PSALM 143 - Week of May 1st
By Judy NicholsMay 1, 2016
I love how God can meet us right where we are through His word. In this time of difficulty, illness, and emotional distress I found in the words of King David a heart that feels just like mine does right now. And his prayer has become mine, as well.
Psalm 143 begins with the cry, "Give ear to my supplications! Answer me in Your faithfulness, in your righteousness." Right away he bases his prayers in the faithfulness and righteousness of God. He knows God keeps His promises and always does what is right.
He continues, "And do not enter into judgment with Your servant, for in Your sight no man living is righteous" (v.2). He comes before the throne as one with no standing except God’s grace. He knows he deserves judgment and pleads for mercy.
Next he pours out his heart before God. "For the enemy has persecuted my soul; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me dwell in dark places, like those who have long been dead. Therefore my spirit is overwhelmed within me; my heart is appalled within me" (v.3-4). Notice the extreme emotional strength of the words: persecuted, crushed, dark places, overwhelmed, appalled. This man is in excruciating pain. David had human enemies who sought his life. He lived as a fugitive from King Saul for years. But I believe he also had the enemy of his soul in view here, the enemy who sought to kill his hope, steal his joy, and destroy him personally.
He takes to musing a bit. "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all Your doings; I muse on the work of Your hands. I stretch out my hands to You; my soul longs for You, as a parched land" (v.5-6). In remembering the days of old, I don’t think he was just longing for the "good ol’ days," but remembering God’s past faithfulness to him, the times when he saw deliverance, protection, and provision. Meditating on what God has already done for us is a valuable antidote to fear and depression. In musing on the work of God’s hands, I believe he is letting the creation speak to him of God’s greatness and creativity, as well as thinking about His acts of redemption. He stretches out his hands, longing for all this to enter his heart and refresh and restore him as water restores dry land. "Aaaah, yes, this is what I need," he says with a long sigh.
He resumes his plea. "Answer me quickly, O Lord, my spirit fails; do not hide Your face from me, or I will become like those who go down to the pit" (v.7). Here is a man who is desperate to connect with God. If God doesn’t help him, he will die.
Finally he gets to his actual requests. "Let me hear Your loving kindness in the morning; for I trust in You; teach me the way in which I should walk; for to You I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies; I take refuge in You. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God; let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground" (v.8-10).
There is much to learn from David’s requests. Hearing, or even remembering, God’s loving kindness is a great way to start the day. But how will we hear it, if we fail to seek His face in the morning? When circumstances press in on us, we are tempted to bound out of bed and attack the day with all the strength we can muster, only to find ourselves as worn-out and consumed with cares as ever. Can we trust God enough to make meeting with Him in the morning a first priority?
So much of our distress in adversity stems from not knowing how to respond to it. Perhaps at least part of our daily meeting with God should include asking for the wisdom to know how to walk in the midst of our situation. We will never do it perfectly, but the only perfection God is looking for in us is perfect trust and dependence on Him.
Not every hardship that befalls us is a direct attack from Satan; we live in a fallen and damaged world. But he is certainly the father of the lies we hear in our minds, that ignite our fears and stifle our hopes. It is right to ask God to deliver us from him and we do this by taking refuge in our Lord and Savior, in His work on the cross and in His truths and promises for His own.
Doing God’s will is something we all desire, but so often in times of distress what we really want is our own will. We want to be relieved of the crushing burdens, free of the restraints, released from the darkness. God is God and we are not. If we say, "You are my God," then we must release our grasp on what we think is best and embrace what lies before us. Every trial seems an uphill battle, yet in the midst of it we can ask God by His good Spirit to lead us on level ground, the Rock, the solid foundation that will endure through the storms of life.
David returns to his basis for his prayers in the remaining verses. "For the sake of Your name, O Lord, revive me. In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble. And in Your loving kindness, cut off my enemies and destroy all those who afflict my soul, for I am Your servant" (v.11-12). He asks for revival, not for his own health or survival but "for the sake of Your name." He wants God to be glorified. He wants people to know that it was God who saved him and helped him. He appeals again to God’s righteousness in his request for his soul to be brought out of trouble. Like Abraham, David knew the Judge of all the earth would deal justly with the righteous (see Gen. 18:22-33.) And he invokes God’s loving kindness to come against his enemies, both physical and spiritual.
He ends with the simple statement, "for I am Your servant." Yes, Lord, I also am Your servant. I belong to You, purchased with the precious blood of your Son Jesus Christ, in Whom all the promises of God are "Yes" (2 Cor. 1:20). May this prayer of David’s and mine be as incense to You. Amen and amen.
© Judy Nichols 2016