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Do you sometimes feel that things arent going your way? Heres a poem that probably expresses all of our frustration from time to time.
All of us have had those times when we felt smitten and afflicted. Our problems seem to flood over us and we dont know what to do. In this psalm David gives us practical instruction on how to handle those times of affliction.
Hear my prayer, O Lord; give ear to my supplications! In thy faithfulness answer me, in thy righteousness!
David begins this psalm by showing us three ways to cry out to God. The first thing we need to learn to do when we are facing difficult circumstances is to pray. Notice the three forms of prayer that he gives. First prayer, hear my prayer; then supplication, give ear to my supplications; and finally petition, answer me. Prayer is that time that we spend in Gods presence. Supplication is when we plead with God for help in desperate situations. Petition is when we take our specific requests to God for an answer.
David understood that when he was afflicted, he needed to come before God in prayer. Do we truly understand this? Or do we try everything else first before we come to God? We Americans tend to be very independent. We think we can handle our own problems and we dont need anyone else helping us out. But David understood God was the one with the answers. Let us be like him and turn to our Redeemer when we are in trouble.
Enter not into judgment with thy servant; for no man living is righteous before thee.
Notice that David did not want what he deserved from God. As MacDonald commented, "He does not want God to give him justice. That would be disastrous. All are sinners. No one is able to produce by himself the perfect righteousness that God demands. So man must cast himself on the grace of God."
David says, "no man living is righteous before thee." He understood that all of our finest efforts arent good enough to warrant Gods mercy. In fact Stuhlmueller suggests that this verse was quoted by Paul in Romans 3:10, "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one." David understood that we must depend on Gods lovingkindness.
For the enemy has pursued me; he has crushed my life to the ground; he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead. Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled.
These two verses gives us a graphic description of how David felt. He wrote that the enemy had pursued and crushed him, he sat in darkness as dead, his spirit fainted and his heart was appalled. Does this sound like what youve been facing?
When Yosemite was first discovered by the white man, it was a result of chasing after Indian marauders. The Mariposa Battalion was organized by the State of California to bring an end to the Mariposa Indian War. During one encounter the Battalion followed the Indian trail up an interminable, winding river canyon, and then past huge granite rocks which looked inaccessible, and continued along the edge of the mountain where they were in danger of falling off any moment, and then down a tortuous, twisting path which seemed to be heading for nowhere. And then they arrived in Yosemite Valley on March 21, 1857. They were amazed to find lush green meadows, tall trees, a wide flowing river, cascading waterfalls and towering granite enclosing the valley on every side.
Sometimes we have to go through what seems like an interminable, winding river canyon, and then past huge granite rocks which look inaccessible, and along the edge of a mountain where we think were in danger of falling off any moment, and then down a tortuous, twisting path which seems to be heading nowhere. But at the end of this time of affliction there is a lovely valley awaiting us a valley of peaceful meadows and vibrant waterfalls and beauty as we have never seen before.
I remember the days of old, I meditate on all that thou hast done; I muse on what thy hands have wrought.
Now David gives us three steps to help us overcome our times of turmoil. They are remember, meditate, and muse. When we are going through difficult times, we need to:
Clarke comments, "Thou hast often helped me, often delivered me. I will therefore trust in thee, for thy mercy is not clean gone from me."
I stretch out my hands to thee; my soul thirsts for thee like a parched land. Make haste to answer me, O Lord! My spirit fails! Hide not thy face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the Pit.
The next thing that David does is stretch out his hands to God. He reaches to God because he is thirsting for Gods presence. There may be times when we are so overwhelmed with sorrow that we feel as David did that "my spirit fails." In those times we need to stretch out our hands toward God. James 4:8 tells us, "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." God is not far from us, but sometimes we cant hear what he is saying to us because we havent reached out to him.
Let me hear in the morning of thy steadfast love, for in thee I put my trust. Teach me the way I should go, for to thee I lift up my soul. Deliver me, O Lord, from my enemies! I have fled to thee for refuge! Teach me to do thy will, for thou art my God! Let thy good spirit lead me on a level path!
In these verses David prays for 5 things for God to do for him.
Clarke comments, "To be found doing the will of God is the only safe state for man...in adversity, to submit to it; in prosperity, to do it without pride or presumption."
A Prayer for Guidance
For thy name's sake, O Lord, preserve my life! In thy righteousness bring me out of trouble! And in thy steadfast love cut off my enemies, and destroy all my adversaries, for I am thy servant.
In these final two verses David expresses why we can have confidence in God. First he says, "for thy names sake." It is because of who God is that we can trust and rely on him. Next David says, "in thy righteousness." Because of Gods holiness we know that he will do whats right. We can count on his goodness. We never have to wonder if he will listen to us or hear us. Then he says, "in thy steadfast love." The Hebrew word here for steadfast love is < dsx> chesed which means mercy. We can always count on Gods mercy toward us. He is kind and gracious to all who serve him.
Then David ends this psalm by saying, "for I am thy servant." Are you Gods servant? Do you serve him and obey his commands? As we serve him, we will find his love and his power reaching down to us in our times of affliction. He will be there for us.
When you feel as David did, as if you are smitten and afflicted, know that God will be there for you.. He will hear your cry and answer your prayer. He will not leave you alone.
This study on Psalm 143:1-12 © 1998 by David
Humpal. All Rights Reserved.
Rough Stough was sent to me from William Longman
MacDonald: Believers Bible Commentary, Old Testament volume, pg. 774 © 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Stuhlmueller: Harpers Bible Commentary pg. 492 © 1988, Harper and Row Publishers
Romans 3:10 from the King James Version
Adam Clarkes Commentary, vol. III, pg. 673, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press (written about 1825)
James 4:8 from the New King James Version © 1984, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Adam Clarkes Commentary, vol. III, pg. 674-675, Abingdon-Cokesbury Press
A Prayer for Guidance © 1998 by David Humpal