This Poor, Needy Man
But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
Don’t you just love the Psalms? The whole Bible is God’s gift and love letter to us, and Psalms, the largest of the books has its place right in the center of His Word. Psalms is a treasure of revelation for our relationship with God. Many of its prayers may have been penned by a shepherd boy who loved God and turned every situation in his life into praise and worship. However, all the psalms are in-breathed and moved by the Holy Spirit, and therefore, they are words of life especially for us “on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11).
Now Proverbs says that there are some people who pretend and boast of their abundance, but that boasting is nothing more than evidence of their great poverty (Prov 13:7). This was true of the Laodicean church – the church where, sadly, Jesus was not inside, but outside the church door and knocking:
Revelation 3:17-18,20 Because you say, I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. Behold, I stand at the door and knock...
It is so popular today for Christians to make great, hyped-up proclamations of faith, claiming prosperity, riches, ministries, and fame. Yet, as with the Laodiceans, perhaps all that boasting is nothing more than the babbling noise of a very shallow brook.
The Psalmist David knew what abundance was all about, yet he also understood how fragile his life was. As he put it: “There is but a step between me and death” (1 Sam 20:3). Some would say that David was living in fear, but that is far from the truth. He was living in reality and in true humility before God. That is exactly why God refers to David as “a man after My own heart” (1 Sam 13:14; Acts 13:22), setting him as an example for future kings and for us. His words of sincere helplessness only inspired him to draw that close to God, and clearly, God drew close to David:
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…
Even as a bold, confident military champion, and king, David understood the reality of who and what he was. That very realization positioned him into the mighty arms of God. One has to just smile with delight to read how David refers to himself, especially when we know the words were genuine, being in-breathed by God the Holy Spirit – words the Spirit longs for us to place in our mouth as well:
Psalm 34:6 This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.
Psalm 70:5 But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay.
Psalms 86:1 Bow down Your ear, O Lord hear me: for I am poor and needy.
Psalms 109:22 For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.
Psalms 119:141 I am small and despised: yet do not I forget Your precepts.
I especially appreciate this confession of David’s in the quaint King James language:
Psalm 40:17 But I am poor and needy; yet the Lord thinketh upon me: thou art my help and my deliverer; make no tarrying, O my God.
“Yet the Lord thinketh upon me!”
It sounds so much like the Beloved’s bride in Song of Solomon. Speaking out of her undivided yieldedness to her Beloved, she says in delight:
Song of Songs 7:10 I am my beloved's, and His desire [Heb. “longing”] is toward me.
And later, we have a full visual of her absolute surrender and trust in Him. She is all His, and it’s all about Him. No loud boasting of who she is or what she has. Nothing of her at all. Nothing except her sweet revelation: “His desire is toward me.” It was simply faith and abandonment in her Beloved’s arms that got her through every wilderness and trial in life:
Song of Songs 8:5
Who is this coming up from the wilderness, leaning upon her Beloved?
This same attitude is echoed through the beautiful beatitudes which Jesus proclaimed on the mount at the beginning of His earthly ministry:
Matthew 5:3-6 Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.
In those words, there is nothing but humility, dependence on God, and desire for Him — qualities upon which Jesus pronounces great “blessing.”
Throughout Psalms, we read how David hungered and thirsted for the Lord, longing to know Him more. This is just another reason why God called David “a man after My own heart” and exactly why we should let the Holy Spirit write these psalms in our heart so they can flow from our lips also:
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
How lovely is Your tabernacle, O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the Lord;
My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.
[A Psalm of David when he was in the wilderness of Judah.]
O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You;
My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.
My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me.
Paul knew his calling to be an apostle, but he understood that it was all of grace. As we read, there are no loud babbling sounds of a shallow brook. Instead, we can feel the quiet, smooth swiftness of the deep-flowing river of grace flowing through him:
1 Timothy 1:12-15 And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord who has enabled me, because He counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry, Although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.
1 Corinthians 15:9-10 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Water always flows down and seeks out the lowest places. Paul understood that he needed to live in genuine humility down at the foot of the Cross, remembering the “miry clay and horrible pit” from which God had lifted him (just like David said of himself in Psalm 40:2). That was the only way to allow the fullness of grace, like water, to flow down into every part of his being in order to fulfill the great ministry for which God had called him.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Paul understood that “pride comes before…a fall” (Prov 16:19), and he had no interest in becoming a “castaway” because of a fall due to pride or any other work of the flesh:
1 Corinthians 9:27
But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
There is a old, precious little booklet called “The Practice of the Presence of God” which tells of a man in France who lived in the 1600s. He is simply known as Brother Lawrence, a man who lived to love and enjoy God. He delighted in doing anything and everything for the love of God:
“That he had always been governed by love…That he was pleased when he could take up a straw from the ground for the love of God, seeking Him only…”– Brother Lawrence, 1614-1691
In the attitude of living simply and humbly, Brother Lawrence created a unique habit:
“That he had no scruples; for, said he, when I fail in my duty, I readily acknowledge it, saying, I am used to do so: I shall never do otherwise, if I am left to myself. If I fail not, then I give God thanks, acknowledging that it comes from Him.”– Brother Lawrence, 1614-1691
No self-proclamations there. Nothing but true, genuine humility. No pride in success and no discouragement because of failure. Pride and discouragement are the mountains and valleys upon which we will find ourselves traveling until humility brings down the river of grace which lowers the mountains and raises the valleys. We must remember that salvation not only begins with “grace through faith,” but salvation continues and reaches its consumation in grace:
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
So, then, is it wrong to speak out in faith and proclaim the great promises in God’s Word? Absolutely not! In fact, upon hearing any of God’s abundant promises should be cause for us to rejoice and shout! Yet, the more we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us through God’s Word, we will find that there is always a beautiful balance – the same balance we see Creation. Branches that boldly stretch forth toward Heaven have roots that desperately search ever deeper for the necessary nourishment.
Years ago, an older missionary shared with me a tidbit of wisdom that I have always treasured:
“At the end of our time on earth
– if we have allowed God to have absolute sway over our lives –
we will understand the difference
between ourselves and the grace of God.”
Those words totally rewired my concept of what spiritual maturity and depth are all about. “I am what I am by the grace of God” – is not an excuse for our inabilities, nor is it a boast of some greatness we assume to possess. Rather, it is just a genuinely humble assessment of how “poor and needy” we are in truth – the “truth that sets us free” with the freedom to abandon ourselves to God’s amazing abundance of grace.
Hallelujah! What a wonderful thought: the Lord thinketh upon me!