World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
Help And Deliverance
In times of distress, danger, and oppression, believers in every tradition look to God for support and help. In times of crisis, in combat, and when confronting death, even non-believers will turn to God for help. And time and again, they find deliverance in ample measure. Conversely, the scriptures warn against reliance on one's own power, allies, or wealth to prevail in the fight when the true source of power is available through faith.
The passages include expressions of confidence in divine deliverance, supplications for help, and texts which describe God's grace as an unassailable refuge. There are several accounts of God's saving deeds in history: from the Bible, Moses at the Red Sea; from the Qur'an, the battle of Badr; and from the Mahabharata, a counsel on the inevitable victory of Krishna in the battle between the Kurus and the Pandavas. The section closes with two hymns, one to the Hindu Goddess Durga, to whom is attributed a great victory in the primeval war between the gods and the demons, and the other praising Kuan Yin, in Chinese Buddhism the Bodhisattva of divine compassion who is said to be ready and able to save anyone in distress. Related passages, exhorting people to do battle in the name of faith or justice with the confidence that God or Right is on their side, may be found under War Against Evil, pp. 1047-57.
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Christianity. Bible, Romans 8.31
United with me, you shall overcome all difficulties by my grace.
Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita 18.58
Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Zechariah 4.6
O you who believe! If you help God's cause, He will help you and will make your foothold firm.
Islam. Qur'an 47.7
God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like hind's feet, he makes me tread upon high places.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Habakkuk 3.19
To those who have conformed themselves to the Way, the Way readily lends its power. To those who have conformed themselves to the power, the power readily lends more power.
Taoism. Tao Te Ching 23
Men of little ability, too, By depending upon the great, may prosper; A drop of water is a little thing, But when will it dry away if united to a lake?
Buddhism. Elegant Sayings 173
Up dost Thou raise me, O Lord, through devotion dost Thou grant me endurance, Through the Most Holy Spirit, O Wise One, good award of prayer, Through Right powerful vigor, And through Good Thought leadership!
Zoroastrianism. Avesta, Yasna 33.12
Should the lord bestow His might on the tiny ant, Hordes million-strong it may destroy. Whomsoever He Himself sends not to death, He guards by the strength of His arm. Despite all his efforts, All man's endeavors turn fruitless. None other is savior or destroyer: He Himself is guardian of all beings. Thou man! why all this anxiety? Says Nanak, Contemplate Him who is beyond thy understanding, Who is so wonderful.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Gauri Sukhmani 17, M.5, p. 285-86
Tao Te Ching 23: 'Power' (te) means the latent power or virtue inherent in nature and in Ultimate Reality. Elegant Sayings 173: Cf. Tao Te Ching 4, p. 525. Gauri Sukhmani 17, M.5: Cf. Devgandhari, M.4, p. 758; Gaund Kabir, p. 881.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not grow weary, he does not tire, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Youths may faint and be weary, and young men may fall, exhausted; but they who hope in the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not grow faint.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 40.28-31
God does not leave his child tied up overnight.
African Traditional Religions. Tiv Proverb (Nigeria)
Whosoever keeps his duty to God, God will appoint a way out for him, and will provide for him in a way that he cannot foresee. And whosoever puts his trust in God, He will suffice him. Lo! God brings His command to pass. God has set a measure for all things.
Islam. Qur'an 65.2-3
Leave your fight to Olodumare and look on, for he is defender of the defenseless.
African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble with its tumult.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 46.1-3
Isaiah 40.28-31: Cf. 1 Samuel 2.4-9, pp. 545f.; 17, pp. 1056f. Tiv Proverb: This is said when help arrives unexpectedly. Cf. Dinka Prayer, p. 146. Yoruba Proverb: 'Olodumare' is a Yoruba name for the Supreme Being. Cf. Psalm 55.22, p. 826. Psalm 46.1-3: The imagery is one of cosmic destruction in the latter days. This psalm was the inspiration for Martin Luther's famous hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is Our God." Cf. Psalm 23, p. 507; Psalm 93, pp. 541f.; Rig Veda 8.69.8, p. 766.
A king is not saved by his great army, a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save. Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, That he may deliver their soul from death, and keep them alive in famine. Our soul waits for the Lord; he is our help and our shield.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 33.16-20
Altar Mountain of the Sacred Forest, Where, since the divine age, It has been said the myriad gods descended To make offerings for safe passage In the land of abundant rice on the Plain of reeds. Spring, and your spring mists rise, Come the fall, and aflush with rouge, You, mountain god of the forest altar, Take for belt the stream of the River Asuka, Whose current so swift, No easy birth her stony pillows give to the moss, Yet still moss on them abounds. I shall beseech you each new night, Show me in divined dreams The way I should pass in peace! Oh, god with sword-like awe enshrined.
Shinto. The Man'yoshu XIII
Free us, Indra, from the fear of all that we are afraid of. May thou, with thy saving power, turn away the hater and the enemy.
We call on Indra, bounteous Giver, we will be prosperous in men and cattle. Let not the demon hosts approach us; turn the hostiles away on all sides.
Adorable Indra, our Savior, Vritra-slayer and Furtherer of our highest aims, may he be our Protector from the end, from the middle, from behind, and from in front.
Lead us to a free world, Wise One, where lie divine luster, sunlight, and security. Valiant are the arms of thee, the Powerful; we will take to their vast shelter.
Hinduism. Atharva Veda 19.15.1-4
Good God of this earth, my Lord! You are above me, I am below you. When misfortune comes to me, As trees keep off the sun from me, May you keep off misfortune; My Lord, be my shadow!
Calling upon you, I pass the day. Calling upon you, I pass the night. When this moon rises, do not forsake me; When I rise, I do not forsake you; Let the danger pass by me.
God, my Lord, you Sun with thirty rays, When the enemy comes, let not your worm be killed upon the earth; Keep him off, as we seeing a worm upon the earth, Crush him if we like, spare him if we like. As we tread upon and kill a worm upon the earth, Thus, if you please, you crush us upon the earth. God, you go, holding the bad and the good in your hand; My Lord, let us not be killed, We your worms, we are praying to you.
African Traditional Religions. Boran Prayer (Kenya)
Atharva Veda 19.15.1-4: Indra is the chief Vedic god, who established justice throughout the cosmos by slaying the serpent-demon Vritra, the personification of all evil, lawlessness, darkness, and drought; see Rig Veda 1.80. Cf. Rig Veda 10.103, p. 1052; Bhagavad Gita 11.26-34, pp. 1044f.
If God gives you a cup of wine and an evil-minded person kicks it over, He fills it up for you again.
African Traditional Religions. Akan Proverb (Ghana)
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust." For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler, and from the deadly pestilence; he will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand; but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked.
Because you have made the Lord your refuge, the Most High your habitation, no evil shall befall you, no scourge come near your tent. For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder, the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Psalm 91.1-13
Akan Proverb: Cf. Banyarawanda Proverb, p. 107.
Knowing It one is not touched by evil action. Therefore he who knows It as such becomes self-controlled, calm, withdrawn into himself, patient, and collected; he sees the Self in his own self; he sees all as the Self. Evil does not overcome him, but he overcomes all evil. Evil does not afflict him, but he consumes all evil.
Hinduism. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 4.4.23
One who has a true hold on life, when he walks on land does not meet tigers or wild buffaloes; in battle he is not touched by weapons of war. Indeed, a buffalo that attacked him would find nothing for his horns to butt, a tiger would find nothing for its claws to tear, a weapon would find no place for its blade to lodge. And why? Because such men have no "death-spot" in them.
Taoism. Tao Te Ching 50
Those who are devoted to the perfection of wisdom should expect therefrom many advantages here and now. They will not die an untimely death, nor from poison, or sword, or fire, or water, or staff, or violence. When they bring to mind and repeat this perfection of wisdom, the calamities which threaten them from kings and princes, from king's counselors and king's ministers, will not take place. If kings, etc., would try to do harm to those who again and again bring to mind and repeat the perfection of wisdom, they will not succeed; because the perfection of wisdom upholds them. Although kings, etc., may approach them with harmful intent, they will instead decide to greet them, to converse with them, to be polite and friendly to them. For this perfection of wisdom entails an attitude of friendliness and compassion toward all beings. Therefore, even though the devotee of the perfection of wisdom may be in the middle of a wilderness infested with venomous vipers, bandits, and ghosts, none can harm them, except as a punishment for past deeds.
Buddhism. Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 75-76
Master Lieh Tzu said to Barrier Keeper Yin, "The Perfect Man can walk under water without choking, can tread on fire without being burned, and can travel above the ten thousand things without being frightened. May I ask how he manages this?"
The Barrier Keeper Yin replied, "This is because he guards the pure breath--it has nothing to do with wisdom, skill, determination, or courage. Sit down and I will tell you about it. All that have faces, forms, voices, colors--these are all mere things. How could one thing and another thing be far removed from each other? And how could any of them be capable of leading you to what preceded them? They are forms, colors--nothing more. But that which creates things has no form, and it rests where there is no change. If a man can get hold of this and exhaust it fully, then how can things stand in his way? He may rest within the bounds that know no excess, hide within the borders that know no source, wander where the ten thousand things have their end and beginning, unify his nature, nourish his breath, unite his virtue, and thereby communicate with that which creates all things. A man like this guards what belongs to Heaven and keeps it whole. His spirit has no flaw, so how can things enter in and get at him?
"When a drunken man falls from a carriage, though the carriage may be going very fast, he won't be killed. He has bones and joints the same as other men, and yet he is not injured as they would be, because his spirit is whole. He didn't know he was riding, and he doesn't know he has fallen out. Life and death, alarm and terror do not enter his breast, and so he can bang against things without fear of injury. If he can keep himself whole like this by means of wine, how much more can a man keep himself whole by means of Heaven! The sage hides himself in Heaven--hence there is nothing that can do him harm."
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 19
Psalm 91.1-13:Cf. Luke 10.19-20, pp. 314f.; Matthew 4.1-11, p. 621; Joshua 1.1-9, p. 1056; Daniel 3.1-28, pp. 883f.; Acts 16.19-30, p. 889. Tao Te Ching 50: Cf. Tao Te Ching 16, p. 538.
O Apostle! Sufficient for you is God--for you and for those who follow you among the believers.
O Apostle! Rouse the believers to the fight. If there are twenty among you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred; if a hundred, they will vanquish a thousand of the unbelievers, for these are a people without understanding.
For the present, God has lightened your task, for He knows that there is a weak spot in you; but even so, if there are a hundred of you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred, and if a thousand, they will vanquish two thousand, with the leave of God; for God is with those who patiently persevere.
Islam. Qur'an 8.64-66
O you who believe! Remember the grace of God on you, when there came down on you hosts; but We sent against them a hurricane and forces you could not see: but God sees clearly all that you do. Behold! they came on you from above you and from below you, and behold, the eyes became dim and the hearts gaped up to the throats, and you imagined various vain thoughts about God! In that situation were the believers tried; they were shaken as by a tremendous shaking....
And God turned back the unbelievers, for all their fury; no advantage did they gain; and enough is God for the believers in their fight. And God is full of Strength, Able to enforce His will.
Islam. Qur'an 33.9-25
Chuang Tzu 19: Based on this tradition, the drunken man or the fool who is so pliant that he can stagger about and always escape harm is a stock character in Chinese drama. Cf. Tao Te Ching 55, p. 231; Chuang Tzu 6, p. 584. Qur'an 8.64-66: This revelation was given on the eve of the battle of Badr, where the companions of Muhammad, ill-equipped (the 'weak spot'), defeated a force that outnumbered them by more than three to one.
O king, I say unto thee that Krishna is Eternal and Unfading... the Supreme Lord of all creatures, the great Master. He is warrior, He is Victory, He is Victor, and He is the Lord of all nature. O king, He is full of goodness and divested of all the qualities of darkness and passion. There, where Krishna is, there righteousness is; and where righteousness is, there is victory. It is by the Yoga of his Supreme Excellence, and the Yoga of his Self, that the sons of Pandu, O king, are supported. Victory, therefore, will surely be theirs. He it is that always imparts to the Pandavas understanding endued with righteousness and strength in battle; and He it is who always protects them from danger.
Hinduism. Mahabharata, Bhishma Parva 66
Then Moses and the people of Israel sang this song to the Lord, "I will sing to the Lord, for he has triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider he has thrown into the sea. The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.
"Pharaoh's chariots and his host he cast into the sea; and his picked officers are sunk in the Red Sea. The floods cover them; they went down into the depths like a stone. Your right hand, O Lord, glorious in power, your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy. In the greatness of your majesty you overthrow your adversaries; you send forth your fury, it consumes them like stubble. At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up, the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea. The enemy said, 'I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them. I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.' You blew them away with your wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
"Who is like thee, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like thee, majestic in holiness, terrible in glorious deeds, doing wonders?"
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Exodus 15.1-11
Qur'an 33.9-25: Vv. 9-11, 25. This surah describes the Battle of the Trench (<A.H. 5), when a confederacy of opponents, with a force of ten thousand men, beseiged the Muslims in Medina for more than two weeks. Cf. Qur'an 2.214, p. 879. Mahabharata, Bhishma Parva 66: These words of advice and warning were spoken to King Duryodhana, the arrogant and vain chief of the Kurus, on the eve of the great battle with the Pandavas. Krishna, avatar of Vishnu the Supreme Godhead, was on the side of the Pandavas as Arjuna's charioteer. Duryodhana took no notice of this sage advice. Cf. Bhagavad Gita 11.26-34, pp. 1044f.
O Goddess, who removest the suffering of thy suppliants, be gracious! Be gracious, O Mother of the whole world! Be gracious, O Queen of the universe; safeguard the universe! Thou, O Goddess, art Queen of all that is movable and immovable! Thou alone hast become the support of the world, Because thou dost subsist in the form of the earth! By thee, who existest in the form of water, all This universe is filled, O thou inviolable in thy valor! Thou art Vishnu's energy, boundless in thy valor; Thou art the Germ of the universe, thou art Illusion sublime! All this world has been bewitched, O Goddess; Thou indeed when attained art the cause of the final emancipation from existence on earth!... O Goddess, be gracious! Protect us wholly from fear of our foes Perpetually, as thou hast at this very time saved us promptly by the slaughter of the demons! And bring thou quickly to rest the sins of all the worlds And the great calamities which have sprung from the maturing of portents! To us who are prostrate be thou gracious, O goddess, who takest away affliction from the universe! O thou worthy of praise from the dwellers in the three worlds, Bestow thou boons on the worlds!
Hinduism. Markandaya Purana, Candi-mahatmya 10
Exodus 15.1-11: These verses are taken from the victory song which Moses and the Israelites sung at the Red Sea, at the great manifestation of God's power on which the biblical nation of Israel was founded. For other accounts of God's miraculous defeat of the Egyptians at the Red Sea, see Exodus 14, pp. 615f and Qur'an 10.75-92, pp. 614f.; cf. Megilla 10b, p. 514. Candi-mahatmya 10: Worship of the Mother Goddess or feminine principle is prominent in contemporary Hinduism. She is identified with the earth--Atharva Veda 12.1, pp. 296f.; with prakriti/matter, and maya/illusion--cf. Shiva Purana, p. 179. Often she is depicted in her terrible aspect as a dread warrior and destroyer of evil. The Goddess is known by various names: Durga, Kali, Shakti, Devi; in this text she is called by the name Candika.
World-honored Lord and Perfect One, I pray thee now declare Wherefore this holy Bodhisat Is known as Kuan Shih Yin (Hearer of the Cries of the World)? To this the Perfect One replied By uttering this song,
The echoes of her holy deeds Resound throughout the world. So vast and deep the vows she made When, after countless eons Of serving hosts of Perfect Ones, She voiced her pure desire [To liberate afflicted beings].
Now hearken to what came of it-- To hear her name or see her form, Or fervently recite her name Delivers beings from every woe.
Were you with murderous intent Thrust within a fiery furnace, One thought of Kuan Yin's saving power Would turn those flames to water!
Were you adrift upon the sea With dragon-fish and fiends around you, One thought of Kuan Yin's saving power Would spare you from the hungry waves.
Suppose from Mount Sumeru's peak Some enemy should cast you down, One thought of Kuan Yin's saving power And sun-like you would stand in space.
Were you pursued by evil men And crushed against the Iron Mountain, One thought of Kuan Yin's saving power And not a hair would come to harm.
Were you amidst a band of thieves, Their cruel knives now raised to slay, One thought of Kuan Yin's saving power And pity must restrain their blows.
Suppose the king now wroth with you, The headsman's sword upraised to strike, One thought of Kuan Yin's saving power Would dash the sword to pieces.
Were you close pent by prison walls, Your wrists and ankles bound by chains, One thought of Kuan Yin's saving power Would instantly procure release.
Had you imbibed some fatal draught And lay now at the point of death, One thought of Kuan Yin's saving power Would nullify its poison....
Imbued with supernatural power And wise in using skilful means, In every corner of the world She manifests her countless forms.
No matter what black evils gather-- What hell-spawned demons, savage beasts, What ills of birth, age, sickness, death, Kuan Yin will one by one destroy them.
True Kuan Yin! Pure Kuan Yin! Immeasurably wise Kuan Yin! Merciful and filled with pity, Ever longed-for and revered!
O Radiance spotless and effulgent! O night-dispelling Sun of Wisdom! O Vanquisher of storm and flame! Your glory fills the world!
Buddhism. Lotus Sutra 25
Lotus Sutra 25: Kuan Yin (Jap. Kannon) is the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, The One who Hears Cries, and thus represents the divine attribute of grace and help to people in distress. In Chinese Buddhism Kuan Yin is a female--the Goddess of compassion; and this passage is often recited to invoke her aid and offer her worship. Hence we have used a translation of the Lotus Sutra which describes her as a female Bodhisattva, even though in the Sanskrit original Avalokitesvara is depicted as a male. Other Bodhisattavas are also invoked for protection, notably Samantabhadra, whose worship flourished in Japan during the Heian period; cf. Lotus Sutra 28.
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