Psalm 70: Make Haste!

When my kids were in grade school, it seemed that between snow days, special holidays (MLKing Day and Presidents Day), in-services and sick days when my kids came down with the inevitable colds and flu, my kids never had a full week of school in January and February. After two weeks of Christmas vacation, I was more than ready to get back to a regular routine, but every time I had all three of them back in school, I would get a call saying one was sick again and needed to be picked up.

Fortunately for me, working as a church pastor I had a flexible schedule and the ability to work out of my home to accommodate these last minute changes. I didn’t have to scramble to find a child care with room to take on three extra children or one willing to care for my sick child and thereby expose all of the other children to more germs. Still it wasn’t easy. I often lost patience with the constant disruption of my schedule.

I was reminded of these days last week as my husband was home from work with a nasty cough and respiratory infection. When you or a loved one are sick, it’s easy to become impatient with the slow healing process.

The writer of Psalm 70 is in a hurry. “Make haste,” he cries to God. “Do not delay!” This psalm is also found at the end of Psalm 40, verses 13-17. Why the editors chose to give the passage its own psalm status, I don’t know. I don’t propose to know the mind of any editors, Biblical or otherwise. But perhaps it was because it addresses such a common human occurrence, impatience.

The writer is under some form of attack, “Let them be put to shame and confusion who seek my life! Let them be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire my hurt!” (2) He desires swift vengeance, “Make haste, O God, to deliver me; make haste to help me, O Lord.” (1) “But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer.” (5) The writer is poor and in need and calling upon God to save him.

For people waiting for a cure for cancer or Alzheimer’s, yesterday is not too soon. They are understandably in a hurry. If our quality of life or that of a loved one is on the line, there is no such thing as too soon. For a people living in poverty and injustice, economic equality cannot arrive too soon. Hurry up, get moving we say to God and to anyone else who will listen.

In desperate straits, the psalmist calls to God to help him. Some would say that his demand that God “hurry up” shows a lack of faith, but I think it shows a strong faith that isn’t afraid to ask God for what he needs.

As I get older, there is a part of me that cries out, slow down, time is passing much too soon. There’s also a part of me that cries, hurry up, time is passing much too soon. Why do we continue to drag our feet in making the world a better place? We have the resources to end poverty, but do we have the will? Perhaps the person we need to hurry up is ourselves?

In the midst of his pleas for help, the writer prays, “May all who seek you, rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’” (4) So may we find reason to rejoice in our God no matter what problems we may be dealing with.

What is trying your patience today? Are you being invited to learn patience or to take action?

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