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Psalm 143

Psalm 143.4. Psalm 143 Summary. David pursued, prays, listens, and trusts the LORD

Theme

David is overwhelmed and appalled by the pursuit of his enemy, and so he prays to Yahweh that he will not hide his face from him, but instead show lovingkindness, teach, guide, deliver, and revive him, and destroy those who afflict his life.

Summary

David first appeals to Yahweh’s faithfulness, righteousness, and lovingkindness, then reflects on Yahweh’s great works, moves to requests for instruction and fellowship, and ends with the plea to destroy his servant David’s  enemies. David—pursued, persecuted, crushed, and overwhelmed by the enemy—prays to the LORD (Yahweh) to deliver him. Because David knows that the LORD is faithful and righteous he appeals to him, though he does not deserve God’s help because no man is righteous (Psalm 143.1-4). David remembers, meditates, and muses on what the LORD has done in distant and current history and that gives him confidence to cry out for help (Psalm 143.5-6). He asks that Yahweh will quickly answer. If the LORD turns away from him and does not answer he will be like a dead man and no good for anything. David asks to hear of Yahweh’s lovingkindness, to know his guidance, and to experience his deliverance. He has nowhere else to turn; he trusts in and takes refuge in Yahweh (Psalm 143.7-9). David then asks: God, teach me to do Your will; let Your Holy Spirit lead me; Yahweh revive me. Finally, he appeals to Yahweh’s righteousness and lovingkindness: deliver my soul, destroy my enemies, for I am your servant (Psalm 143.10-12). Of course, the complete deliverance will be when Jesus Christ returns for his church, comes to rule on earth, and then the new heavens and new earth.

Outline

  1. Psalm 143.1-4. David—pursued, persecuted, crushed, and overwhelmed by the enemy—prays to the LORD (Yahweh) to deliver him. Because David knows that the LORD is faithful and righteous he appeals to him, though he does not deserve God’s help because no man is righteous (Psalm 143.1-4). 
  2. Psalm 143.5-6. David remembers, meditates, and muses on what the LORD has done in the past and that gives him confidence to cry out for help.
  3. Psalm 143.7-9. He asks that Yahweh will quickly answer. If the LORD turns away from him and does not answer he will be like a dead man and no good for anything. David asks to hear of Yahweh’s lovingkindness, to know his guidance, and to experience his deliverance. He has nowhere else to turn; he trusts in and takes refuge in Yahweh.
  4. Psalm 143.10-12. David then asks: God, teach me to do Your will; let Your Holy Spirit lead me; Yahweh revive me. Finally, he appeals to Yahweh’s righteousness and lovingkindness: deliver my soul, destroy my enemies, for I am your servant.

Verse summary

  1. Psalm 143.1-4. David—persecuted, crushed, and overwhelmed by the enemy—prays to the LORD (Yahweh) to deliver him. Because David knows that the LORD is faithful and righteous he appeals to him, though he does not deserve God’s help because no man is righteous (Psalm 143.1-4).
    1. Psalm 143.1. All three verbs (hear, give ear, answer) are imperatives which shows the intensity of his personal appeal to Yahweh. If a  person does not listen, he will not respond. David wants Yahweh to listen and respond. The standard or foundation upon which he appeals is the LORD’S faithfulness (אֱ מוּנָהe’munah, Strong 530; Psalm 33.4, 36.6, 89.2-3, 119.90) and righteousness (צְדָקָה tsadaqah, Strong 6666; Psalm 5.9, 31.2, 36.7, 71.19). See Deuteronomy 32.4. Yahweh is true to his nature and to what he says, and is always righteous and just. See the divine attributes. This is true for us today in the church. God is always true to his word and always righteous.
    2. Psalm 143.2. David asks Yahweh not to judge him because no one alive is righteous. If the LORD took each of us into account, we would all be judged guilty. David is appealing to God’s grace. He is not asking God to overlook sin, but to apply grace as needed.
    3. Psalm 143.3. Note the verbs that describe what the enemy has done: persecuted, crushed, made to dwell. The effect is on his soul, his life, and his location—how he thinks and feels, what he does, and he is lonely. All together they stress the horror that David is going through.
    4. Psalm 143.4. His human spirit is overwhelmed (עטף ataph, hithpael impf faint, weak; same as Psalm 142.3) and his heart is appalled (שׁמם shaman hithpoel impf, driven to astonishment, numbness. Daniel 8.27 astounded). His thought process and motivation are so preoccupied with his trouble that he is immobilized.
  2. Psalm 143.5-6. David remembers, meditates, and muses on what the LORD has done in the past and that gives him confidence cry out for help. This is not just nostalgia, but also a recall of God’s acts in creation and history. We have the first person, David-I, with four verbs stated and one verb implied. The first three verbs indicating purposeful thinking. The next is an action based on thinking. The fifth line is summarizes and brings these two verses together. This is almost a sequence to David’s activity and this could also be our response to the LORD when we are pressured. See Psalm 77.5,11-12; 42.1-2; 63.1.
    1. Psalm 143.5. Remember (זָכַר zakar, to remember), meditate (הגה hagah to growl, ponder), muse (שׂיח siyach to be concerned with, to occupy one’s attention, consider). These are activities of deliberate thought, not passing glances. The objects are days of old, all your doings, work of your hands. These refer to what David knows about the LORD’s great activity for him and for Israel in the past. The LORD’s work in the past give him confidence for now and motivate him to faith and rest in the LORD. 
    2. Psalm 143.6. To stretch out hands is a figure for prayer (Psalm 88.9;141.2; Job11.13). The soul longing is his great desire to experience the LORD’s fellowship and deliverance (Psalm 42.1-2; 63.1; 84.2; Isaiah 26.8-9).
  3. Psalm 143.7-9. David asks that Yahweh will quickly answer. If the LORD turns away from him and does not answer he will be like a dead man and no good for anything. David asks to hear of Yahweh’s lovingkindness, to know his guidance, and to experience his deliverance. He has nowhere else to turn; he trusts in and takes refuge in Yahweh. The verbs are let me hear, I trust, teach me, I lift up.
    1. Psalm 143.7. David has no hope if the LORD ignores him or rejects him. His spirit is weak wasting away (רוּחַ ruach for human spirit; fails (כָּלָה kalah comes to an end, is finished, is weak). Hiding the face means to ignore him. If David has to face the trouble alone, he has no hope and no future. He might as well be dead.
    2. Psalm 147.8. David asks to hear of Yahweh’s lovingkindness (חֶסֶד chesed). To hear the LORD means that David wants the LORD to respond to his pleas in some recognizable way. He wants to know without a doubt that Yahweh is committed to him. In the morning emphasizes at the start of the day, and therefore David begins each day with confidence that the LORD cares for him. David’s only reason to expect the LORD to answer him is that he trusts (בָּטַח batach, qal perfect for the fact of his trusting) the LORD. This is knowledge plus faith. He knows who the LORD is and therefore trusts him (Psalm 9.10). The opposite of this is seen in Zephaniah 3.2 during the reign of Josiah (640-609 BC) when Judah refuses instruction, refuses to trust the LORD, and would not draw near to her God. To know and trust Yahweh is the only solution to our problems. In Psalm 143.8, lines 3 and 4 David asks for instruction so he may live righteously. David desires guidance for his personal life, and so he prays (I lift up my soul).
    3. Psalm 143.9. Now he makes his request for deliverance (נצל natzal, hiphil imperative, rescue, save). David puts any deliverance on Yahweh: I take refuge in you is a difficult translation. The verb כּסה kasha has the idea of to cover, to conceal. However we translate it, the idea is that David goes to Yahweh for protection. 
  4. Psalm 143.10-12. David then asks: God, teach me to do Your will—right priorities; let Your Holy Spirit lead me—he needs shepherding; Yahweh revive me—encourage me. Finally, he appeals to Yahweh’s righteousness and lovingkindness: deliver my soul, destroy my enemies, for I am your servant. David appeals to God. David knows something of God’s ability, God’s Spirit, God’s personal name, God’s righteousness, and God’s lovingkindness. A taught, led, revived, and rescued David becomes a testimony to Yahweh’s power, covenant keeping love, righteousness, and commitment to his chosen servant. This true for every believer. We are all in the ups and downs of life. How we choose to live in fellowship with God honors his name and fulfills our roll of servant. 

So what for us?

  1. No one is completely righteous, so the LORD treats us through His grace—in His faithfulness, righteousness, lovingkindness, instruction, and rescue out of trouble. First, learn, believe, and apply who God is and what he is like—God’s attributes, his character, and his works.
  2. David’s plight is that of many Christians today who are overwhelmed by failure, harassed by enemies, and sometimes reeling under divine discipline or self-inflicted defeat. We should pray for them and support them when we have the opportunity.
  3. David, the LORD’S servant, is the pattern for our own recovery when we, also the LORD’S servants, find ourselves in similar situations. David remembered the LORD’S attributes, he thought about the LORD’S great accomplishments, and then he called out to the LORD in believing prayer to instruct him about life and priorities, to shepherd him, and to encourage him. The LORD is also committed to us since we are believers in him, his word, and his works. Follow David example. His human spirit is overwhelmed (עטף ataph, hithpael impf faint, weak; same as Psalm 142.3) and his heart is appalled (שׁמם shaman hithpoel impf, driven to astonishment, numbness. Daniel 8.27 astounded). His thought process and motivation are so preoccupied with his trouble that he is immobilized.