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Christian Union

A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

The term ‘needy’ has a decidedly negative connotation in our contemporary culture.  The descriptor ‘just so needy!’ is a derogatory phrase for a person whose life exhibits excessive dependency and weakness.  This negative association with the term ‘needy’ stems from the way we in the West place such high value on self-sufficiency and individual responsibility.  Former Harvard philosopher John Rawls described the entire moral vision of the early Modern era as characterized by individual “autonomy and responsibility.”  This rigorously individualistic spirit continues to this day.

We have inherited and been shaped by this idea that becoming autonomous and self-sufficient makes us impressive and valuable.  To be strong and independent is one of the ‘cardinal’ virtues of our Age.  To be weak and needy is a cultural ‘sin’ and a source of shame.  This makes life hard for us because our lives are filled with hardship that expose our weaknesses.  We often conceal our need, isolating ourselves from others in order to avoid the cultural shame of being the needy one.

An even more devastating problem emerges when we project this cultural value onto our relationship with God and isolate ourselves from Him when we are needy.  Whether due to sin, or feeling we’ve let God down, or some other failure, we can feel ashamed and unworthy of our relationship with God, and, as a result, we can isolate ourselves from God.

But here’s the amazing news.  While seeking the blessing of our culture does require success and individual strength, seeking the blessing of our gracious God does not.  God hears and acts particularly on behalf of the needy!  Listen to Psalm 69: 29-35:

“But I am afflicted and in pain;

  let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

I will praise the name of God with a song;

  I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

This will please the Lord more than an ox

  or a bull with horns and hoofs.

When the humble see it they will be glad;

  you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

For the Lord hears the needy

and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him,

  the seas and everything that moves in them.

For God will save Zion

  and build up the cities of Judah…” (emphasis added)

“Afflicted and in pain,” the trouble that has come upon David makes him feel, as he describes in verse 2, like he is sinking “in deep mire, where there is no foothold.”  He feels like he is drowning, the epitome of needy: “I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.”

You and I are just like David: desperately in need of God every day.  And the good news is that God will never shame us or despise us in our need during the difficult sojourn of this life:  “For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people.”  We never need to avoid God in order to first ‘clean up our act’ and ‘get it together.’  He knows our sins, our shame, and our trials – He knows we’re needy – and He loves us anyway.

The knowledge of this, David says, should revive our hearts!  We never need to avoid God or feel unworthy to seek Him when the flood waters seem to overwhelm us. It is particularly in these moments our God promises to hear us and save us.  Therefore, “you who seek God, let your hearts revive!”  We can take this confidence into prayer today, knowing our God will always hear us and save us: “For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah.

How can it be that a perfectly sufficient and holy God hears and saves needy sinners like us?  The suffering of David in Psalm 69 points forward to the suffering of our Lord Jesus.  We place our trust in Jesus, so that we can come to God without any fear or shame and always be heard and saved.  For by Jesus’ death and resurrection, all of the weakness, shame, and reproach we should experience and feel before a holy God has been swallowed up by the victory of the cross: “For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me” (Psalm 69:9). Though by our sin we are eminently worthy of shame, we, who are indeed needy and seeking the Lord together today, can let our hearts revive by this Gospel, and draw near to God in prayer, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  

Jim Thomforde
Ministry Director at Cornell
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