Daybreak: Psalms 140:1 through 143:12
“I cried unto the Lord with my voice; with my voice unto the Lord did I make my supplication.” (Psalm 142:1)
Shortly after starting a new job, I noticed that one of my co-worker’s eyes were frequently red and watery, she was constantly blowing her nose, and she often excused herself from helping customers by saying that her allergies were acting up again.
On a hunch that something more than allergies was the cause, one day I asked her if something was bothering her. She opened up to me, acknowledging that she had been through several traumatic experiences recently. Among other things, a close friend had died, one of her sons had moved to another country, she had lost contact with her only grandchild through her other son’s divorce, and she was being forced to leave her home.
She told me that she had tried to address each problem as it had occurred. However, as they continued to stack up, she had become overwhelmed. Though she had turned to relatives, friends, and a therapist for help, the comfort and support they gave was only temporary. She admitted that she was even contemplating suicide, and asked if I knew of any way out of her troubles.
An illustration I remembered hearing one of our ministers tell came to mind, and I related it to her. A mouse had fallen into a bucket that contained several inches of water. The water was too deep for the mouse to stand on the bottom, and the sides of the bucket were too steep for the mouse to climb, so it was swimming in circles with just its teeny nose above the water. The minister commented that the mouse had found a solution to its problem, but it was not sustainable. I told my co-worker that she didn’t need another person to help her swim a while longer; she needed someone bigger who was capable of “knocking over” the bucket and setting her free. I told her she needed God! He was the only One who could truly bring a solution.
She went home that weekend and prayed. When she came back to work the following week, she was different. Her “allergies” were gone and she had hope. In the days that followed, God responded to her prayers with mercy and resolved her problems one by one. Her son moved back into the area after receiving a job offer, she was granted ample time with her grandchild, and she found a new home that was perfect for her. She had looked to God for help and He had answered.
In today’s focus verse, David looked to the right source for help: he cried aloud to God, who was his only hope of preservation. With urgency born of desperation, he acknowledged that his spirit was overwhelmed. He had looked, but there was no one to help him — no refuge to be found, no counselor or defender to come to his aid. In distress, he pleaded, “Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low” (verse 6).
When life’s troubles begin to stack up and threaten to overwhelm us, we can turn them over to God. He is greater than any problem that comes our way. Naturally, the very first help God wants to give each of us is His wonderful salvation; this is the greatest help of all. Then He has promised to guide and support us in every concern of life. Like David, we can be confident that God will “deal bountifully” with us, giving us strength and deliverance in His own way and time.
Although the historical context of Psalm 140 is unclear, it refers to evil and violent men who stirred up animosity against David. Verses 1-11 describe David’s persecution and his resultant entreaty for God to rescue him, while verses 12-13 portray his confidence that God would answer his prayer. This psalm is classified as a personal lament.
In verse 3, the psalmist compared the enemy’s malicious words to a serpent’s darting tongue and poisonous fangs. In verse 5, the words snare, cords, net, and gins all describe equipment used by hunters to catch wild animals. The phrase “O God the Lord” in verse 7 combining the Hebrew words Yahweh (God) and Adonai (Lord) was unusual; its usage reflects David’s acknowledgment of God’s supreme salvation and protection. The “burning coals” alluded to in verse 10 may have been a reference to Sodom’s destruction, while the “deep pits” depicted total and utter destruction for evildoers which would have no remedy.
Psalm 141 is a psalm of lament. The general framework and setting are the same as the previous psalm. David’s prayer in these ten verses contains three supplications: for God to speedily answer (verses 1-2), for God to help him show restraint (verses 3-6), and for God to give him refuge (verses 7-10).
The phrase set forth in verse 2 means “firm” or “established.” In verse 5, the psalmist inferred that if he did not shun evil works, rebuke from the righteous would not “break his head” (or wound in any adverse sense) but would be a kindness that brought healing to his soul. David also implied that he would pray for the righteous in their time of calamity.
Since the occasion of this psalm is not known, the interpretation of verses 6-7 is uncertain. Some think it may have been written during David’s flight from Saul, with verse 6 inferring that Saul’s downfall would result in the people respecting David’s words. Verse 7 indicates the psalmist’s helpless situation. However, in verse 8 he affirmed that his hope and trust was in God. As in Psalm 140, the words snares, gins, and nets (verses 9-10) refer to the equipment of hunters.
The superscription in Psalm 142 indicates that this psalm is a Maschil written by David when he was in a cave. The word “Maschil” denotes a teaching psalm with moral and practical application. The Bible documents two occasions when David hid from Saul in a cave: 1 Samuel 22 and 24. This is another psalm of lament in which the psalmist poured out his distress to the Lord in prayer.
In verse 4, David indicated that there were no like-minded individuals who would come along side him or consider his spiritual needs. Although he was surrounded by loyal followers, David may have felt that he was the only one with a righteous perspective.
It is notable that although the psalmist clearly was in deep trouble and was feeling hopeless and depressed, he did not express a vindictive spirit toward his enemies.
Psalm 143 is the final of seven penitential psalms expressing sorrow for sin and beseeching God to render mercy, rather than judgment. (The other psalms are Psalms 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, and 130.) It begins with David’s plea for God to hear and answer his prayers.
The statement in verse 2 that “in thy sight shall no man living be justified” is a foundational theology of Scripture. Paul stated the same truth in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Other passages which state this doctrine include Romans 11:32 and I John 1:10. The meaning of the word smitten in verse 3 is “beaten or broken to pieces.”
In verses 7-12, David expressed his sincere desire to live in a manner pleasing to the Lord — an indicator of genuine penitence, which is always accompanied by a desire to do right. Quicken in verse 11 means “to revive” or “keep alive.”
In contrast to the preceding psalm, David concluded this one with a request for the destruction of his enemies.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines – Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. Book I (1:1 — 41:13)
II. Book II (42:1 — 72:20)
III. Book III (73:1 — 89:52)
IV. Book IV (90:1 — 106:48)
V. Book V (107:1 — 150:6)
A Closer Look
- In Psalm 143:5, what did David meditate upon to soothe his spirit when he was overwhelmed?
- Psalm 141:5 gives counsel regarding criticism or reproof. How should we respond to correction by another Christian?
- In Psalm 140:7, David said God “covered his head” (protected him) during battle. What are some of the battles you have faced, and how did God cover your head during those times?
When David became overwhelmed with the trials that came his way, he cried to God for help. When we face challenges in our day, we too should look to God. We can be confident that He will respond to our cries!