Psalm 142

Psalm 142
A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.

(1) I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
(2) I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.

(3) When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.
(4) Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.

(5) I cry to you, LORD; I say, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living."

(6) Listen to my cry, for I am in desperate need; rescue me from those who pursue me, for they are too strong for me.
(7) Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name. Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.

Psalm 142 is titled, You are my refuge (ESV); A plea for relief from persecutors (NKJV); A prayer for help in trouble (NASB); and simply, A prayer for safety (ICB).

The maskil or maschil is sometimes translated as “a contemplation” or “an instruction.” Also, the NIV’s side note says- probably a musical or liturgical term.

David’s meditation set to music.

A prayer when he was in the cave. He was in one of his many lurking places, either Engedi, Adullam, or some other lone cavern wherein he could conceal himself from Saul and his bloodhounds. Caves make good closets for prayer; their gloom and solitude are helpful to the exercise of devotion.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

The stories of David hiding in these caves are found in 1 Samuel 22 (Adullam) and 1 Samuel 24 (Engedi). Bible commentators lean toward the cave of Adullam, therefore, Psalms 34 & 57 were written then as well.

If the cave of Adullam is the setting, then God answered David’s prayer of loneliness and fear of abandonment here,

David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. When his brothers and his father's household heard about it, they went down to him there. All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.
1 Samuel 22:1-2

He was not alone for long.

David ran in fear for his life. He was God’s chosen king over Israel, but for more than a decade he lived in fear of king Saul’s volatility and jealousy. He had an interesting and embarrassing encounter in Gath (1 Samuel 21:10-15), then he ran from there and hid himself in this cave. Here in the cave of Adullam he was alone and afraid. No one was on his side. No one cared about him anymore.

Or so he felt. But God was there.

And God sent others to him.

I cry out to the LORD; I plead for the LORD's mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him my troubles.
Psalm 142:1-2 NLT

It is a beautiful, humbling thought that God is always with us. We are never alone. David was physically alone and afraid. He felt like he alone stood up for what was right and what God had planned. He was God’s chosen king, the anointed one to lead the people. But he waited on God’s word and God’s timing. For many, many years, David waited.

And in that cave, he felt completely alone. But he wasn’t.

When anxiety threatens to suffocate and fear makes it hard to breathe even, when you feel utterly alone, these are the words . . .

memorize them, treasure them, cling to them,

I cry out to {You} LORD.
I lift up my voice to {You} LORD for mercy.
I pour out before {You} my complaint.
Before {You} I tell my trouble.
Psalm 142:1-2

David used his voice to cry out to his God. No one was around. He was alone in a cave and so he cried. He called to God. He begged for help.

David poured out his complaints. Was David actually complaining to God? Possibly not in the sense that we think of, the actual meaning could be lost in translation. But even if he was- is complaining a bad thing when we are talking with God?

Complaint: (noun) a statement that a situation is unsatisfactory or unacceptable; protest. Or, an illness or medical condition, especially a relatively minor one. (Oxford Dictionary)

The word is scarcely “complaint;” but even if it be so we may learn from this text that our complaint must never be of a kind that we dare not bring before God. We may complain to God, but not of God. When we complain it should not be before men, but before God alone.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Later in Psalm 142 David asks for help dealing with his enemies. Likely by “complaining,” David is pouring out his worries and anger toward these evil people that are out to get him. Whether it is the Philistines or Saul or someone else, David “pours out” his worries to the only One who never abandons him. The only One he can completely trust, and the only One that he truly needs.

When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me.
Psalm 142:3-4 NLT

David felt completely alone and isolated. Cut off from his family and friends. God had chosen him, but, so far, all that brought David was loneliness.

My friends, have you ever felt cut off from those you love because of your faith? Do you sometimes feel like you stand alone?

When we share our faith and stand up for what is right, we do go against the world and will be attacked. That is the truth. But in those times, remember the words of Jesus and what is important,

If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
John 15:18-19

Let David remind us- He is always by our side. In suffering. In worries. In grief. In the dead of night. In a cave.

In this world filled with fear and worry, what is there to do?

Then I pray to you, O LORD. I say, "You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me."
Psalm 142:5-7 NLT

I cry to you, O LORD (ESV). LORD, I cry out to you (ICB). I cried unto Thee, O LORD (KJV).

This is the second time David uses these words in this short psalm. David remembered that even though he was physically alone, the Creator of the universe was his Father and always by his side.

That is what is important. Who do we seek to please? Man or God?

The New King James Version translates verse 5,

I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, "You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.
Psalm 142:5 NKJV

God is our Father in heaven, but He is all that we need in this life as well.

It is sometimes easier to believe in a portion in heaven than in a portion upon earth: we could die more easily than live, at least we think so. But there is no living in the land of the living like living upon the living God.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Lord, you are our Rock to lean upon; you are our shield of defense against evil. You are everything good in this world.

Good things are not promised to us in this life. But the truth is that He is all we need.

David, in his loneliness and fear, closes Psalm 142 by asking God to save him so that he may sing of the Lord’s goodness. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise your name (NKJV). Bring me out of prison, that I may give thanks to your name (ESV).

God knew David’s heart. He knows our hearts. He wants to hear what we need and even what we want.

And then, like Jesus, we claim it. That whatever happens, we will praise His name. We will thank Him and sing of His goodness,

"Abba, Father," {Jesus} cried out, "everything is possible for you. Please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine."
Mark 14:36 NLT

Your will be done, not mine. But whatever comes, I will praise your name.

David claimed it. He knew God would rescue him. And God did, He always came through for David. But David had to wait and trust in the Lord. Yet even in the waiting, David sang of God’s faithfulness.


How can we do this? How did David believe so strongly that God would be faithful? He ran for his life for many, many years. How could he continue to believe so strongly?

Because God was faithful to David. If He was faithful, He will be faithful again.

And also, just because David claimed God’s faithfulness in this psalm, doesn’t mean he felt it or knew it or believed it even. He just said it. Over and over again.

Even if we don’t see a way out or don’t understand the road ahead. Or even if we have lost our faith, speak it. Say it. “God was faithful. He will be faithful again.”

God is good and faithful. Say it. Claim it.

We all have periods of believing this and periods of unbelief. Speak it in both.

This beautiful psalm penned in a cave opens with a cry and closes in praise. That is how prayers go. When we are worried and afraid, even doubting at times, we can cry out our “complaints” before God. He listens. He is present. And then something happens, as it did for David in this psalm.

We remember what is important.

For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.
1 Peter 3:12

Jesus said,

And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:20b NKJV

Father in heaven, thank you for this psalm. Thank you for your presence in good times and bad. Thank you for your faithfulness. You have been faithful yesterday; you will be faithful today and even tomorrow. Thank you for this reminder. Give us strength to love those you put in our path today. Amen.

Heidi xoxo

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