(The following texts highlighted in this color of blue is taken from

The Treasury of David by Charles Haddon Spurgeon)  "Excerpted text

Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.  Materials are reproduced

by permission."

 

 

Psalm 143

 

 

Title.  A Psalm of David.  It is so much like other David Psalms that we

accept the title without a moment's hesitation. David's history illustrates it,

and his spirit breathes in it. 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. It is true the second verse proves that he never

dreamed of justifying himself before the Lord; but even in it there is

scarcely the brokenness of penitence. It seems to us rather martial than

penitential, rather a supplication for deliverance from trouble than a

weeping acknowledgment of transgression. We suppose that seven

penitentials were needed by ecclesiastical rabbis, and therefore this was

impressed into the service. In truth, it is a mingled strain, a box of ointment

composed of divers ingredients, sweet and bitter, pungent and precious. It

is the outcry of an overwhelmed spirit, unable to abide in the highest state

of spiritual prayer, again and again descending to bewail its deep temporal

distress; yet evermore struggling to rise to the best things. The singer

moans at intervals; the petitioner for mercy cannot withhold his cries for

vindication. His hands are outstretched to heaven, but at his girdle hangs a

sharp sword, which rattles in its scabbard as he closes his psalm.

 

Division. This psalm is divided by the Selah. We prefer to follow the

natural cleavage, and therefore have made no other dissection of it. May

the Holy Spirit lead us into its inner meaning.

 

1   “Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications: In the

preceding psalm he began by declaring that he had cried unto the Lord;

here he begs to be favorably regarded by Jehovah the living God, whose

memorial is that He heareth prayer. He knew that Jehovah did hear prayer,

and therefore he entreated Him to hear his supplication, however feeble and

broken it might be. In two forms he implores the one blessing of gracious

audience: —"hear" and "give ear." Gracious men are so eager to be heard

in prayer that they double their entreaties for that boon. The Psalmist

desires to be heard and to be considered; hence he cries, "hear", and then

"give ear." Our case is difficult, and we plead for special attention. Here it

is probable that David wished his suit against his adversaries to be heard by

the righteous Judge; confident that if he had a hearing in the matter

whereof he was slanderously accused, he would be triumphantly acquitted.

Yet while somewhat inclined thus to lay his case before the Court of King's

Bench, he prefers rather to turn it all into a petition, and present it before

the Court of Requests, hence he cries rather "hear my prayer" than "hear

my suit." Indeed David is specially earnest that he himself, and the whole of

his life, may not become the subject of trial, for in that event he could not

hope for acquittal. Observe that he offered so much pleading that his life

became one continual prayer;but that petitioning was so varied in form that

it broke out in many supplications“in thy faithfulness answer me,

and in thy righteousness.”  Saints desire to be answered as well as heard:

they long to find the Lord faithful to His promise and righteous in defending the

cause of justice. It is a happy thing when we dare appeal even to righteousness

for our deliverance; and this we can do upon gospel principles, for "if we

 confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins"  (I John

1:9).  Even the sterner attributes of God are upon the side of the man who

humbly trusts, and turns his trust into prayer. It is a sign of our safety when our

interests and those of righteousness are blended. With God's faithfulness and

righteousness upon our side we are guarded on the right hand and on the

left. These are active attributes, and fully equal to the answering of any prayer

which it would be light to answer. Requests which do not appeal to either of these

attributes it would not be for the glory of God to hear, for they must contain

desires for things not promised, and unrighteous.

 

2   “And enter not into judgment with thy servant:” -  He had entreated for

audience at the mercy seat, but he has no wish to appear before the judgment seat.

Though clear before men, he could not claim innocence before God. Even though

he knew himself to be the Lord's servant, yet he did not claim perfection, or plead

merit; for even as a servant he was unprofitable. If such be the humble cry of a

servant, what ought to be the pleading of a sinner? – “for in thy sight shall no man

living be justified.”  None can stand before God upon the footing of the law.

God's sight is piercing and discriminating; the slightest flaw is seen and judged; and

therefore pretence and profession cannot avail where that glance reads all

the secrets of the soul. In this verse David told out the doctrine of universal

condemnation by the law long before Paul had taken his pen to write the

same truth. To this day it stands true even to the same extent as in David's

day: no man living even at this moment may dare to present himself for

trial before the throne of the Great King on the footing of the law. This

foolish age has produced specimens of  pride so rank that men have dared

to claim perfection in the flesh; but these vain glorious boasters are no

exception to the rule here laid down: they are but men, and poor specimens

of men. When their lives are examined they are frequently found to be

more faulty than the humble penitents before whom they vaunt their superiority.

 

3   “For the enemy hath persecuted my soul;” -  He has followed me up

with malicious perseverance, and has worried me as often as I have been

within his reach. The attack was upon the soul or life of the Psalmist: our

adversaries mean us the worst possible evil, their attacks are no child's

play, they hunt for the precious life – “he hath smitten my life down to the

ground;” -  The existence of David was made bitter by the cruelty of his

enemy; he was as one who was hurled down and made to lie upon the

ground, where he could be trampled on by his assailant. Slander has a very

depressing effect upon the spirits; it is a blow which overthrows the mind

as though it were knocked clown with the fist – “he hath made me to dwell

in darkness, as those that have been long dead.”  The enemy was not

content with felling his life to the ground—he would lay him lower still,

even in the grave; and lower than that, if possible, for the enemy would

shut up the saint in the darkness of hell if he could. David was driven by

Saul's animosity to haunt caverns and holes, like an unquiet ghost; he

wandered out by night, and lay hid by day like an uneasy spirit which had

long been denied the repose of the grave. Good men began to forget him,

as though he had been long dead; and bad men made ridicule of his rueful

visage as though it belonged not to a living man, but was dark with the

shadow of the sepulcher. Poor David! He was qualified to bless the house

of the living, but he was driven to consort with the dead! Such may be our

case, and yet we may be very dear to the Lord. One thing is certain, the Lord

who permits us to dwell in darkness among the dead, will surely bring

us into light, and cause us to dwell with those who enjoy life eternal.

 

4  Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me

is desolate.”  David was no stoic: he felt his banishment, and smarted under

the cruel assaults which were made upon his character. He felt perplexed

and overturned, lonely and afflicted. He was a man of thought and feeling,

and suffered both in spirit and in heart from the undeserved and

unprovoked hostility of his persecutors. Moreover, he labored under the

sense of fearful loneliness; he was for a while forsaken of his God, and his

soul was exceeding heavy, even unto death. Such words our Lord Jesus

might have used: in this the Head is like the members, and the members are

as the Head.

 

5   “I remember the days of old;” -  When we see nothing new which can

cheer us, let us think upon old things. We once had merry days, days of

deliverance, and joy and thanksgiving; why not again? Jehovah rescued His

people in the ages which lie back, centuries ago; why should He not do the

like again? We ourselves have a rich past to look back upon; we have

sunny memories, sacred memories, satisfactory memories, and these are as

flowers for the bees of faith to visit, from whence they may make honey for

present use – “I meditate on all thy works;” - When my own works reproach

me, thy works refresh me. If at the first view the deeds of the Lord do not

encourage us, let us think them over again, ruminating and considering the

histories of divine providence. We ought to take a wide and large view of

all God's works; for as a whole they work together for good, and in each

part they are worthy of reverent study -  “I muse on the work of thy hands.”

This he had done in former days, even in his most trying hours. Creation

had been the book in which he read of the wisdom and goodness of the

Lord. He repeats his perusal of the page of nature, and counts it a balm for

his wounds, a cordial for his cares, to see what the Lord has made by his

skilful hands. When the work of our own hand grieves us, let us look to the

work of God's hands. Memory, meditation, and musing are here set

together as the three graces, ministering grace to a mind depressed and

likely to be diseased. As David with his harp played away the evil spirit

from Saul, so does he here chase away gloom from his own soul by holy

communion with God.

 

6   “I stretch forth my hands unto thee:” -  He was eager for his God. His

thoughts of God kindled in him burning desires, and these led to energetic

expressions of his inward longings. As a prisoner whose feet are bound

extends his hands in supplication when there is hope of liberty, so does

David - “my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land.”  As the soil cracks,

and yawns, and thus opens its mouth in dumb pleadings, so did the Psalmist's

soul break with longings. No heavenly shower had refreshed him from the

sanctuary: banished from the means of grace, his soul felt parched and dry,

and he cried out, "My soul to thee"; nothing would content him but the

presence of his God. Not alone did he extend his hands, but his heart was

stretched out towards the Lord. He was athirst for the Lord. If he could

but feel the presence of his God he would no longer be overwhelmed or

dwell in darkness; nay, everything would turn to peace and joy.

“Selah.”  It was time to pause, for the supplication had risen to 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.

 

7   “Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: If long delayed, the

deliverance would come too late. The afflicted suppliant faints, and is ready

to die. His life is ebbing out; each moment is of importance; it will soon be

all over with him. No argument for speed can be more powerful than this.

Who will not run to help a suppliant when his life is in jeopardy? Mercy
has wings to its heels when misery is in extremity.
God will not fail when our

spirit fails, but the rather He will hasten His course and come to us on the

wings of the wind“hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that

go down into the pit.” Communion with God is so dear to a true heart that

the withdrawal of it makes the man feel as though he were ready to die and

perish utterly (Matthew 27:46).  God's withdrawals reduce the heart to despair,

and take away all strength from the mind. Moreover, His absence enables

adversaries to work their will without restraint; and thus, in a second way, the

persecuted one is like to perish. If we have God's countenance we live, but

if He turns his back upon us we die. When the Lord looks with favor upon

our efforts we prosper, but if He refuses to countenance them we labor in vain.

 

8  Cause me to hear thy loving kindness in the morning; for in thee

do I trust:” -  Lord, my sorrow makes me deaf, —cause me to hear: there is

but one voice that can cheer me—cause me to hear thy loving-kindness; that

music I would fain enjoy at once—cause me to hear it in the morning, at

the first dawning hour. A sense of divine love is to the soul both dawn and

dew; the end of the night of weeping, the beginning of the morning of joy.

Only God can take away from our weary ears the din of our care, and

charm them with the sweet notes of His love. Our plea with the Lord is our

faith: if we are relying upon Him, He cannot disappoint us: "in thee do I

trust" is a sound and solid argument with God. He who made the ear will

cause us to hear: He who is love itself will have the kindness to bring His

loving-kindness before our minds – “cause me to know the way wherein I

should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.” The Great First Cause must

cause us to hear and to know.  Spiritual senses are dependent upon God, and

heavenly knowledge comes from Him alone. To know the way we ought to take

is exceedingly needful, for how can we be exact in obedience to a law with which

we are not acquainted? or how can there be an ignorant holiness? If we know not the

way, how shall we keep in it? If we know not wherein we should walk,

how shall we be likely to follow the right path?, The Psalmist lifts up his

soul: faith is good at a dead lift: the soul that trusts will rise. We will not

allow our hope to sink, but we will strive to get up and rise out of our daily

griefs. This is wise. When David was in any difficulty as to his way he lifted his

soul towards God Himself, and then he knew that he could not go very far wrong.

If the soul will not rise of itself we must lift it, lift it up unto God. This is good

argument in prayer: surely the God to whom we endeavor to lift up our soul will

condescend to show us what He would have us to do. Let us attend to David's

example, and when our heart is low, let us heartily endeavor to lift it up, not so

much to comfort as to the Lord Himself.

 

9   “Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies:” -  Many foes beset us, we

cannot overcome them, we cannot even escape from them; but Jehovah can

and will rescue us if we pray to Him. The weapon of all prayer will stand us

in better stead than sword and shield – “I flee unto thee to hide me.” This was

a good result from his persecutions. That which makes us flee to our God

may be an ill wind, but it blows us good. There is no cowardice in such

flight, but much holy courage. God can hide us out of reach of harm, and

even out of sight of it. He is our hiding place; Jesus has made Himself the

refuge of His people: the sooner, and the more entirely we flee to Him the

better for us. Beneath the crimson canopy of our Lord's atonement believers are

completely hidden; let us abide there and be at rest. In the seventh verse our poet

cried, "Hide not thy face", and here he prays, "Hide me." Note also how

often he uses the words "unto thee"; he is after his God; he must travel in that

direction by some means, even though he may seem to be beating a retreat; his

whole being longs to be near the Lord. Is it possible that such thirsting for God

will be left unsupplied? Never, while the Lord is love.

 

10  Teach me to do thy will;” -  How childlike"teach me"! How

practical "Teach me to do"! How undivided in obedience—"to do thy

will"! To do all of it, let it be what it may. This is the best form of

instruction, for its source is God, its object is holiness, its spirit is that of

hearty loyalty. The man is hidden in the Lord, and spends his peaceful life

in learning the will of his Preserver. A heart cannot long be desolate which

is thus docile – “for thou art my God:” -  Who else can teach me as thou canst?

Who else will care to do it but my God? Thou hast given me thyself, thou

wilt surely give me thy teaching. If I have thee, may I not ask to have thy

perfect mind? When the heart can sincerely call Jehovah "my God", the

understanding is ready to learn of Him, the will is prepared to obey Him, the

whole man is eager to please Him - "thy spirit is good;" - God is all spirit and

all good. His essence is goodness, kindness, holiness: it is His nature to do

good, and what greater good can He do to us than to hear such a prayer as

that which follows? - “lead me into the land of uprightness.” David would

fain be among the godly, in a land of another sort from that which had cast

him out. He sighed for the upland meadows of grace, the table lands of

peace, the fertile plains of communion. He could not reach them of himself;

he must be led there. God, who is good, can best conduct us to the goodly

land. There is no inheritance like a portion in the land of promise, the land

of precept, the land of perfectness. He who teaches us must put us into

leading strings, and guide and conduct us to His own dwelling place in the

country of holiness. The way is long, and steep, and he who goes without a

divine leader will faint on the journey; but with Jehovah to lead it is

delightful to follow, and there is neither stumbling nor wandering.

 

11  Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name's sake:”  Oh for more life as

well as more light! Teaching and leading call for invigoration, or we shall

be dull scholars and slow pilgrims. Jehovah, the Lord and giver of life, is

the only one from whom life can come to renew and revive us; —hence,

the prayer is to Him only. Perchance a servant might teach and lead, but

only the Master can enliven. We are often near to death, and hence each

one may fitly cry, "Quicken me";but what is there in us which we can plead

as a reason for such a favor? Nothing, literally nothing. We must beg it

for His name's sake. He must quicken us because He is the living God, the

loving God, the Lord who delighteth in mercy (Micah 7:18).  What blessed

arguments lie clustered together in His glorious name! We need never

cease praying for want of acceptable pleas; and we may always fall back upon

the one before us—"thy name's sake." It will render the name of Jehovah the

more glorious in the eyes of men if He creates a high degree of spiritual life in His

servants; and this is a reason for His doing so, which we may urge with much

confidence“for thy righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble.”

Let men see that thou art on the side of right, and that thou wilt not allow the

wicked to ride roughshod over those who trust in thee. Thou hast promised to

succor thy people; thou art not unrighteous to forget their work of faith; thou art,

on the contrary, righteous in answering sincere player, and in comforting

thy people. David was heavily afflicted. Not only was there trouble in his

soul, but his soul was in trouble; plunged in it as in a sea, shut up in it as in

a prison. God could bring him out of it, and especially He could at once lift

up his soul or spirit out of the ditch. The prayer is an eager one, and the

appeal a bold one. We may be sure that trouble was soon over when the

Lord heard such supplications.

 

12   “And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that

afflict my soul:” - He believes that it will be so, and thus prophesies the event;

for the words may be read as a declaration, and it is better so to understand

them. We could not pray just so with our Christian light; but under Old

Testament arrangements the spirit of it was congruous to the law. It is a

petition which justice sanctions, but the spirit of love is not at home in

presenting it. We, as Christians, turn the petition to spiritual use only. Yet

David was of so generous a mind, and dealt so tenderly with Saul, that he

could hardly have meant all that his words are made in our version to say -

for I am lay servant.” -  And therefore I hope that my Master will protect me

in His service, and grant me victory while I fight His battles. It is a warrior's

prayer, and smells of the dust and smoke of battle. It was heard, and

therefore it was not asking amiss. Still there is a more excellent way.

(I Corinthians 12:31-13:13)

 

 

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