Hasten, O God, to save me;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
May those who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.
May those who say to me, ‘Aha! Aha!’
turn back because of their shame.
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
‘The Lord is great!’
But as for me, I am poor and needy;
come quickly to me, O God.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Lord, do not delay.
Sometimes reading the Psalms there is a feeling of déjà vu, that you’ve read it before. In the case of Psalm 70 that is understandable because much of the psalm is identical with Psalm 40:13–17. Cynics might account for the duplication by saying that the Holy Spirt was having a rest day, but maybe it’s just that some things recur regularly in our lives and that this is the Spirit’s gentle way of reminding us how to pray when those things come back.
Of the differences between the two psalms, the most obvious is that Psalm 70 is briefer and even more to the point. The sense of urgency that is apparent in the earlier Psalm is acute and the opening verse familiar to most of us: ‘O God, help!’
The cause of the Psalmist’s cry becomes apparent in the next verses. There are those who seek David’s life (v. 2) or, at the very least, seek his ruin (v. 3). David’s prayer is that the evil that they intend for him rebounds on them.
In the midst of difficulties David realises that he is not alone, that there are others who are in desperate need of God’s saving grace (vv. 3, 4), that he is part of a fellowship of the hurting. Sometimes it is only when we go through difficult times that we begin to develop empathy and compassion for others. That might explain why some of the most generous people on earth are also the poorest whilst some of the most miserly and tight-fisted have led comfortable and privileged lives. Rabbi Abraham Heschel observed, ‘The man who has not suffered – what does he know anyway?’
If we today are among the relatively comfortable and secure then this Psalm gives us a way into praying for all those who face opposition and are in desperate need of God’s help, particularly – but not only – our brothers and sisters in Christ who face persecution.
If we feel we are among those crying out to God it reminds us that we can be frank and honest. There is no need for high prose or lofty rhetoric when the situation is desperate. Our heavenly Father understands.