I am Poor and Needy
In medieval Europe the king ruled. It was his right to distribute lands as he saw fit, to arrange and approve of marriages, to execute justice for his people, and provide protection from enemies. On one hand, people often romanticize this period of history, with stories of damsels in distress, chivalrous knights and epic deeds of bravery. On the other hand, we look back at such a time and are thankful that we don’t live in it; that we are not under the rule of a king who sees himself above the law and rules to please his own selfish desires. That’s perhaps more of an accurate reflection of this era. You were either a good schemer, seeking to stay in the king’s favor, or you wanted to stay hidden from his awareness at all so that you might go about your life as you wanted. Either way, your relationship with the king was guarded and perhaps often despised.
The one exception would be when you were under attack. It was then that you sought the king’s protection. He had the walls and the might. And the thing that you appealed to, when you sought his protection, wasn’t how worthy you were of his protection, but rather these two simple truths: you are in need and he is your king.
Things haven’t really changed today. The idea of a king is loathsome, particularly to Americans. After all, our nation went to war to get out from underneath a king. And it still defines America. We rebel against authority. We want to be the master of our own fate. We want to steer our own ship; find our own way. It’s why we’ve gotten to the point where we even see truth as personal. “You have your truth and I have mine,” is the popular notion. The problem with this view is that its built on a faulty foundation. You want to enjoy the king’s land without the king’s rule. Or, to think of it in a way that’s closer to home. Teenagers want the benefits of their parents’ food, shelter, and cars but without their parents’ rule.
Sadly, this is the way we often treat our relationship to God. We want the benefit of the things he provides without having to submit to his rule or even acknowledge that the things we enjoy have come from His hand. It’s when trouble comes that we suddenly come looking for God. That’s the story of mankind throughout history. It’s the story of Israel throughout the Old Testament.
It’s a tragedy, however. If only Israel had embraced what God had in mind. They were meant to be the means of blessing the whole world.
1 “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the Lord your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. 2 And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God. 3 Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground and the fruit of your cattle, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock. 5 Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. 6 Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out. (Deuteronomy 28:1–6 ESV)
He goes on with even more if you want to read Deuteronomy 28 for yourself.
Instead of blessing, however, they often found trouble precisely because they chose to go there own way. It was only when trouble came did they appeal to God. This kind of life is so familiar to us. Why do we live this way?
We forget two vitally important truths. You are in need and God is your king. This psalm points these out to us as they form the basis of this prayer. They shape our attitude in prayer. And when we remember these truths, it opens the door to a transformation of the heart.