O God Our HelpGod Helps Those Who Cannot Help Themselves
Leslie Basham: Do you need serious help in some area today? Nancy Leigh DeMoss reminds you . . .
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Help is not just deliverance from problems, but it’s God’s deliverance through trouble.
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Tuesday, November 5.
You can’t help other people with their needs until you lean on God to help you with your needs. Nancy began to show us that yesterday in a series called "O God Our Help." She recorded this message a few weeks ago at Revive '13 in Schaumburg, IL. Revive '13 was a conference Revive Our Hearts held for women’s ministry leaders.
We’ll review a little bit of what we heard yesterday, then hear part two of Nancy’s message.
Nancy: First Samuel 4:1 tells us that "Israel went out to battle against the Philistines. They encamped at a place called Ebenezer." That's two words. Eben means "stone," and Ezer means—what?—"help." So this is a place that is called "stone of help." That's where the Israelites are encamped, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.
Verse 2: "The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated before the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle." Now, here they are at a place called "stone of help"—the Israelites—and yet they go to battle against the Philistines, and the Philistines defeat them decisively. This is a humiliating defeat, and from all appearances, God did not help.
Why didn't He help His people in that battle? Why did He allow them to be defeated by the Philistines? Well, as you dig into this whole passage, it becomes very clear that God wanted the hearts of His people. He wanted to get their attention so that they would humble themselves and cry out to Him for His help.
And then turn over just a few pages to chapter 7. Verse 2 tells us that a long time passed—some twenty years—and during this time, the intervening period of time, the Philistines are winning again and again and again. The Israelites are under the thumb of the Philistines for twenty-some years. And then the end of verse 2 tells us, "and all Israel lamented after the LORD."
Now, maybe you sit there and think as I might, Twenty years? Like, what took you so long? You know, get with it. But then that then begs the question: How long does it take us to get the idea that we need God's help? How long does it take us to cry out to Him, to humble ourselves?
You know what I see as I study this passage? Some people—and, sadly, myself at times—would rather live in defeat for a very long time than to do what it takes to get God's help. Now, we need to remember that as we're trying to help people, and we need to remember that as we're walking with the Lord ourselves.
But God loves us enough to keep us in that place of distress until we have no alternative, no option but to cry out to Him.
And that's what finally happens. Verses 3–4 of chapter 7:
And Samuel said to all the house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your heart, then [prove it!] put away the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." So the people of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtaroth, and they served the LORD only.
You see, we have to be willing to get rid of those little-g gods that we're looking to and depending on to help us, and then we will be ready to turn to the Lord, big-G as our helper, to lean on Him.
So verses 5–6:
Samuel said, "Gather all Israel at Mizpah, and I will pray to the LORD for you." So they gathered at Mizpah and drew water and poured it out before the LORD and fasted on that day and said there, "We have sinned against the LORD."
They humbled themselves. They confessed their sin. They confessed their idolatry. They sought the Lord.
Then we come to verse 7 where, once again, they find themselves under attack. Don't think that just because you're seeking the Lord that there will be no more problems, no more pressures. There's a test coming here.
When the Philistines heard that the people of Israel had gathered at Mizpah, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the people of Israel heard of it, they were afraid of the Philistines. [Same story so far.] And the people of Israel said to Samuel, "Do not cease to cry out to the LORD our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines."
They're finally at a point of desperation—no other means of help, no other means of deliverance except the Lord.
"So," verses 9–10, "Samuel took a nursing lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD"—which doesn't that, you think, anticipate the sacrificial Lamb of God who one day would save all who cry out to Him? Old Testament hint here. Samuel offered up this offering,
[He] cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD answered him. As Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to attack Israel. But the LORD thundered with a mighty sound that day against the Philistines and threw them into confusion, and they [the Philistines] were defeated before Israel."
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer.
Now, that had been the name of the place where they started out and gotten defeated, but it doesn't matter what the name of the place you are at is called if you're not looking to the Lord to be your help. Finally they had turned to the Lord as their help, and Samuel sets up this visible reminder that Jehovah was their source of victory—"stone of help"—for he said, "Till now the LORD has helped us."
It was an expression of gratitude for God's help and a perpetual reminder that God is our only help. He is the only one who can deliver us from the hand of our enemies.
Remembering how God has helped us, how He has delivered us in the past gives us a heart of gratitude, and it gives us faith and hope and courage as we face our current needs or we think about future trials. To remember God as our help releases us from fear and from anxiety. We remember He has delivered us, He is delivering us, and He will deliver us again as we cry out to Him.
So why then with such an amazing Jehovah Ezer, helper God, why are we so often so slow to cry out to the Lord for help?
Well, there are probably a lot of answers to that question, but here are a few that have been on my mind.
I think, number one, we don't think we really need help. We've been trained in our culture to be self-sufficient and independent. This is the era of self-help industry and do-it-yourself books, and we don't want to be weak or needy or dependent. We see this again and again in the Scripture as the Children of Israel spurned God's help and looked elsewhere for help. Look for that as you're reading through the Scripture.
Then we have this mantra in our era, maybe in every era, I don't know, but "God helps those who help themselves." You know, a lot of people think that's in the Bible. It isn't. No—an emphatic no—God helps those who cannot help themselves, those who know they can't help themselves, those who admit they can't help themselves, and those who cry out to Him for help.
And then sometimes I think we don't cry out because—we wouldn't say it this way, but we feel maybe that our need is so great or our circumstance is so dire that nothing and no one can help us, not even God. But the fact is, it's our need that makes us a candidate for His help.
I've often said to women, if you've listened to Revive Our Hearts for any length of time, you've heard me say this: Anything that makes me need God is a blessing. It's a blessing. We want to be self-confident and strong and capable, but God wants us to realize how utterly inadequate and weak we are so that we will lean hard on Him and our confidence will be in Him.
So how do we get to that place where we cry out to Him?
Well, I am so thankful that God loves us enough that He creates and orchestrates circumstances to make us desperate for Him.
Anytime we have a conference like this, one of the things I pray in the days leading up to the event, I prayed it this week, is that God would create circumstances in the lives of those who will be attending that will make them come to this event realizing how desperately they need the Lord.
Now, some of you are thinking, Now that explains my week! Thanks a lot! (laughter)
But remember, anything that makes me need God is . . . (crowd responds) . . . "a blessing." (You didn't sound real sure about that.) (laughter)
So I need it, and you need it, and Paul the apostle needed it. He said in 2 Corinthians 1, "We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia." Affliction. "For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength." You been there? Utterly burdened beyond your strength? So much so "that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death" (vv. 8–9).
We thought, God's done with us. Heaven's next. This is it. "But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead." So if we die, God raises the dead. He said, "We had to come to a place where we were utterly, absolutely, entirely helpless, and that was to make us rely on God who raises the dead." When we reach the end of our resources, our strength, our efforts, our abilities, and we cry out to Him for help, that's when His grace and His power are released in our lives.
I was always a good student when I was in school. School came easily for me plus I didn't take any hard courses, (laughter) so it wasn't really hard to be a good student. But a lot of things came easily for me, and as I got into vocational ministry, thirty-five years ago last month, I began praying, "Lord, don't let me ever get to the point where I can do what You've called me to do without You or where I think I can."
And you know, that is one prayer that God has been very faithful to answer. (laughter) He keeps this straight-A student in the past. He keeps me on my knees, dependent, feeling needy and desperate and unable to do what He's called me to do apart from Him. You see, our weakness showcases Jehovah Ezer, the Lord our help, His strengthness, His greatness, and His grace.
A couple months ago I did something I've never done before, and I actually don't know if I'd ever thought of doing it before. Physical fitness is something that has always been a challenge for me. I wrote the book on 101 ways to get out of P.E. class. My idea of exercise is reading a good book. And my picture is next to the word "sedentary" in the dictionary. So that's me.
I found I was tired all the time. I didn't have stamina. I'd gained over thirty pounds in the last several years. And I just knew that I had to start to give some attention to my physical condition if I was going to continue serving the Lord and others in the way that I want to.
And so finally I got desperate. I heard about a new little fitness center in our area, and I walked in one day, and I said, "I need help. Can you help me?" And they said, "Yes, we can help you." I joined. I handed them a credit card to charge monthly. I signed up to work with a personal trainer. This has all been extremely out of my comfort zone, if only you knew.
And yet I've watched how, in this area of my life, where I have been so weak and so needy of help and could not help myself, how this place and this trainer have been such a huge help. I've thought so many times over these last weeks as I was preparing this message—a lot of it in the gym—thinking about God is our helper, and this trainer is just giving me some life illustrations. One day maybe we will do another message on that. But I needed instruction. I walked in there and saw these machines. I was clueless. I had no idea what to do with this stuff. I needed somebody who knew more than I did, someone who would tailor a workout to my need.
I needed instruction. I needed accountability—I can't tell you how many times the fact that I paid the money and made the appointment gets me there when I would have come up with any number of excuses not to. The motivation, the encouragement in this one single area of my life, the Lord brought me help, but first I had to say, "I need help; I need help."
I'm thankful for that trainer. I'm thankful for that place. But I'll tell you what, I'm really super thankful for, after meditating on this over these last months, the fact that God is Jehovah Ezer. That trainer—he can help me, but the ways he can help are pretty limited, very limited, compared to what Jehovah can do and does do.
I'm thankful that God is our helper. I'm thankful that the Holy Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. I'm thankful that Jesus helps us, that He is that great High Priest we read about in Hebrews: "For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham . . . because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. . . . Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace that we may receive mercy"—that's what we need first—and then "that we may find grace to help in time of need. . . . So we can confidently say, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'" (Heb. 2:16, 18; 4:16; 13:6).
I want you to think about the most difficult circumstance or situation that you may be facing. It may be something you've written on that prayer card, something in your family, something in your church, something in the ministry where you serve, maybe some difficult circumstances in the lives of women that you're seeking to help. Let me just remind you that help is not just deliverance from problems, but help is God's deliverance through trouble.
I have been very moved to come back to this facility where we held the first True Woman Conference five years ago over in the Convention Center. I've had a lot of thoughts over the last few days since I got here. That was an amazing event. Some of you were there. God showed up in just such a great, great way. And we were all so thankful. The ministry got propelled, and so many new opportunities and people connecting to the resources—just great new opportunities for ministry.
But as some of you have heard me share before, over the next two years after that, from '08 to '10, while the ministry was on this upward trajectory, I was on this downward trajectory in so many ways, just desperate in a lot of ways—crying out, needing the Lord, desperate for help.
Yesterday in my reading of the Scripture, I came to that wonderful passage in 2 Samuel 22, and I was sitting here in Schaumburg—same hotel, same room where I stayed at the '08 conference. Let me just read a few sentences from that passage that so ministered to me over these last forty-eight hours.
"The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation,
my stronghold and my refuge,
my savior" (vv. 2–3).
"In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I called.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry came to his ears" (v. 7).
As I read that, I thought about how many times, not just in those two years but in every season of my life, I've cried out to the Lord and how He has heard my cry.
Verse 17 says, "He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters."
When I thought I was drowning, and sometimes going down for the last time, He drew me out. He sent His grace.
Verse 20: "He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me."
Now, by this time yesterday morning, I was in tears. "He delighted in me!" When there was nothing delightful about me, He was and is a God of grace. He sees us through Christ. He brings us out into a broad place.
"He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights" (v. 34).
"You equipped me with strength for the battle" (v. 40).
And he concludes his prayer: "For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name" (v. 50).
The God who comes running when we cry. Deuteronomy 33 tells us, "There is none like God, O Jeshurun, who rides through the heavens to your help, through the skies in his majesty" (v. 26).
I want to just close with this excerpt from my friend Charles Spurgeon who has this to say about that verse—"The God who rides through the heavens to your help." Just listen.
Men can come to our help, but they travel slowly, creeping along the earth. Lo, our God comes riding on the heavens. Those who travel on the earth may be stopped by enemies, they certainly will be hindered; but he who rides upon the heavens cannot be stayed nor even delayed. When Jehovah's excellency comes flying upon the sky on the wings of the wind, how gloriously are displayed the swiftness, the certainty, and the all sufficiency of delivering grace . . .
Fall back upon yourselves, lean upon your fellow creatures, trust upon earth born confidences, and you fall upon a rotten foundation that shall give way beneath you; but rest upon your God and upon your God alone, and the stars in heaven shall fight for you . . . and things present and things to come, and heights, and depths, and all the creatures subservient to the will of the omnipotent Creator, shall work together for good for you, seeing that you love God and are depending upon his power.
Leslie: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss, speaking at Revive '13. It was a conference Revive Our Hearts hosted for women’s ministry leaders a few weeks ago in Schaumburg, IL.
If you want to go back over this message from Nancy, you’ll find it on video at ReviveOurHearts.com. We’ll put a link to that video in today’s transcript. You’ll also find a video our team made recapping Revive '13 featuring several speakers and attendees. Again, it’s at ReviveOurHearts.com.
As you know, 2014 will be here before you know it. Before you buy a calendar for the new year—maybe something decorated with puppies or kittens or cartoon characters—let me tell you about the Revive Our Hearts 2014 wall calendar. It’s called “The Wonder of His Name.”
Each of the twleve entries will focus you on a different name of Jesus with a quote from Nancy. The watercolor and calligraphy were custom made by acclaimed artist Timothy Botts. I think you’ll love the calendar—even more than one with cute animals.
We’ll send you the calendar when you support Revive Our Hearts with a gift of any size. Ask for “The Wonder of His Name” wall calendar when you call with your donation. The number is 1–800–569–5959, or visit ReviveOurHearts.com.
You’ve heard of the battle of the sexes, right? Maybe you’re living the battle of the sexes right in your own home. Tomorrow, Nancy, Mary Kassian and a panel of guests will show you how men and women can work together and complement one another as they build God's kingdom together. Please be back, for Revive Our Hearts.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.