Psalm 143 - A Faithful and Righteous Answer

INTRODUCTION: The inscription in the KJV attributes this psalm to King David, as do the inscriptions among those in the consecutive series of psalms from 138 through 145. This psalm gives insight to a time when David needed comfort from the Lord as his own spirit was very low because of serious threats to his very life from enemies that he does not specifically identify as he writes out his prayer to the Lord. This psalm can help each Christian be more aware that answers to prayer are based upon the Lord's own faithfulness and righteousness.

NOTE: Scripture passages are from the American King James Version.


A - HEAR AND ANSWER MY PRAYER

"1 Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in your faithfulness answer me, and in your righteousness. 2 And enter not into judgment with your servant: for in your sight shall no man living be justified."

COMMENTS:David brings his request as he cries out before the Lord, and asks for an answer, while very much aware that the response will be based on the faithfulness and righteousness of the LORD God. David wants the Lord to know that he realizes he has no righteousness in himself, so thereby his request is for mercy. If the Lord answered based on judgment of David, he knows that he could not be found innocent. David by the statement "in your sight shall no man living be justified" gives one of the scriptural affirmations that all have sinned, and there is none righteous in themselves. David also wrote in Psalm 27 "1 The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Even though the LORD was his salvation, David was not immune from trouble or the temporary fear of man. When he cried out to the Lord, his request to be answered was based on the Lord's mercy as indicated in verse seven of psalm 27. "7 Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also on me, and answer me."

The Bible is consistent to demonstrate that the grace of the Lord is shown to those who have faith to accept his mercy, and all people have that need. Psalm 130 "3 If you, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand? 4 But there is forgiveness with you, that you may be feared." Ecclesiastes 7 "20 For there is not a just man on earth, that does good, and sins not." Habakkuk 2 "4 Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith." Galatians 3 "11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, the just shall live by faith."


B - THE ENEMY HAS PERSECUTED MY SOUL

"3 For the enemy has persecuted my soul; he has smitten my life down to the ground; he has made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead. 4 Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate. 5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all your works; I muse on the work of your hands. 6 I stretch forth my hands to you: my soul thirsts after you, as a thirsty land. Selah."

COMMENTS: The desperate condition that causes David to cry out to the Lord is not just based on physical threat, for it seems he is beginning to despair in both soul and spirit. We could take the enemy David speaks of as the underlying enemy of all of God's chosen people, that being Satan; or we could consider that David is using the singular term in a collective sense to represent those who threatened his life at various times until the cumulative effect became overwhelming. The spirit that opposes the Lord God can be in others who openly oppose the believer, or even that spirit of temptation within the believer. If the Lord is our light and our salvation, then Satan is the one who would want us to dwell in darkness that we would begin to believe that we will be among those who have been long dead.

David admits that his spirit within him is overwhelmed, and his heart is desolate. For David, before the persecution by Saul began, his heart was full of desire for the Lord, and he acted with boldness and great confidence in all that he undertook. This allowed him to defeat Goliath, and to lead Saul's troops to many victories over their enemies, until Saul became the very jealous and fearful enemy of David for ten years or more. So now, David wants to turn his thoughts to remember the days of old that go far beyond just the length of his own life, and to meditate on all the works of the Lord. Another verse in Psalms catches this same sense. Psalm 119 "52 I remembered your judgments of old, O LORD; and have comforted myself." David turned his attention to reflect at length on the marvelous work of the Lord's hands. Then his response is to reach out his hands to the Lord, as his soul thirsts for him, as a dry land has great need for refreshing moisture before it becomes so parched that it is devoid of life.


C - HEAR ME QUICKLY BEFORE MY SPIRIT FAILS

"7 Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit fails: hide not your face from me, lest I be like to them that go down into the pit. 8 Cause me to hear your loving kindness in the morning; for in you do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul to you."

COMMENTS: David's is becoming increasingly desperate for an answer from the Lord as he asks that his plea be heard speedily. He had earlier said that the enemy had driven him to the ground with heavy blows of affliction, but now his spirit is so depleted he feels like he will go even down further into a pit. Having begun the process of reviewing all the greatness of his God, he is now beginning to pray that the Lord will cause him to hear the Lord's loving kindness in the morning because he does trust in him. David wants to have refreshment for his spirit, and clear direction as he lifts up his soul to the Lord.


D - LORD, DELIVER ME FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS' SAKE

"9 Deliver me, O LORD, from my enemies: I flee to you to hide me. 10 Teach me to do your will; for you are my God: your spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness. 11 Quicken me, O LORD, for your name's sake: for your righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble. 12 And of your mercy cut off my enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am your servant."

COMMENTS: David has brought himself to the point of directly asking the Lord to deliver him from his enemies; and this is not to be by victorious battle by David, but rather he says he is fleeing that the Lord will hide him. David further asks that he be taught to do the Lord's will, as he proclaims that the Lord is his God! The Lord's spirit is good, and David wants to be lead into the land of uprightness. The Hebrew word translated here as uprightness is often translated as a plain in terms of geography, but I have selected some other psalms with the translated term in braces {}, to see a range of meanings in the more poetic sense. Psalm 26 "12 My foot stands in an {even place}: in the congregations will I bless the LORD." Psalm 27 "11 Teach me your way, O LORD, and lead me in a {plain} path, because of my enemies." Psalm 45 "6 Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of your kingdom is a {right} scepter." Psalm 67 "4 O let the nations be glad and sing for joy: for you shall judge the people {righteously}, and govern the nations on earth. Selah."

David asks the Lord to make him alive, and to do it for the sake of the Lord's name. His desire is to have his soul brought out of trouble to demonstrate the benefit of the Lord's righteousness. David's thoughts are not based on selfish motives as he presents a petition that will help him, if that will indeed honor the Lord. Another psalm gives evidence of the confidence of the writer in the faithfulness of God even in the face of trouble. Psalm 71 "20 You, which have showed me great and sore troubles, shall quicken me again, and shall bring me up again from the depths of the earth."

The hope of redemption from the grave is not always immediately evident, especially in poetry or prophecy. Psalm 119 "50 This is my comfort in my affliction: for your word has quickened me." Being made "alive" to simply age and die is not the end of hope even in the Old Testament. Job 19 "25 For I know that my redeemer lives, and that he shall stand at the latter day on the earth: 26 And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: 27 Whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me." Faith in the Word of God brings life eternal. John 6 "63 It is the spirit that vivifies; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life. ... 67 Then said Jesus to the twelve, Will you also go away? 68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." The complete refreshing of our spirit will be in the resurrection. Romans 8 "11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwells in you."

David confesses to the Lord that he is but a servant of the most high God, and will accept the mercy shown to a dependent servant, that is demonstrated as the Lord takes the action to permanently cut off the enemies of God and of the saints. Psalm 136 "23 Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endures for ever: 24 And has redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endures for ever."


--- Reflections in prayer ---

Lord, when I come to you in prayer for relief from an oppressive circumstance or situation in my life, may I first remember that you could not even hear me if my own righteousness was to be considered. If you were to judge my worthiness, I would be like all other people who have ever lived, with no intrinsic basis to appear justified before you. If my spirit is overwhelmed in me and my heart seems desolate, guide my thoughts to all that you have done from the beginning of creation, that I might consider at length all the works of your hands. May I then refresh in my mind the past grace you have shown to me as I stretch forth my hands to you truly because my soul thirsts after you, as a thirsty land desperately needs renewing moisture. Answer me quickly Lord, at such a time in my life, as my soul seems near the point of failing, so I will not be like those who have no hope. May I hear your loving kindness in the morning as I have placed my complete trust in you. Cause me then to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul to you. Deliver me Lord from that which is not pleasing to you, as I flee to you to escape evil in the world. Teach me to do your will; for you are my God: your spirit is good and gracious to lead me into the land of your righteousness. Revive my weakened spirit, O LORD, for your name's sake: for your righteousness' sake I trust you to bring my soul out of trouble. I am your servant Lord, and I know of your mercy you will cut off all those who are serious enemies to me, who may afflict my soul. I praise you Lord for your faithful and righteous answer in my time of need! Amen.

Published 14 July 2012