In the Day of Trouble

Psalm 50:14,15.---' Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: and call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.'

The day of trouble comes to the Christian as it comes to the unbeliever, and we are not to expect that because we belong to Christ we shall be immune from ordinary calamities. God's people of old had their share of these. The day of trouble came to the Israelites as individuals---and Psalmist after Psalmist speaks of his experience in it---either how he had met or how he will meet it. And the day of trouble came to the nation of Israel as well. One typical instance is when Sennacherib sent his armies to Jerusalem, and an insulting and blasphemous letter to Hezekiah, King of Judah. The King was in despair; he rent his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, went into the temple and sent Eliakim to the prophet Isaiah with the message: ' This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and blasphemy.'

But, though trouble may come to righteous men and to God's chosen people, still they are not left without the knowledge of how to meet it. That is what Isaiah did, and God gave victory to His people. That is what the Psalmist did. one psalmist tells how the day of trouble came to him. What then. ' I sought the Lord,' he says. Another looks forward without fear to that day, whenever it should come: ' In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee.' Another breathes the prayer, ' The Lord hear thee in the day of trouble.' And in our text the Psalmist holds before us the secret of deliverance from trouble. God says to man, ' Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee.' Yet that is not the whole message; there is something before it and something after it. We usually forget this. We think that this is all the message; we have only to call in order to have deliverance. But we need to consider the message in its entirety or we shall not learn it aright. Here it is: ' Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High: and call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.'

1. First there is a privilege offered us: ' Call upon me.' In our own individual lives that is the only true way to meet difficulty. We are not to rebel against it; we are not to let it shatter our faith in the things we have commonly believed. We are not to be hardened. Nor are we simply to resolve to make the most of it in our own strength; we are to turn to God and call upon Him for help. God is pleased when we realize our own weakness; for then His strength has opportunity to work, and we discover that when we are weak then are we strong.

I am surprised that prayer to God in the day of trouble should be such an acceptable offering, for when we are in trouble our prayers are very likely to be selfish; they are forced, moreover, being pressed from our lips by the iron hand of adversity, or wrung from us by the stress of circumstances. Does it not look as if we were but making a convenience of God, when we fly to Him only in our difficulties? Yet in this Psalm He assures us that nothing is more pleasing to Him than prayer in the day of trouble. He tells us that, if we only seek His help in the time of our distress, it will be an offering more acceptable to Him than all the sacrifices that were ever presented on Jewish altars.

2. Then the Psalmist takes us into the right atmosphere for prayer. ' Offer unto God thanksgiving.' We need to come before God with a recognition of His past goodness to us; with the knowledge of what He has done for us; we need to come pouring our souls out before Him in praise. Praise is the atmosphere of prayer. How often these two are mentioned together---'Give thanks to God, call on his name'---for they are intimately related. We do not pray in the right spirit unless our souls are filled with gratitude to God. How near were Jesus' thanksgivings to His prayers: ' Father, I thank thee, Lord of heaven and earth.' How often do Paul's letters begin with praise: ' I thank my God.' The unthankful spirit is not the praying spirit. Prayer is not a mere asking from God. It is fundamentally ' an offering up of our desires unto God for things agreeable to His will, in the name and thankful acknowledgment of His mercies.'

I believe thanksgiving a greater mark of holiness than any other part of prayer. I mean special thanksgiving for mercies asked and received. It is a testimony to prayers being remembered, and therefore earnest prayer. It is unselfish, and more loving.

3. And that is not all. We perform the duty; we call upon God; we have the right atmosphere---the spirit of thanksgiving; we have, further, to fulfil a condition, ' Pay thy vows unto the most High.' When we come before Him in prayer, we are to remember our obligations to God---what we have promised in times past to do unto and for Him. We need times when we calmly think over the solemn vows that we have taken upon ourselves. When we gave ourselves to Him, we undertook, in His strength, to lead holy and circumspect lives, to adorn the doctrine of God our Savior, to do what we could for His Church and cause and Kingdom. There is always a danger, however, of our falling away from our vows, of our forgetting our promises, and leaving our first love. It is difficult to retain our enthusiasm in the work of Christ: there are so many things ready to damp our ardor, and our service to God often becomes lukewarm. Hence the need for the word of the Psalmist: ' Pay thy vows unto the most High.' We read that it is better that we should not make vows to God at all than, after having made them, forget all about them. For there is a deterioration in the character when we pay no regard to our promises. Every duty left undone, hides some truth we should have known.

4. If, then, we observe the command of God to call upon Him, if we do so in the right spirit, and on the right conditions, then He gives us a gracious promise: ' I will deliver thee.' No one ever yet called on God, earnestly, and sincerely, who did not receive an answer. The answer may not have been what we expected, or looked for, but God has not turned a deaf ear to our petitions. He knows what is best for us, and answers in accordance with His most holy mind and will. And, above all, He hears us when, out of a sense of need, we lift our hearts to Him---when in the day of trouble we call upon Him. Whatever may be the nature of our need, we find here the remedy. God is the hearer and the answerer of prayer. Yes, in the day of trouble, when we call upon Him, He fulfils His promise, ' I will deliver you.'

5. And what will the result be?---that we shall give glory to God. ' I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.' Not that we are to win glory for ourselves, but that we should have a new vision of God, and a new sense of His power. Thus it was with the Psalmist. God's deliverance gave him a new consciousness of God, of His power, and of His mercy, and he says, ' I will sing of thy power; yea, I will sing aloud of thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of trouble. Unto thee, O my strength, will I sing: for God is my defense and the God of my mercy.' It is a happy ' day of trouble ' that brings us a vision of God.

MARANATHA In Christ, timothy.