Fortress for the Oppressed in Times of Distress

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,

a stronghold in times of trouble.

Those who know Your name trust in You,

for You, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.

Psalm 9:9-10

In the face of difficulty I often find myself drawn to the Psalms. I believe this has been the reflex of many throughout the history of God’s people, both in Israel and the Church. Even our Lord cried out from the Psalms in the times of His distress (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46). 

Recently, I read Psalm 9, and verses 9-10 were an incredible encouragement to me. 

David begins by stating the Lord’s name Yahweh (the LORD). The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed. The “I AM” is a refuge for the oppressed (Exodus 3:14). The One who is, the self-existent One, the One who created and sustains all things, He is a refuge for the oppressed. While transcendent and unreachable, He stoops down in love to protect His oppressed people. 

When looking up the words of verse 9, I found that “oppressed” can be translated “crushed” (Brown-Driver-Briggs). The LORD is a refuge for those who are crushed by their enemies. 

The word “refuge” indicates a high fortress. As Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance points out: “properly, a cliff (or other lofty or inaccessible place)” (Strongs. 4869). The LORD is a high and impenetrable fortress for those who are crushed by their enemies. Those who find themselves in danger or mistreatment are able to run to God and find safety that no one can penetrate. 

David goes on to basically repeat his statement from the preceding line. The LORD is “a stronghold in times of trouble.” In times of distress, whatever the distress may be, the Lord is a high, impenetrable fortress that we may run to for safety. Who can penetrate the power of God? Who can destroy Him or invade His presence? None! Especially given the description of Him in the verses immediately preceding these:

But the LORD abides forever;

He has established His throne for judgment.

He judges the world with justice;

He governs the people with equity. Psalm 9:7-8

The LORD is forever, so He is an eternal refuge. The LORD is the perfect Judge, so He will judge perfectly. So, those who are in Him are safe, and they will see all things made right.(1) 

David transitions from  statements of fact in verse 9 to direct address in verse 10. He now addresses Yahweh, the refuge of His oppressed people. “Those who know Your name trust in You.” 

The word “know” is the Hebrew word yada, which carries the idea of intimate and experiential knowledge. It is used of Adam and Eve knowing good and evil and knowing their nakedness (Genesis 3:5,7). It is also used of knowing someone in sexual relations, whether good or evil (Genesis 4:1, 17; 19:5). Yada is used to describe God’s knowledge of Sodom and Gomorrah’s guilt or innocence (Genesis 18:20-21). It is even used to describe God’s relationship with Abraham in Genesis 18:19. The Lord knew Abraham. Some translations have translated this as “chosen.” The Lord had a special relationship with Abraham that had a specific purpose:

For I have chosen him, so that he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, in order that the LORD may bring upon Abraham what He has promised.” (Genesis 18:19).

Those who have an intimate knowledge of God’s name put their trust in Him. The mention of His name is to describe a knowledge of God’s character and person. This is actually what God’s names describe. As God reveals Himself in His names, He is actually revealing His character and person to us. So, personally knowing God’s names instructs us in His character. As Charles Spurgeon said, “The names of God inspire trust” (Spurgeon 109).

The more God’s people know Him personally, the more our trust in Him grows. The more we know God the more we see His character proven and His promises kept. We know that He is trustworthy. God never forsakes those who seek Him. We know this by God’s Word and personal experience, so our trust in Him grows. 

So, in times of distress, I urge you to know the LORD. First of all, I urge you to be sure that you know Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. “Now this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent” (John 17:3). The Lord Jesus is the Son of God. He has come as a man, lived the perfect life God demands in our place, and has died the death we deserve to die for our sins. He has come back to life again, and all who trust in Him are rescued from our sins and from separation from God. 

Second, if you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, I urge you to grow in your knowledge of the Lord through His Word. As You know Him more, you will trust him more. The more intimate knowledge we have of the Lord, the more we will trust Him. The more we trust Him the more we will find our refuge in Him in the times of distress.

May I close with this encouragement: The Lord never forsakes those who seek Him!

LORD,

You are a refuge to those who are crushed and a fortress of safety in times of distress. You abide forever and will judge in perfect justice. You are an impenetrable fortress of eternal safety and equity. We know You through faith in Jesus. We have come to Him for refuge from sin and it’s penalty. Our knowledge of You has grown as we learn of You in the Word. You have revealed Your character, and we have seen time-and-again in the Word and our lives that You keep Your promises. You never forsake those who seek You!

So, LORD, we come to You for refuge in all our distresses and needs, and we know that we are forever safe in You.

Amen

End Notes:

  1. I am not saying that believers will see everything made right in this life. Instead, I am referring to the final end times hope of Revelation 21-22. Christ will make all things new. He will judge the peoples and Satan himself (Revelation 20:7-15). So, God’s people, who have eternal life in Christ, will see all things made right.

Works Cited:

Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, Unabridged, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. Accessed 9/15/2021 at biblehub.com.

Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David, Vol. 1: Psalms 1-57. Zondervan Publishing House, 1978.