Getting Stuck

Psalm 40
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
Blessed is the man who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
You have multiplied, O LORD my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.
In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt offering and sin offering you have not required.
Then I said, “Behold, I have come; in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”
I have told the glad news of deliverance in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips, as you know, O LORD.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.
As for you, O LORD, you will not restrain your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will ever preserve me!
For evils have encompassed me beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me, and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head; my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O LORD, to deliver me! O LORD, make haste to help me!
Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the LORD!”
As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer; do not delay, O my God!

I was talking to a friend of mine last night about Jesus’ parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders –specifically, where the sand in the story would have come from. I’ve been thinking more about that today. That made me think about this.

What is the greatest danger in the Palestinian desert? When we Americans think of desert, we think Lawrence of Arabia and flowing sand dunes and sandstorms and sand sand sand as far as the eye could see. So when we think of desert and danger, we think of heat – dehydration – starvation – getting lost. All of those ARE dangerous, but the most dangerous force in the Palestinian desert is floods.

Yes, floods.

You see, there are places in Palestine that have not received appreciable, measurable rainfall since the time of Jesus. But there are other places that receive about 40 inches a year. But they receive all that rain in about six weeks – the rest of the year is dry. This kind of rainfall creates wadis – dry river beds in the desert, miles and miles away from the rainy places. They are dry most of the year – except during the rainy season, when they can fill up in a heartbeat with forty, fifty, sixty feet of rushing water. The Bedouin post lookouts with warning drums on hilltops during the rainy season – when they see a storm or smell water, they beat the drum to warn the shepherdesses that might be watering livestock in a wadi. By the time you can hear the water, it is too late.

In the aftermath of these floods, the bottom of the wadi is covered with one of two substances. Sometimes, the water sweeps so many rocks and pebbles so forcefully, year after year after year, that the grinding erosion action creates a sandy-bedded wadi. This is the sort of place Jesus describes – an easy, good-looking place to build, but which will be swept away without warning when the storm comes. Other times, though, the water scoops up thick clayey dirt from the uplands and carries it down to the wadi, where it leaves the stickiest, thickest mud you’ve ever seen in your life. It can get six to eight inches deep. Then, since the moisture evaporates off the surface almost as quickly as it came, a very thin crust of dry earth forms, hiding the mud. Wild animals, livestock, and naïve or oblivious shepherds can be caught in this, and be completely unable to escape.

Now, reread the verses above, and imagine David the shepherd in the wilderness. Where is he before the psalm starts? HE IS STUCK in one of these canyons, the flood is coming, and there is absolutely nothing he can do. God help me! I’m going to die! Get me out of here! Ever been there? Ever been in a place where, through your own sin or someone else’s evil or just circumstances that God has allowed, where you are stuck and you can see and hear and feel the disaster coming to sweep you away? Ever watched one of your loved ones walk out into the clay and get stuck? Day after day, week after week, and they can’t see the flood, but you know it is coming? God, please, just get me out of here and get my feet up on the rock!

That’s the psalm – that is the picture – I was TRAPPED and God saved me. And he WILL save you. Wrestle with the text. Plead with God. But don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

In HIS love,

PS — Great thanks go out to Ray Vander Laan for all the work he’s done in teaching us all how to place Scripture in its original context and imagery.


About Nick Gill

orphan-poet-adoptee-soldier-prodigal-servant-husband- counselor-desperate seeker after my Father's face "I feel my body weakened by the years as people turn to gods of cruel design. Is it that they fear the pain of death, or is it that they fear the joy of life?" - Toad the Wet Sprocket

Posted on 4 February, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Great insights. I’ll have to figure out a way to remember them!

    Thanks for sharing that.

  2. I’m listening to Ray Vander Laan’s Faith Lessons on my mp3 player. You can download them, or recommend them for others, from the Mt Hope Church of
    Christ website, or from Jay Guin’s site.

  3. Good stuff Nick. You gave me something to chew on..


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