Weak and Helpless
(21) But you, Yahweh, my Lord, deal (graciously) with me for your name’s sake. Because your steadfast love (is) good, deliver me, (22) for (I am) poor and needy and my heart is pierced within me. (23) I fade away like a lengthening shadow. I am shaken off like a locust. (24) My knees are weak from fasting, and my body becomes gaunt without fat. (25) I have become a reproach to others. When they see me, they shake their heads.
While there are no repetitions in this segment, we encounter several words we have seen previously such as “steadfast love,” “deliver,” and “poor and needy” (vss. 21 & 22). Two striking similes convey the psalmist’s sense of frailty. First, he describes himself as fading away like the shadow cast by the setting sun, elongating more and more until it disappears when darkness falls. Then he pictures himself as a dying locust, clinging desperately to the garment of a person determined to shake it off (vs. 23). Like Job, his life has become a public example of suffering.
I. Seeking deliverance from Yahweh who is gracious and loving (21)
II. Sensing my desperate need for him in my weakness (22-25)
When feeling weak and helpless, we cry out to Yahweh for deliverance.
The descriptions of the psalmist’s frailty might be expressed in colloquial English by phrases such as “a shadow of his former self,” “clinging to life by a thread,” or “looking like death warmed over” (vss. 22-25). There are many ways to describe those who are struggling with an incapacitating illness or who have been tortured in a prison camp, deprived of adequate food and water. They have reached the point of utter physical and emotional exhaustion. While recovery is possible, their bodies may never quite be the same after having been through something this debilitating.
Through Paul’s portrayal of his physical sufferings for the sake of Christ in 2 Corinthians 11 we realize that he, like David, endured a great deal at the hands of his enemies. His trials included beatings, stonings, shipwreck, and all kinds of hardship including hunger, thirst, and imprisonment (2 Cor. 11:24-29). While most of us will never have to undergo what he experienced, we sometimes feel as though we have nothing left physically or emotionally. In such moments when we feel utterly incapable of going on, we can turn to Yahweh for strength and count on him to sustain us. The conclusion of Isaiah 40 provides great encouragement in such circumstances: “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Is. 40:29-31).