O LORD, Be My Helper
Rev. Kurt Lantz Proper 8 B Psalm 30
June 27, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people grasping for help,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
She’s dying and there is nothing that you can do. It is anguishing. A father has to face the truth that his twelve year old daughter is slipping out of this life. Many times he held her to stop her crying. He picked her up when she fell running in the street. He wiped the blood off her lip when she chipped a tooth. But there is nothing he can do now. Jairus, she is dying and you cannot stop it. He runs to get Jesus (Mark 5:22-23). “Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!” (Psalm 30:10).
They can’t stop it and neither can you. A woman has been suffering blood loss for years and years and years. She has gone to every doctor she can find and none of them can help. They have tried all of their experimental drugs and treatments. The side effects have been intolerable. The procedures have been humiliating and degrading. Dear woman, it is just going to continue until you die. There is no hope at all. She reaches out for Jesus (Mark 5:25-28). “Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
Some of you have been in the place of the father helpless to save his dying daughter or in the place of the woman suffering intolerably for years on end. If you haven’t gone through this kind of anguish over your own need or over your inability to save someone so dear to you, just give it time. It will come. This world under the curse of our sin brings suffering and death to all. You have to endure it yourself and you have to agonize as you watch those you love endure it as well.
Some of our church members are experiencing such times right now. There is no cure for their health issues and they have suffered them a long time. They are watching their loved ones knowing that they are close to death and there is nothing they can do to stop it from coming.
We all got a little bit of a scare in this vein when news of the COVID-19 pandemic first broke and we were told that many many millions would die. We all thought we would either suffer the slow progression of respiratory distress until we could breath no more, or have to hand over our loved ones to hospital staff knowing that they were fighting for space in Intensive Care Units and lined up for respirators, while we would be unable even to hold their hand or wave to them through a window. Thankfully, it has not been as bad here as first predicted or as reports from other places in the world have shown.
Today’s psalm might reflect one of King David’s experiences with a pestilence raging through his land. The psalm seems to suggest a situation like that recorded in 1 Chronicles 21, where David was sitting confidently on the throne, having defeated all the enemies of his people, so he decided he should count the people of Israel and see just how great his kingdom had become. “As for me, I said in my prosperity, ‘I shall never be moved.’ By Your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; You hid your face; I was dismayed” (Psalm 30:6-7).
David was confident in his success. The LORD had established him strong and prosperous on the mountain heights of Jerusalem. But in pride David wanted to quantify his success and count the people to see how great a man he had become. So God gave him a choice of three things in order to humble the king. David had to choose one of them: either three years of famine; or three months of devastation at the hands of his enemies; or three days of pestilence with the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel (1 Chronicles 21:11-13).
He didn’t want everyone to suffer three years of food shortage from a famine; and he didn’t want himself and his people to fall into the merciless hands of their enemies; so he chose what might seem at first to be the most fearful choice. He chose to be punished by the hand of God Himself, to have the angel of the LORD bring pestilence throughout the land. What kind of logic led him to that conclusion? David said, “Let me fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercy is very great, but do not let me fall into the hand of man” (2 Chronicles 21:13).
And so, the angel of the LORD brought the pestilence through the land. But David confessed his sin and pleaded for God’s mercy on himself and his people. And the LORD in His mercy stopped the plague, even though such mercy was undeserved and the punishment was just, chosen by David himself. And where the angel of the LORD stopped the plague, there David built an altar and dedicated the place to be the location of the temple that his son, Solomon, would build for the LORD.
There are times in our life when it seems like there is no where else to turn. We have tried everything and there is no way to stop the oncoming death or to find a cure for the interminable suffering. It is even worse when we realize that the suffering and death are due to our own sins of pride as a nation or individually; and that we have no good reason why the LORD should help us.
David found an early end to the plague when He appealed to the LORD’s mercy. The woman who had suffered for twelve years found an end to her agony when when she reached out to grasp hold of Jesus’ garment. Jairus found an end to his torment of helplessness while his daughter died when He ran to Jesus and He came to her.
For the last several weeks we have been singing: “In the very midst of life Snares of death surround us; Who shall help us in the strife Lest the foe confound us? Thou only Lord, Thou only! We mourn that we have greatly erred, That our sins Thy wrath have stirred. Holy and righteous God! Holy and mighty God! Holy and all merciful Savior! Eternal Lord God! Save us lest we perish In the bitter pangs of death. Have mercy, O LORD!” (Lutheran Service Book 755). Or in the words of today’s psalm, “Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper.”
And the psalm reminds us, as do the other readings for today that our LORD is merciful, hears, and answers our prayers. He healed the woman. He raised Jairus’ daughter from death. “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
He has thus far spared us from the current pestilence and we pray that He will continue to do so. He has been with us to carry us through years of suffering. He has heard our every cry while we have prayed for our dear loved ones in their dying moments. And He will rescues us from it all in His never failing faithfulness.
When He answers it is like coming back from the dead. That is how the psalm teaches us to see it and to say it: “I will extol You, O LORD, for you have drawn me up” just like he took that twelve year old girl’s hand and lifted her up out of her deathbed. “O LORD my God, I cried to You for help, and You have healed me” just like He healed that woman who had suffered for twelve years. “O LORD, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit” just like He stopped the plague, forgave David’s sin, and saved him from eternal suffering in hell.
We are blessed at times to experience God’s merciful acts of temporal healing and restoration in this life when a disease is cured, when a loved one is spared from death, when a deadly virus is turned from being as devastating and destructive as it could have been. But these are only glimpses and indications of the far greater eternal healing and restoration that we have in Jesus.
As wonderful and joyous and incredible were Jesus’ acts of mercy for the suffering woman and the grieving father, even greater will be the day of Jesus’ return when all the graves will be opened and all the dead will be raised, and the joy and relief and wonder will fill the earth and our own hearts in praise and wonder and thankfulness to our gracious God and Lord, Jesus Christ.
And all the more so as we remember that it is through His own suffering and agony and death that we have healing and relief and everlasting life from the consequences of our sinful pride. The discharge of His blood for the forgiveness of our sins has not stopped, but graciously continues as we take the cup that He blessed and drink His precious life-giving flow for our salvation. He gave up His Spirit in death and continues to pour out His Spirit upon us through His Word, proclaiming His own death and resurrection and promising ours. His voice will call us all to arise and to be gathered with all the faithful to Him, to be forever with the One who has such mercy and power to heal and to save. He will turn our mourning into dancing. He will remove our funeral clothes and cover us with wedding garments.
We cry out to Him. We run to Jesus. We grasp hold of Him in His Word and Sacraments because we know that He is merciful. “His mercies are new every morning,” and we even notice some of them. He has answered prayers for healing and life and we know that the never-ending answer for our suffering and grief is coming with the coming of Jesus. “Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!”
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus