Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud: and he shall hear my voice.Psalm 55:17 KJV
I have a print that I love with this verse on it next to a woman praying on her knees with her open Bible before her. When I saw it the other day I was reminded of my prayers—those for which I’ve waited so long for an answer that they’re hard to even think about. I decided to take a look at what Derek Kidner had to say about this verse.
I turned to him because I’ve frequently found that when I feel stuck on a verse or need encouragement, the explanation and help of godly men is so helpful. I love Derek Kidner’s writings, and at times his books read like devotionals.
That, by the way, in my opinion is one of the marks of an excellent commentary. The meat I find in the explanation of the Bible given by one of those students of God’s Word helps me far more than the fluff and weak tea in most devotional books. For a Christmas present I had asked for copies of Kidner’s two volume small-book set of his commentary on the Psalms. As I was reading, I found something unexpected. Kidner titles Psalm 55, “Betrayed” and writes:
Such a cry as this helps to make the Psalter a book for the extremities of experience as well as for its normalities. The person who is driven to distraction finds a fellow-sufferer here; the rest of us may find a guide to our intercessions, so that we can pray with our brethren ‘as though in prison’ (or other distress) ‘with them’ (Heb. 13:3).1
The psalm opens with David saying,
Give ear to my prayer, O God; and hide not thyself from my supplication.Psalm 55:1 KJV
Kidner calls the first three verses, “The intolerable strain.”
A recurrent phrase in the law of Deuteronomy 22:1–4 (RSV mg.) lights up the plea, hide not thyself, by using this very expression to forbid the ignoring of a neighbor’s predicament, however inconvenient the moment. So the allusion makes David’s prayer an appeal to God’s self-consistency as well as to His mercy.2
That was the unexpected part—Hide not thyself—God forbids the ignoring of a neighbor’s predicament, however inconvenient. Those words sent me to Deuteronomy.
Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother.
And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again.
In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother’s, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself.Thou shalt not see thy brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.Deuteronomy 22:1–4 KJV
I’ve read that passage in Deuteronomy before, but Kidner’s insight brought new understanding of God’s command to, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Think for a minute about God’s command in Deuteronomy, “You shall not hide yourself.” What an apt phrase to describe the way Christians can awkwardly edge away from you, literally hiding themselves away from your trouble because it brings them discomfort. There are few things more painful than experiencing such abandonment.
What does that say about our self-consistency as Christians? Are we children of God? Are we not commanded to love one another? To support and help each other? Rather than abandon those in distress or fail to watch out for them or consider how we can help them and then do it, let us instead abandon indifference, excuses, self-justification and self-righteous judgment.
Read Holding Fast for clues on recognizing when someone has troubles.
Read Suffering & Lovingkindness on showing love to someone suffering in troubles.
Read Journey Through The Storm to better understand the mind and heart of those in the midst of troubles.
“Never Morning Wore To Evening But Some Heart Did Break.” Walter Langley
1, 2Derek Kidner, Psalms 1–72 (Inter-Varsity Press, London: 1973) 199, 199.
Original content: Copyright ©2013 Iwana Carpenter