When Death Stalks
(4) The cords of death surrounded me. The floods of destruction assailed (terrified) me. (5) The cords of Sheol entangled me. The snares of death confronted me. (6) In my distress I called upon Yahweh. To my God I cried out for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry for help reached his ears.
Three repeated terms help us grasp the message of this three verse segment: “cords” and “death,” each used twice (vss. 4 & 5), and “cry for help,” occurring twice (vs. 6). The first word in its literal sense means a rope by which stones are dragged, tents are pitched, and ships are moored. Figuratively, it speaks of the painful adversities that threaten our lives as they tie us up in knots.
The second word, “death,” hardly needs explanation. It refers to that state which Paul called “the last enemy” when our physical existence on earth comes to an end (1 Cor. 15:26). Note that David equates “death” with “Sheol” or the grave. The third repeated term, “to cry out,” describes the almost involuntary response of those in great danger who, at the point of panic, voice their need for help. The combination of these three words paints for us a vivid picture of anguish.
I. In my distress... (4 & 5)
II. I cried out (to Yahweh) for help, and he heard. (6)
Yahweh responds to the cries of those who turn to him for help when they find themselves in mortal danger.
Most of us will never undergo the dangers that David faced during the years he spent as a fugitive, fleeing from King Saul. However, some of us during our lifetimes will experience what is called a brush with death. This may occur suddenly in a car wreck or unfold in a doctor’s office as we are confronted with a life threatening illness. Few things focus our minds on eternal issues more quickly than the threat of impending death.
Is this something we can prepare for? Can we know what to do, how to react, when we suddenly come face to face with our mortality? David mentions one response that always honors the Lord: “In my distress I called upon Yahweh” (vs. 6). How normal such a prayer seems at the moment of crisis depends on how frequently we have called upon the Lord in less stressful times. Some of us are like the old sailor who in a life-threatening storm cried out, “O God, I haven’t bothered you for fifteen years and, if you save me, I promise not to bother you again for another fifteen years.” If that be the case, crying out to the Lord will no doubt seem awkward and strange. However, if we are accustomed to praying regularly, consistently staying in touch with our heavenly Father, then crying out to him in a moment of distress will seem as normal as breathing.