it is right but you do not feel it, at least, not at the moment. Did you ever stand with your soul charged to death with such guilt and apprehensions of the Almighty God that you said “It is mockery for me to try and pray even for mercy. He cannot shew itÂ—would not be right if He did. And so you go on in that way perhaps for months and months, even it may be for years, and it does not matter what sermons you hear nor what books you read you cannot get out of that until God the Holy Ghost reveals the Mediator, Jesus Christ. Ah! then for the first time in your life you will know Jesus Christ. You have heard a lot about Him, you have said a lot about Him, it may be, and you have sung more about Him, but you never knew Him. He was nothing more than a religious name but now ah! the case is altered now. Why? Because you can say “There was one day when my sins choked me and my fears absolutely forbad me to speak to Him but now, the Lamb of God has taken all that awayÂ—it is gone; I can go to Him; I must go to Him; I cannot keep away from Him.” What a difference! That is the way to know Jesus Christ. You will never know Him rightly without something of that. Do not be deceived. Do not be flattered by anybody who preaches to you contrary to this. If you and I do not know something of Him as removing our sins and making us accepted before His Father through His righteousness, we are just ignorant in heart and soul of the all-prevailing Name of Christ.
And then there is the third Person too in prayer. “O God the Lord”, the Holy Spirit. It used to be said and it used to be argued that we should not pray to the Holy Ghost. But you cannot help it. He is God, Equal with the Father and with the Son and He is to be prayed unto. He is the Divine Interpreter. Can I expect Him to interpret to me things without asking Him? He is the Guide into all
truth. Can I expect that He will guide me without beseeching Him to do so? He is the Comforter. Can I expect that He will give me any consolation without asking? Not that the asking will merit it, but it is the medium; it is the honouring of the Holy Ghost;
it is the felt expression of one’s heart’s desire, ‘I must have the Holy Ghost.’ I submit, that if when we try to pray you and I therefore have these three Divine Persons before our minds it will enlarge our heart, open our hope, make us feel, “Well, who can tell? Who can tell?”
Now, what does he want this Triune God to do? “Do Thou for me O God the Lord, Do”. How many of us (I ask it very, very kindly) how many of us have come this morning really wanting God to do something? We are here. That is all right. Is it just because it is Sunday that we should come to chapel and no more than that? I am afraid that is often the case really. How few here are who really want God to do something for them. It is not always comfortable when you really do want God to do something for you, because usually you are in some ditch, some hole, some deep perplexity. I suppose when dear old John Warburton saw his wife tumbling about twice in one week in an epileptic fit and he had half-a-dozen or more little children, do you think he had a case for prayer? Can you picture it? But who wants to go tumbling about in epilepsy? You don’t and I don’t. I mean by this that, while we can appreciate that this deep trouble made a great necessity for real prayer in John’s heart, we do not want the trouble. We want God to answer prayer, but we do not want the affliction that usually leads up to real prayer and so to the deliverance. That burden of his wife’s affliction continued for a long time and at last one night on his way home he got into a field where no-one else could see him and no-one could hear him and he laid and wrestled and pleaded with God until he did not know where he really was. He felt he could not leave the ground without having God say something to him. Ah were you ever there? What a place to be in, something choking your soul, upsetting your plans, turning your circumstances upside down and inside out, everything under the devil’s control as it seems to you. Pray you doÂ—you plead, you wrestleÂ—you argueÂ—you cannot bear it any longerÂ—and you tell God so. You say “You must help. Lord; I cannot hold on any longer.” And God heard poor old John that night and He said “According to your faith be it unto you.” Poor old JohnÂ—blessed John though. He goes home and tells his wife she would have no more epileptic fits. She said “I hope you speak the truth.” Thirty or forty years after when he tells the story he says “She has never had one since.” Friends, I mention thisÂ— it may be an extreme caseÂ—but so often you and I never want God to do anything for us until we are in some deep fix that we cannot get out of ourselves. And you have enough free will left in you, and so have I, to do all we can to get out without asking God to help us, but He destroys that, and when that tumbles to the ground so that at last there is nothing but you and your God, and, if one
may use the expression, you wrestle it out with heart-conflict and prayer. He will do it.
“Whenever God’s people have need,
His goodness will find out a way.”
There were two men sitting by the roadside and they heard of Jesus of Nazareth’ passing by and they said “Have mercy on us, O Lord, Thou Son of David”, (Matt. 20, 30). They were praying, and the Lord said “What is it that you will have Me do for you?” If He were to put that question to you what is it you want Him to do for you this morning? Perhaps you do not know. There is so much you want Him to do, but He knows that, but He loves to hear you unburden your want. Carry on with that as far as ever you can. Those two men answered “Why, Lord, that we might receive our sight.” “Be it unto you” and it was done. “Do Thou for me O God the Lord.” There may be some times in your experience when you come to that point when you make no choice as to what the Lord shall do. You have before now told Him “It must be like this or like that” or at least you hope it will be like this or like that. You have been dictating to Him, have you? You are not the only one. It is a sin. But at length the dictating spirit is knocked down in you and me and we have no wish to dictate. We have seen that will not do, and so we come “Do Thou for me, O God the Lord,” what? “Just what Thou wilt.” “Choose Thou the way but still lead on.” I wish we could live in that spirit, don’t you? That would be a bit of heaven begunÂ—to have no choice of what the Lord should do or how He should do it nor when He should do it, but just do whenever and whatever should be His holy will and pleasure.
Now you will notice that He uses some different pleas in my text. First of all, “For Thy Name’s sake.” That is a very common phrase, but it is a very deep one really. When you seek to get down to its root meaning, it takes one back to very profound theology. You read of Jesus Christ of whom Moses was a figure, “My Name is in Him.” The Name’s sake of God is Jesus Christ. “My Name is in Him.” If you would like to know what that Name is you read when you get home some verses in the 1st Hebrews. The great Name of God, the co-equality of the Lord Jesus with the Divine Father is here expressed. “My Name is in Him.” In the Book of Ezekiel you come to practical theology Â— beautiful practical theology too. There you have God remonstrating with His people about their wickednesses and He goes into details about their vileness and you will not be offended with it if you know yourself. It is a terrible picture, not too black if you know yourself, and then God says “Be it known unto you that I do not do this for your sakes” (Ezek. 36, 32) and He names what He will do, what? Bless them? Yes. Bring them out? Yes. Do them good? Yes. Never leave them? Yes. What a great thing to say! He says “Be it known unto you that I do not do it for your sakes, no, not for your sakes. You have been proud enough, self-sufficient enough, ungodly enoughÂ—not for your sakesÂ—but for My Name’s sake.”
Oh! I think that is lovely. If only you and I could have the spirit of that always. He will not do this that and the other that we ask Him to do because we deserve it, or because in any way we have pleased HimÂ—noÂ—not if we preach the Gospel all our life. “I do it for My Name’s sake.” That’s it. Just that His holy Name shall be loved, feared, worshipped, adored, praised, and it shall be, for ever and ever. Beautiful plea. If you are enabled to keep to that plea till you die, friend, you will not go to hell, however much you fear it, or however much the devil may say you will. The soul that can hang on that “For Thy Name’s sake” will never go to hell. For God loves His Name’s sake; He is delighted with His Name’s sake.
The second plea “Because Thy mercy is good.” Do you know, the word ‘mercy’ very frequently in the Book of Psalms means ‘lovingkindness’ when you get down to the root. And that is so. The mercy of God is God acting loving kindly to a man that does not deserve it. Is it not hard work to believe it? Yes, but He can make you believe it, friend, and when He does you will believe it and love it too. Mercy. Well, it is a correlative term. It always denotes misery, and the misery is self-produced. Sin is the maker of all misery! But God says “My lovingkindness will go beyond that. You have not sinned beyond it; you think you haveÂ—it looks as if you haveÂ—and Satan says ‘You certainly have’ “No” says God “You have not.” He crowns your path and life with lovingkindness. “I will mention the lovingkindnesses of the Lord.” They will be in your heart. Well, Thy mercy or lovingkindness is good. The word ‘good’ here means sweet, pleasant, something that you can taste, eat, drink, and enjoy. Ah, what else have you? You have not much if you have not this. If you have this you have everything. Sometimes the memory of God’s lovingkindness comes so sweetÂ—sweeter than honey and the honeycombÂ—in your heart. It would not matter where you might beÂ—in the office, in the house, in the garden or on the road, driving the car, when a sweet taste of God’s lovingkindness and mercy come into your heart you say, “BlessedÂ—blessed.” I was going to say, you say it automatically. You know what I mean, I hope. It springs from the very heart, and it is amazing how on occasions you can have memories of God’s lovingkindness spring before you without premeditation. You have been choc-a-bloc with everything quite the reverse a moment beforeÂ—yet all at once it penetrates the heart so suddenly, so blessedly. Some gracious event in which God took you by the right hand bringing you out of the miry clay putting you on the Rock so that you said “Blessed be God for that,” and you lived the old experience over again. “Thy mercy is sweetÂ—pleasant.” And then “Deliver Thou me, for I am poor and needy.” ‘Poor’ means ‘oppressed’ here. My mind is oppressed, and when your mind is oppressed you do not feel worth much do you? “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord, I will set him in safety (or on high) from him that puffeth at him” (Psalm 12.5). What an insult! Who would be so unkind
as to see a man laid by the roadside dreadfully ill and puff at him? But you meet with such a spirit in religion and religious circles. The horrible spirit is there; they puff at a man that is poor and needy and oppressed. God says ‘I will not. I will set him on high from him that puffeth at him.’ ‘I am poor’ and with the oppression ‘I am needy’ or in other words ‘I am destitute’. Now, while a man has a shilling in his pocket, he is not destitute, and while he knows a friend that will give him a shilling, he is not destitute. But when a man has nothing and without a friend willing, even if he could, to help him, he really is destitute. Are you like that spiritually this morning? Then think of our text, “I am poor and needy. Deliver Thou me.” No-one else will and no-one else can.
And then, finally “For my heart is wounded or dissolved within me.” Well, there are many things that will wound the heart, break it to pieces. You can have a wounded heart because you have been dreadfully disappointed, as you think, with God’s movements. You may have been sure of Gods will by different texts but, be careful, be careful. You can be, as you think, sure by certain texts coming to your mind, and that they are all bending in one direction like poor old Warburton found it. He was persuaded he was going to a certain place to be the Pastor. He had argued with God and, to use his own words, (I am thankful to God he ever used them), he said “He tried to convert God to his way of thinking.” So have I, and probably you have tried to do it tooÂ—to try and convert God because you have your heart set on a certain thing, and when you have your heart set on a certain thing, it is marvellous how different Scriptures can come and they seem to fit precisely the case. Well, you may have quite a bundle of them and you have said perhaps to someone else, “That will happen,” when you have given them particulars, but after all it has not happened, has it? Like it did with poor old Warburton, he never went to that place at all. And so, you can have your heart wounded with disappointment about things you have built up. We have made a pattern and God has blown upon it. But that is not the end of the story. The time will come when we see that what God appears to disappoint us about is really a rich appointment of His. Ah! He works all things after the counsel of His Own will to benefit you, and you will live to bless Him blowing on your schemes but not on you.