Psalm 18:4-6 - The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help. From His temple He heard my voice, and my cry to Him reached His ears.
David wrote this psalm after the Lord rescued him from his enemies, especially from King Saul. From the words he uses, it is clear that the psalmist had been in serious trouble. Death encompassed him, destruction assailed him, Sheol, the place of the dead, entangled him, and death confronted him. He was encompassed, assailed, entangled, and confronted. There was only one way out of the deadly trap, and David took the way open to him. He cried to God for help and the Lord, reigning in absolute majesty in His temple, heard and rescued His servant David.
The reluctant prophet Jonah also found himself in desperate circumstances. Attempting to flee from the Lord (something both foolish and impossible), Jonah was thrown into the sea and swallowed by a great fish. For three days and nights the prophet was trapped. Like David, he prayed for rescue, crying out from "the belly of Sheol," surrounded by the deep as water closed over him in the pit of death (see Jonah 2:2-6). The Lord, reigning in power in His holy temple, heard and rescued His prophet. "Salvation belongs to the LORD!" Jonah said, and went out to proclaim repentance and salvation in Nineveh (Jonah 2:9b).
Jesus once said of His own presence on earth, "something greater than Jonah is here" (Luke 11:32b). On the night He was betrayed, Jesus, like David and Jonah before Him, called out to God in distress. Earlier that same evening, as part of the Passover celebration, He may have prayed the words of another psalm: "The snares of death encompassed me; the pangs of Sheol laid hold on me; I suffered distress and anguish" (Psalm 116:3). Later in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed for a rescue that did not come. It was the Father's will that Jesus should die to atone for the sins of the world, for David's sins, for Jonah's sins, and for ours. He died and was buried "three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:40b). Then, on the first day of the week, the longed-for rescue came as the Savior was raised up from death!
When we are assailed by worry or guilt or entangled in grief and the nearness of death, in our distress we call out to the Lord. Just as He heard David, Jonah, and His Holy Son, God will hear and rescue us. Even though we may be surrounded, we will not be defeated. Assailed by sin, we will not be overcome, receiving forgiveness in Jesus' Name. Confronted and entangled by death, we have in Jesus the certain hope of life and resurrection!
WE PRAY: Lord Jesus, when guilt and fear entangle me, set me free in Your forgiving love. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler.
1. Do you find it hard to call upon God for help? If so, why?
2. What happened in the book of Jonah that prefigured Jesus' death and resurrection?
3. Has there been a time when God rescued you from serious trouble? Care to share?
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