Psalm 143

Psalm 143
A psalm of David.

(1) LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
(2) Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
(3) The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
(4) So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.
(5) I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
(6) I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.

(7) Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
(8) Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
(9) Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you.
(10) Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

(11) For your name's sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
(12) In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.

Psalm 143 is one of seven psalms referred to as the Penitential Psalms (Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). The Penitential Psalms express penitence or the author’s sorrow over his sin. As early as the second century, Bible scholars and church leaders were using this grouping of seven psalms for days of confession and repentance. Pope Innocent III (1161-1216 AD) even ordered these be recited during Lent and Holy Week in the Catholic Church.

However, there is not much confession of sin in Psalm 143.

Why it has been set down as one of the seven Penitential Psalms we can hardly tell; for it is rather a vindication of his own integrity, and an indignant prayer against his slanderers, than a confession of fault.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Psalm 143 is titled, My Soul Thirsts for You (ESV); An Earnest Appeal for Guidance and Deliverance (NKJV); and simply, A Prayer Not to Be Killed (ICB).

A Psalm of David. A Song of David.

Nothing else is noted, but Bible scholars see correlations between this psalm and others that were written by David as he fled the volatile and jealous king Saul. The setting is likely then, as well. These stories are found in the books of Samuel.

Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my plea! Answer me because you are faithful and righteous. Don't put your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before you.
Psalm 143:1-2 NLT

David calls, as he often does at the beginning of his psalms, for God to hear my prayer. Give ear to my pleas (ESV). Listen to my cry (ICB). And then he says it again, listen to my plea!

David is in crisis and knows that all will be okay if only God would just listen to him. If God turned away, David would be ruined. But if God was on his side, David knew that eventually all would be well. And until then, his strength would be in that hope. His peace would be in that promise. The promise that . . .

the Lord never turns away. He is always listening for the cries of His children.

Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.
Isaiah 65:24

For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry.
Psalm 34:15 (also written by David)

The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
Proverbs 15:29

My friends, do you need the Lord to listen? Do you need Him to come close to you? May we all start our prayers like this: Lord, I need you, come close to me.

But David knew, as we also know, that God was listening. How was he certain of this?

Because God is faithful, and He is righteous. Not because David deserved it; not because David was faithful or righteous. The Lord listens to His children because that is who He is. He is our loving Father who waits expectantly for His child to speak, to cry, and to ask.

Thank goodness we don’t have to be good enough.

Not because of what I have done, Lord. David knows that he is not innocent before God. He is a sinner. And he asks God to listen to him and help, not because he earned it or deserved it, but solely because God is good and faithful.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6:23

New Testament believers have this promise, David did not. But David was still covered by grace. His sins were forgiven, and God never turned away from him. And He never turns away from you and me.

Doesn’t that promise just lift a burden off of our shoulders?

We cannot earn God’s love. We can never be good enough to deserve the one true God’s mercy. Ever. Thankfully, Jesus is the way to the Father. And His gift to us is free.

My enemy has chased me. He has knocked me to the ground and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave. I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain.
Interlude [Selah]
Psalm 143:3-6 NLT

David’s enemies, whether the Philistines or Saul or something else, did force him into hiding in a cave, he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead (ESV). In these verses, David may well be in hiding, or he may be remembering the times he hid in darkness.

But whatever the circumstances, David is hopeless and afraid.

Have you felt like you are losing all hope? Have you been paralyzed with fear?

God is so good to us. He was good to David, and He is still good today. When you feel hopeless or afraid, remember what David did. What did David do? (my Footloose reference, ha)

David remembered the days of old. He pondered all the Lord’s great works. If God was faithful, He will continue to be faithful. That is who He is.

In times of fear, look back on your life and remember the times when God was there. Thank Him for those times. Sing His praises. Lift up your hands in prayer and thanksgiving for God’s faithfulness.

A parent of a small child might call this “counting your blessings.” But it’s true. If God has been faithful in your life, why would He stop now?

Selah. It was time to pause, for the supplication had risen to the agony point. Both harp strings and heart strings were strained and needed a little rest to get them right again for the second half of the song.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892

Lord, answer me quickly. I am getting weak. Don’t turn away from me, or I will be like those who are dead.
Psalm 143:6 ICB

You can just feel the urgency, the great need. David knew that all he needed in his life was the Lord. With God on his side, David could face anything mortal man threw at him. Anything.

But if God were to turn away, David would die. He would wither and die.

And then in verse 8, such a beautiful request,

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
Psalm 143:8

Have you ever needed the Lord so badly only to hear silence? Have you asked and asked and asked without an answer?

What does that silence mean? Does it mean He isn’t listening? Does it mean He doesn’t care or even that He isn’t there?

Like David, do you wonder if He has turned away?

Take heart, my friends, David wondered too. And God wanted David’s words of anguish and fear of abandonment to be in His Bible for us to read thousands of years later. He wants you to know that your worry, doubt, and fear are okay. God understands.

Take a breath and do the next right thing in front of you. And then the next, and then the next. Sometimes God reveals the path ahead, but other times, He just shows a step at a time.

Take that next step, knowing that your Father looks upon you with love always. He has not turned away.

Was David trying to fall asleep as he hid in that cave or somewhere hiding in darkness from his enemies? Did he long to hear God’s voice? Cause me to hear your lovingkindness in the morning, for in you do I trust (NKJV).

Did David go to bed weeping and long for the morning to refresh him and give him a new hope? (another movie reference? I’m on a roll)

Lord, my sorrow makes me deaf, cause me to hear: there is but one voice that can cheer me- cause me to hear thy lovingkindness; that music I would fain enjoy at once- cause me to hear it in the morning, at the first dawning hour.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to you for refuge. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God! Let your good Spirit lead me on level ground!

For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies, and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am your servant.
Psalm 143:9-12 ESV

Here is where David trusts in the Lord. After asking for the Lord’s provision and a new hope in the morning, David claims God’s saving grace. He doesn’t say how or when. He just trusts in the Lord and in His timing.

David knows that the Lord will save him. He prays that God will renew his faith and hope, but he asks for deliverance, for God’s saving hand.

Teach me to have faith. Lead me in the way that I should go.

Jesus reminds us in the Gospel of John,

"Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in Me."
John 14:1 NLT

Trust in the Lord and claim His faithfulness. He was faithful; He will continue to be faithful to you. He was faithful to David. He saw David through this crisis.

I fight his battles. It is a warrior’s prayer, and smells of the dust and smoke of battle.

Charles Spurgeon, English preacher, 1834-1892
Keep up your reputation, God- give me life!
In your justice, get me out of this trouble!
In your great love, vanquish my enemies; make a clean sweep of those who harass me.
And why?
Because I'm your servant.
Psalm 143:11-12 The Message

Father in heaven, we seek to be your servants. Use us today to love those around us. Help us to keep our eyes on you and to see the people around us that need you and to see them with your eyes. Give us strength and joy to do your will. We love you and we thank you for being faithful and trustworthy now and always. Amen.

Heidi xoxo

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