(61)Clearing Our Minds…Unless

by Eugene Higgins


These daily emails are (mercifully) nearing their end likely sometime this week. But today, please think for a few moments about the rare Bible word, “unless.” In the English of our excellent KJV, it occurs only 8 times in all of the scriptures; 7 of those times are in the OT; and three of the 7 are in the Book of Psalms. It means something like, “if this were not the case, then …” and at times is the equivalent of “except.” Since some of these emails have been far too wordy (it’s this computer!) this will be brief by confining the comments to just two of those passages.

“If I did not have this help …”
Psalm 94:17, “Unless the LORD had been my help, my soul had almost dwelt in silence.”

“If I did not have this hope…”
Psalm 27:13, “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”

A very well-known American, (a professing believer), wrote some wise words recently. Here they are: “When a disc jockey or a talk show host or a journalist who is being paid to work from his or her home tells people who can’t work, pay bills, or pay their rent or mortgage to ‘Stay home and be careful because we’re all in this together,’ it’s okay to question the premise.”

He was pointing out that we may be “all in this together,” but we’re not all in this together equally. Many people are hurting, and hurting deeply. Businesses built up over many decades have had to close doors – thousands of them. Employers who wished to carry their employees through the crisis have had  to let them go. Numerous believers are facing problems as to health and finances. Many “leaders,” whose income is assured and secure, seem tone-deaf to the trouble the general public is facing. To whom can a believer turn in times like this? Was that in the hymnist’s mind when he wrote:

Where could I go, Oh where could I go,
Seeking a refuge for my soul,
Needing a friend, to help me in the end,
Where could I go, but to the Lord?

There is Someone to Whom you can go, Someone Who understands, Who does not issue commands from a position of invulnerability but was in all points tried as we are, yet without sin. His sympathy (ability to feel along with His people) and succor (ability to help in time of need) are unrivalled. It was Aaron, not Moses, who was chosen to be the high priest in Israel. Aaron knew the pains his people endured. He had suffered along with them. While Moses wore the finest Egyptian cotton on his back in the palace, Aaron felt the fierce Egyptian cat-o-nine tails on his back in the pits and brickkilns of Pithom and Raamses. Moses sat and supped with royalty while Aaron “served with rigour.” Aaron was the one who could “understand.” And you “have not a high priest Who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”

He is your Helper: In Psalm 94, the Psalmist spoke of falling and “dwelling in silence.” That is likely a euphemism for dying and going beyond where his voice could be heard on earth. He would have died if the Lord had not been his Helper. He is your Helper as well. There is a telling illustration of this in scripture. The closest Saul ever came to apprehending David in the wilderness is when David was fleeing on one side of a mountain and Saul’s men, closing in on him, were just on the other side. This was because the Ziphim had betrayed David. He wrote a Psalm, memorializing his deliverance, and said, “Behold, God is mine Helper: the Lord is with them that uphold my soul” (Psalm 54:4). The writer of the Hebrew letter caught up that thought and wrote, “He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, ‘The Lord is my Helper,’ and ‘I will not fear what man shall do unto me’” (Hebrews 13:5, 6). David knew it was God Who kept his foot from slipping (94:18) and God Whose mercy upheld him. 1Ch 12:22 records, “For at that time day by day there came to David to help him, until it was a great host, like the host of God.” But more than those who came to help him, David knew and rejoiced in the fact that God was his Helper.

He is your Hope: In Psalm 27, the Psalmist spoke of fainting. If he did not have the hope that he would see God working, he felt he would not have been able to continue – he would have lost heart. There are two occasions where the Psalmist said that his hope was in the Lord. Both times the words are in contrast to placing hopes in mere man and both have thoughts of God’s grace. In Psalm 39, after speaking about the vanity of man, the psalmist says, “And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in Thee.” In Psalm 146, after speaking of how undependable princes are and how insubstantial life is, he writes, “Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God.” Referring, in the first instance, to the One Who would forgive his transgressions, and, in the second instance, to God’s being “the God of Jacob,” David reminds us of the grace that characterizes the God in Whom our hope is. Someone once said, “Faith is trust in what God has already done. Hope is trust in what God promises for the future.”

One believer wrote of boarding a plane (remember those days) in the US for a flight to Europe (west to east). His seat was beside someone whom he described as “a little old lady” who was very nervous. 
He asked her, “Is this your first flight?” 
She explained, “No, I’m always nervous when I fly. But it won’t be bad this trip.”
He asked, “Why?”
She answered, “We’re flying toward the morning. We’re flying toward the dawn.”

“Flying toward the morning … toward the dawn” – what an apt description of believers and the hope that is ours! We can have courage because He is our Helper (Hebrews 13); we can have confidence because He is our Hope (1 Timothy 1:1).

Life here is grand, with friends I love so dear,
Comfort I get from God’s own Word;
Yet when I face the chilling hand of death,
Where could I go but to the Lord?

Where could I go, Oh where could I go,
Seeking a refuge for my soul,
Needing a friend, to help me in the end,
Where could I go, but to the Lord?
 A Song of degrees of David 
If it had not been (“Unless it had been”) the LORD who was on our side … Then the proud waters had gone over our soul … Our help is in
the name of the LORD, Who made heaven and earth 
(Psalm 124:1-8).

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