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Hebrew Spirituality: The Jewish Roots of Trusting God (part 3)

Post Title: Cultivating a Relentless Trust

When we're feeling good, it's not hard to praise God. But do we praise him when we're in pain? When enemies surround us? When all around us is sinking sand, and only one rock will be our refuge, will you praise then? Will you express trust then?

Here is the power of the Psalms. Amid lament—with pain in his heart—praises born of trust come out of the psalmist's lips. They both instruct us and give voice to our kingdom experience.

To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

O my God, in you I trust.

- Psalm 25 (A Psalm of David)

David is credited with writing many of our most beloved psalms. No one suffered as much as David in all of the Hebrew scriptures (Tanakh). Job's affliction was for a season; David's was for a lifetime. No one was so misunderstood or had so many enemies. Yet, he is the one who has a heart for God and who writes praises to God in his laments.

How can he do it? Because he is a man who knew what it meant to trust God. Psalm 119:28 puts it very powerfully. My soul melts away for sorrow; strengthen me according to your word! There are various translations for the Hebrew here: my soul weeps, is weary, melts away for grief, with sorrow, from heaviness.

Perhaps the most dramatic rendering is found in the Jewish ArtScroll edition of the Psalms, which translates it this way, My soul drips from agony. The verb dalaph speaks of something that is leaking. Again, the text is found in Psalm 119, which features 176 verses of praise to God for his words of life. David, the author, says My soul drips from agony. Oh, how I love your Torah (Psalm 119:28)!

I hope this point is seeping into your consciousness and sinking deep into your soul. The power of the lament psalms is that they praise in the midst of pain.

Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! (Psalm 105:3). According to the tradition, David played and sang songs to prepare his hurting heart to enter into appropriate worship. David accompanied his prayers with music and song, filling his heart with joy even to overflowing as he praised God for his hesed, steadfast love, covenant faithfulness (grace, in the New Testament).

There are two keys to all of this found in Psalm 25.

  1. Look solely to God — To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

  2. Lean only on God — O my God, in you I trust.

It does not mean that you will always have clarity amid pain, suffering, and hardship. It does not mean the confusion will be dispelled, that your adversaries will always be vanquished immediately, that your circumstances will be conquered. It does not even mean that you will not meet with an untimely death. Yet, through it all, you can still trust God.

If you are looking for witnesses to this reality, just read Hebrews 11. We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who trusted God radically and yet suffered. They die, sometimes cruelly. We all know someone who died an untimely death.

Contrary to what detractors and critics say, trust is not a crutch because it takes courage to have biblical trust. It won't spare you from sufferings. But with the help of trust, God can redeem your sorrows for the sake of his name.

To trust God means to think of God as your Father to whom you can say, "Abba, I surrender my will and my very life to you unconditionally, without reservation, without any caveats. I am wholly confident in your everlasting goodness and grace." Can we say that?

I can tell you in my life, God has taught me more and more about trust. Just about the time I think I'm figuring it out, I go through a painful circumstance, a difficult thing that teaches me another dimension of trust.

I can tell you, I want more and more to get to that place where I can wholeheartedly say, "God, I trust you completely, and I give my life into your hands utterly. I know your goodness, I know your grace. Whatever happens, I know you're working for my good. I may not understand your ways, but I can trust in your character."

Biblical trust, ultimately, is grounded in the character and the reliability of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

He is the one who pursues us with grace and goodness! He wants us to grow and prosper, to come into the fullness of the life he intended when he created us in his image.

A crucial part of that trust means confidence that God accepts you as you are. In Messiah Jesus, while you were yet a sinner, he died for you. You have to have trust in the work of the cross. He accepts you, and he loves you so much he won't leave you where you are. He will work to transform you into the image of his Son.

You must trust that he is working that in your life. Trust is constantly tested in the crucible of trials and difficulties. Trust permits God to test us in a way that produces gold and not destruction. In a real sense, trust must be ruthless.

Brennan Manning wrote a powerful book titled just that, Ruthless Trust. In the Foreword, Richard Foster points out that biblical trust is in radical opposition to any sense of self-pity, evidenced by the victim mentality which is so typical in the world, and unfortunately, even in the church.

Trust rejects the idea that self-interest is the highest good. Indeed it counters and combats any of the many self sins with which we are all so familiar: self-indulgence, self-will, self-service, self-aggrandizement, self-gratification, self-righteousness, self-sufficiency. Every one of those undermines trust; every one of those is confronted by trust.

In trusting God, we turn away from ourselves as the be-all and end-all of life. We even turn away from our welfare as the ultimate good because we prioritize the kingship of God first and foremost in our lives.

Only then can we, with our lips and with our blood, give witness to the God who abounds in goodness and grace. In cultivating relentless trust, God is at the center of everything and self fades from sight, banished by belief and hope.

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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.

Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.

Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.

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