"They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way
They found no city to dwell in
Hungry and thirsty
Their soul fainted in them."
Read that again. You see all the problems going on there?
1) Wandering in the wilderness
2) In a desolate way
3) Finding no city to dwell in
6) Their soul fainted in them
Things are piling up here. Wandering in the wilderness is bad enough, but they were in a desolate way, too.
Desolate: (adjective) -
feeling or showing misery, unhappiness or loneliness
You can wander, even be lost, without necessarily being miserable. I know; I do it all the time. They were lost and miserable.
Verse 4 also tells us that they found no city to dwell in. At first glance, this seems like a repetition of "wandering in the wilderness," but I think it's important that it's specified. Taken together, it could mean that they were on their way to someplace specific, but they were lost and couldn't find it.
Or, it could mean that they didn't know where they were headed, and no matter which direction they headed, there was nowhere for them to dwell.
Or, it could mean that they did come upon cities, but none would give them shelter, forcing them to continue wandering.
Okay, now add problems #4 and 5 ~ they are hungry and thirsty. That makes every situation worse, doesn't it?
And then problem #6, the worst one of all: they lost hope. There's just nothing sadder than someone who's lost hope, is there?
But then look at verse 6. Help is on the way!
"Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
and He delivered them out of their distresses."
Now, I have a couple of thoughts here: first of all, what took them so long?? It says "Then they cried out..." Why then? Why not sooner?
My other question is about part B of that sentence: "He delivered them out of their distresses." I wonder what exactly that means. They had several distresses. Did He solve all of their problems all in an instant?
I doubt it. Not that He couldn't. He's God. But that's just not how He normally works. He doesn't just give His children easy paths and perfect lives. So what did He do? Which problem did He solve?
Verse 7 implies that He solved their navigational issues: "He led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city for a dwelling place." But He didn't cause them to stumble upon a clear, cool stream, and He didn't direct ravens to bring them food.
My belief is that He directly, or immediately, took care of one or two of their problems, and then the others took on a proper perspective. Like, have you ever participated in the conquering of a pinata? You're blindfolded and holding a weapon. You know your task, but then someone turns you in a few circles, and then you don't even know which direction to start.
But then, they give you that little push, you know? Yes, you're dizzy and blind, but at least you know which way to go. That's how I picture God's children in this psalm. Maybe they're still hungry and thirsty, but they are no longer without hope. They've been given a push in the right direction, and they can move forward confidently.
When I was about 12 years old, I caught a sting-ray off the coast of North Carolina. It came about rather suddenly. I think I had just been playing in the sand with one of my sisters, when my dad asked me to hold his fishing rod for him for a minute. So I stood up and grabbed it. I think he was just going to the cooler to get a drink, but in that short time, something bit. I hollered to him that I had something, and to come help me, and he came hurrying over.
But he didn't do a thing to help me. He wanted me to make the catch all by myself, so he came near and gave me helpful advice, and encouraged me, without ever taking the rod from me, which is what I had meant by, "Help!"
Now of course, when it turned out that it was not a fish, but a sting ray, he was apologetic. He hadn't known I was pulling in something so heavy. But I did it. I succeeded, and he helped. Just not in the way I had anticipated.
God came near to His children when they cried out. They still had work to do, even difficult work. But He restored their hope.
So, how are you today??
~ "Oh that men would give thanks to the Lord
for His goodness!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
and fills the hungry soul with goodness." ~