The Plea and the Prods
What compels, prompts, and evokes Yahweh to have mercy upon and deliver His people from death (in this life and the next)?
The question is relevant because if you have walked the Christian life for any significant amount of time, you have found yourself crying out to God, “help me!”. You have been faced with moments of heartache, pain, and anxiety, to which you can only ask for Him to deliver you. To live the Chrisitan life is to be shaped by a perpetual plea for salvation.
But what will you say next? After you have begged for mercy, how will you evoke God to action? Will you be able to give Him a reason to rescue you? Most Christians do not think about this, and I imagine some will frown upon the idea of prompting God to act, or giving God a reason to act. However, this manner of praying is exactly what we see in the Psalms. Often, we can see the psalmist pleading for help and then giving a reason for the Lord to work. It seems that these reasons are the psalmist’s way of prodding God to act.* David does this in Psalm 6, as he begs for the Lord to deliver him from his enemies and circumstances. He gives two reasons for God to respond to his prayer, and it is in these two reasons that we can find what compels, prompts, and evokes God to show mercy.
Listen to David’s plea and look for the two prods:
“Turn, O LORD, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love. For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?” (Ps. 6:4-5)
Notice the cry and two reasons for help. The cry is similar to the pleas of many Christians, “deliver my life”. David is in need of rescue from his trials and he asks the Lord to save him. We do not know the exact situation, but we know he needs God to intervene. Many Christians know this experience well, they have been in or are under strenuous circumstances and all they can say is, “help me!”
The two reasons David gives are detected by the conjunction “for”. He uses the word twice to entice God to action. In the first usage, he says, “for the sake of your steadfast love” (6:4). By the first conjunction, we see the first prod, which compels God to move–it is the attribute of God’s love. David is asking the Lord to look at His own steadfast love, and in response to His attribute, save him. Notice, David does not evoke a response from God by telling Him how much he loves Him or how faithful he has been. No, instead, David requests for God to be merciful to him by asking Him to look at His own nature. It is then on the basis of God’s own being, as He is steadfast love (Exod. 34:6-7), that David stakes his hope of rescue. The first appeal for God’s deliverance is on the basis of God’s perpetual love for His people.
The second prod is detected in the same manner as the first. David uses the conjunction “for” to offer another reason for God to be gracious. He says, “For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?” (6:5). The verse comes with some interpretive difficulty because it appears that David did not have a full orbed understanding of eternal life. However, he did not have the full revelation of the scriptures so we should not expect him to have a thorough knowledge of the afterlife. David is merely reflecting upon the partial knowledge he has. But in whatever way someone thinks about this issue, David’s point remains the same. He does not believe God will be remembered or praised after death. Therefore, the reason David prays for deliverance is so he can continue to live and worship God. The prod that David is using is that of God’s glory. David requests for God to save him so that He will be glorified, praised, honored, and made much of. David knows God has a great passion for His name and praise (Exod. 20:2-3; Isa. 42:8), therefore he prompts Him to come to his rescue for the sake of His glory. The second appeal for God’s intervention is on the grounds of God’s praise.
The plea for God’s deliverance is tethered to the prods of His steadfast love and praise. It is on the basis of these two reasons that David intends to evoke a response from God. The Lord’s love and glory are solid ground upon which he cried and prayed for deliverance.
How to Plea and Prod
I will ask again, what compels, prompts, and evokes Yahweh to have mercy upon and deliver His people from death (in this life and the next)? It is His own steadfast love and glory. We can compel, prompt, and evoke God to move by asking Him to display His steadfast love and pursue His glory in our rescue. We can pray for God to save our lost family members because He is ever loving. We can pray for God to grant us relief and peace at work so we can praise Him. We can pray for God to heal those who are injured because He is a God of love. We can pray for God to forgive us of sin because He will not give His glory to another. Yahweh will have mercy upon and deliver His people from death for the sake of His steadfast love and praise.
* I do not mean this in such a way that God is not exercising His sovereign will, or in such a way that His freedom is subject to man’s. For Yahwheh “does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have you done?” (Dan. 4:35)