Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
–Psalm 138:7 (ESV)
Before I explain the title of this post, it would well suit my interests to further define what a loophole is. According to Merriam-Webster, a loophole is a means of escape; especially a means of evading or escaping an obligation to something (usually the law). I wish to take the definition of “loophole” at its most basic meaning: a means of evading or escape.
So, now on to explain the title of this post. In reference to David’s words from Psalm 138:7, does the Christian have a loophole in times of trouble? Or to put it another way, does God always provide an escape from times of trouble for the Christian?
It’s a tough question, really. At times in Scripture, we do see God providing a means of escape from various troubles that his children would face. For example, Daniel was saved from the lions, David’s life was spared time and again from Saul and even his own son Absalom. Even Joseph, having been sold into slavery, thrown in prison after being accused of adultery, was eventually spared from his times of trouble.
However, there are an equal number of times (perhaps more?) when God chose not to provide a way of escape for his people in times of trouble. Usually, this was in relation to the people’s sin, but sometimes it was not. For example, Achan was not spared his life for taking some of the things devoted to destruction from the city of Jericho. This cost the whole army of Israel when they attempted to take the city of Ai, which seemed like it should be an easy city to win. Instead, 36 men of Israel died. It was all Achan’s fault and God told Joshua that Israel would not win any more battles until the sin was found out and taken care of.
However, like I said, there are cases in Scripture where sin was not the factor in the Lord choosing not to provide his people with a way of escape from trouble. For example, most of the apostles were brutally killed for their commitment to Christ and his gospel. The most supreme example of one who was not delivered from his time of trouble was Christ Jesus himself! In fact, we read from Peter’s sermon in Acts 2:23 that “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” In other words, Christ was not given a way of escape from his own Father, but he was lifted up according to the counsel of the Father’s definite plan to suffer and die at the hands of wicked people.
So, I believe there is clear evidence in Scripture that while God can and has delivered his people from their times of trouble, there are equally enough instances where God has sovereignly brought times of trouble upon his people for them to trust in his faithfulness all the more! (Job is probably easiest case to see this truth).
This brings me to my last point, and I want to share the words of John Calvin concerning Psalm 138:7. He wrote this:
Should I walk in the midst of trouble, &c. Here David declares the sense in which he looked that God would act the part of his preserver—by giving him life from the dead, were that necessary. The passage is well deserving our attention, for by nature we are so delicately averse to suffering as to wish that we might all live safely beyond shot of its arrows, and shrink from close contact with the fear of death, as something altogether intolerable. On the slightest approach of danger we are immoderately afraid, as if our emergencies precluded the hope of Divine deliverance. This is faith’s true office, to see life in the midst of death, and to trust the mercy of God—not as that which will procure us universal exemption from evil, but as that which will quicken us in the midst of death every moment of our lives; for God humbles his children under various trials, that his defence of them may be the more remarkable, and that he may show himself to be their deliverer, as well as their preserver. In the world believers are constantly exposed to enemies, and David asserts, that he will be safe under God’s protection from all their machinations. He declares his hope of life to lie in this, that the hand of God was stretched out for his help, that hand which he knew to be invincible, and victorious over every foe. And from all this we are taught, that it is God’s method to exercise his children with a continual conflict, that, having one foot as it were in the grave, they may flee with alarm to hide themselves under his wings, where they may abide in peace.
Calvin, J., & Anderson, J. (2010). Commentary on the Book of Psalms (Vol. 5, pp. 203–204). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
While God might not provide a loophole for his children to escape their times of trouble, I do believe that God graciously holds the hand of his children to preserve them through their trials. God might not grant an quick and easy escape from trials or temptations. When he doesn’t provide that quick and easy escape though, he does provide his righteous right hand to hold us, draw us closer to him, and preserve us through whatever is thrown at us.
I am reminded of that words from that great hymn, How Firm a Foundation, which speaks to this truth as well:
1 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?
2 “In every condition, in sickness, in health,
in poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth,
at home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
as days may demand, shall thy strength ever be.”
3 “Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,
for I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.”
4 “When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
for I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
and sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
5 “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
6 “The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
that soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”