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Meditation Psalm 143

A psalm of David.

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

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.
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.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

(Ps. 143:1-12 NIV)

This is one of the seven penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143). The Psalms appeal to the Lord, hear my prayer, my cry for mercy. He asks God to come in His faithfulness and righteousness. Because God is faithful and righteous, the Psalmist cries for mercy. If the Lord came in His righteousness, the Psalmist would be in grave danger. He is in personal need for the Lord to approach with mercy. The sense of urgency of the Psalmist arises because of his unrighteousness. Sin was in his life and only God could forgive his sin. His sin will not wait for a time, because the Psalmist is aware that this disrupts the fellowship that he has with God. The Psalmist does not want judgement which he clearly deserves. He needs mercy which he doesn’t deserve. If he deserved mercy then it wouldn’t be mercy. In some Psalms the Psalmist confessed his innocence. The confession of innocence was appropriate when the Psalmist was confronted with accusation and persecution because of righteousness’s sake, but now his confession of guilt is appropriate as he faces his own failures. The Psalmist expresses a universal truth that there is no one righteous before the Lord. This sounds very like the book of Romans (3.23). This is one of the reasons that Luther referred to Psalm 143 as a ‘Pauline Psalm’.

The Psalmist laments that he has been hounded and he feels that he is in a very dark place. He hasn’t been literally crushed to the ground, but he uses that expression to describe how he feels emotionally. The enemy who has afflicted the Psalmist happily gloats over what he has been able to do. They pride themselves in their ability to take a person down, but their victory is empty and certainly short lived, because the judge of all the earth will bring them to account for what they have done. The gloom and darkness that he feels he describes like the darkness of being dead for years.

He has lost spirit and his heart within him is dismayed. Adding to his disheartened feeling is that his memory recalls what God has done in the past. This begs the question, ‘why is God not helping me now?’ He reminds himself of all the great works of the Lord and he spreads out empty hands before the Lord. He longs for the Lord to come. He has the problem within his heart of his own failure and the enemy without oppressing him.
In v7-12 he brings new petitions to the Lord. It has been some time since he last saw the Lord working in his life. The passage of time has brought on the sense of urgency. He has been waiting and longing so long that he has exhausted himself. He feels physically faint. A spiritual battle, and emotional distress have an impact upon our bodies. We can be left without a sense of wellbeing. If God hides his face from the Psalmist, he will feel like those who have gone down into death.

V8 sounds like a night-time prayer. His tiredness is not a good tiredness, but the tiredness that comes from weakness and being drained of energy. He will lie down and sleep, and he will welcome the hours of slumber when his mind will be able to rest from the terrible turmoil of going over his grief. He prays that the morning will bring a word of the LORD’s unfailing covenant love. It is covenant love that we always have to fall back on. To know that we are loved, not because we’ve worked hard at believing it, but because of the faithfulness of our covenant LORD. The Psalmist has put his trust in the Lord. He seeks the Lord’s guidance in the way that he should take. He is hidden in God and awaits God’s rescue from his enemies.

Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

Now that he has confessed sin he seeks guidance from God so that he will know what God’s will is and that he will be led by the Spirit of God to walk on level ground where he will not stumble or fall.

For the sake of the covenant name of the Lord the Psalmist asks the Lord to preserve his life. The Psalmist only seeks a righteous solution to his predicament. His plea to the Lord is based on God’s mercy, His name and His covenant love. When the love of God is for us, we are greatly blessed and we have extensive liberty to come and plead the covenant love of God.

You raise me up:

Prayer
Father we thank You that You have lifted us out a deep pit where we had no hope, but You came to us and lifted us up out of what we were, You gave us a solid place to stand, and instead of the ashes of mourning You have given us a song to sing, a song of joy and hope in Christ. Fill our hearts over and over with the gladness of the Gospel and help us to pursue the pathway of Your will because we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.