Hasten to Help Me!
(H) For the director of the choir, of David, for a memorial. (1) Hasten, God, to deliver me! (Hasten) to my help, Yahweh!(2) Let those be ashamed and confused who seek my life. Let those be turned back and humiliated who delight in my ruin.(3) Let those be turned back because of their shame who say, “Aha, Aha!” (4) May all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you, and may those who love your salvation continually say, “Let God be magnified!” (5) But I (am) poor and needy. Hasten to me, God! You are my help and deliverer. Yahweh, do not delay!
Ten jussive verb forms, each carrying an imperatival sense, and two actual imperatives, all in five short verses, give this psalm its great sense of urgency. The repeated terms, “hasten” and “help,” both open and close David’s prayer (vss. 1 & 5). In between, the king earnestly beseeches God that his enemies might be “turned back” (not a repetition of the same word but synonyms) as well as “ashamed,” “confused,” and “humiliated.”
In a play on words, the Hebrew word translated “shame,” (yabosh), sounds just like one of the words translated “turned back, (yashob in vs. 3). It uses the same letters but in a different order as if we were to juxtapose “slit” and “silt.” The psalm displays what scholars call a “chiastic structure,” shaped like a big “X” with the opening and closing verses conveying the same message while the middle three verses are related to each other.
I. Prayers focused on SELF: Hasten, Yahweh, to help me! (1 & 5)
II. Prayers focused on OTHERS: (2-4)
- on my enemies (2 & 3)
- on those who seek and love you (4)
In our cries to God in the time of need, we seek the defeat of our enemies while requesting deliverance for all who love his salvation.
The exhortation, “Hurry up!” which we often use when helping a pokey child get dressed, hardly seems appropriate when we come to God in prayer. How could mere humans dare to urge our eternal, all powerful God to hurry up? However, this is precisely the thrust of Psalm 70 in which David urged God to provide a speedy answer to his prayers for deliverance. While “hasten” may sound better than “hurry up” or “get a move on,” that is precisely what the verb means as David impatiently used it twice, both at the beginning and at the end of his psalm.
Those who know God best never seem to shy away from expressing their frustrations, their impatience, their angry feelings to him. Habakkuk was not afraid to ask God why he would use the godless, ruthless Babylonians to chasten Israel (Hab. 1:12 & 13). When Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat in the midst of the storm, his agitated disciples cried out, “Don’t you care” ( Mk. 4:35-41)? In neither case were the petitioners rebuked with, “You should not say that.” In each case they received answers to their urgent entreaties.
How comfortable are we in expressing to God how we really feel? Prayer is the place where we can be most real with God. After all, why try to hide or hold anything back from the one who already knows what we are about to ask even before the thoughts form in our minds or are expressed on our lips? With that in mind, we should unabashedly “let our requests be made known unto God” so that he might lovingly grant us the answers we seek as well as his peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:6 KJV).