Fall is upon us, school for many is drawing near, and vacations are coming to an end. What does this mean? Another summer has come and gone. For us here at SonRise this means another summer in the Psalms has come and gone. Recall where we’ve been. We spent the previous 8 weeks looking at the Psalms in a way we’ve not done before, looking into the deep cuts, or the Psalms we don’t naturally gravitate towards. Psalm 25, 49, 57, 62, 63, 86, 115, and 117.
For us today, as we wrap up another Psalm summer, Psalm 143 is before us. And I think Psalm 143 makes a good summary of all the Psalms we’ve lingered in this summer, so it is good to conclude with it.
Notice first that Psalm 143 is a Psalm of David. And a quick look at Psalm 143 shows us that it fits David’s life immediately. In this one Psalm he is in earnest, he confesses his sins, he suffers and is threatened by others, he feels weak and needs God, yet at the same time he knows God, who God is and what God has done, he asks great things of God, he acknowledges the goodness of God and the glory of God, finds solace and confidence in God, and yearns to serve God. Here David is simultaneously crushed under the weight of his current trouble while he’s confident in God who can rescue.
The psalm easily forms into two halves. See first…
A Crushing Plight (v1-6)
v1-2 first, “A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy! In Your faithfulness answer me, in Your righteousness! Enter not into judgment with Your servant, for no one living is righteous before You.”
In v1 we don’t know why he’s crying out yet, we just see him crying out. As he begins, he asks God to hear him twice. He says, “Hear my prayer…” and “…give ear to my pleas…” That Psalm 143 begins like this shows us David’s plight. He’s not using flowery or lofty language here, as soon as his mouth opens his prayer begins with him immediately crying out.
But what is he crying out for? Notice it in v1? “Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my pleas for mercy!” Mercy is David’s desire here. Mercy. Do you wonder what could be going on in his life that would lead him to pray such a prayer? I do. Many moments in David’s life could fit this situation where he felt so backed into a corner and so pressed down by enemies or circumstances that he would beg the Lord for mercy. The rest of v1 follows suit as he cries out, “In Your faithfulness answer me, in Your righteousness!” So, whatever is going on prompting him to pray these words, David deeply desires God to hear him and answer him. This seems to be a dire moment, an earnest and urgent moment, causing him to cry out like this.
But, notice more in v1. He pleads with God to hear and answer him, why? Because of God’s faithfulness and righteousness. What’s going on here? Church, this is more than just a good way to pray. Only one who has known God to be faithful and righteous will ask God to answer prayer based on God being faithful and righteous. In other words, David knows the Lord. He knows who He is. He knows his character. He has lived near the Lord and lived with the Lord for many years. From this David has a true knowledge of God. But did he consider this knowledge of God merely an intellectual reality? Of course not. Because David knows who God is, he uses this knowledge in prayer and asks God to be to him, in this troubled moment, what God is, faithful and righteous! What an example for us! Doctrine and devotion are alive and well in this heart.
Well, as urgent and bold as David is being here in v1 rushing into the throne room to make his request, the sense we get as we move on to v2 is that at the mention of God being a God of righteousness David now remembers himself, and he acknowledges himself to be unrighteous. He remembers prayer is not a conversation between equals. See it in v2, “Enter not into judgment with Your servant, for no one living is righteous before You.” This is the great difference between God and man. God is what v1 says He is, righteous and faithful, and man is what v2 says man is, unrighteous. David doesn’t want to dispute this, he knows he can’t make any defense that’ll hold water. Rather, he admits and confesses his unrighteousness. Modern man has denied this claim in its efforts toward becoming more enlightened. But the opposite has occurred. Whenever man denies their own sinfulness and proclaims their own goodness they leave the path of wisdom and become fools. David did rush into his prayer but v2 shows him to be sobered. So too may it sober and awaken us to our own sinfulness as well. Therefore, in order that our hope in eternal might remain strong, we should ever remind ourselves in who hope is truly found, not in us but outside of us, in the Lord, the truly righteous and faithful One.
But see it, though sobered he doesn’t go silent, he keeps on praying! The awareness of his own sin doesn’t shut his mouth, if anything, it encourages and enlivens his prayer. v3-4 now take us to the main reason David is crying out to the Lord, “For the enemy has pursued my soul; 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.”
Every word here is thick with distress. In almost Job like language David describes this bitter trial, as if he were endlessly pursued, trampled on, crushed down, and tossed into darkness. So his spirit fails and his heart is appalled at the circumstances he finds himself in. What though does he do in such a crushing plight? He thinks on the Lord. v5-6, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that You have done; I ponder the work of Your hands. I stretch out my hands to You; my soul thirsts for You like a parched land.”
Though crushed, David turns his attention to the Lord. How? v6 ends by saying David stretches out his hands for the Lord and thirsts for Him, but what did he do in such thirsting? The rest of v5-6 show us. He remembered, he meditated, and he pondered the wonderful works of God. This isn’t David emptying his mind, it’s David using his mind. But this is more than mere thinking, this is deep contemplation of God in the mind and heart. And this includes, I think, past mercies God has shown David in his own life, as well as past mercies God has shown His people throughout the ages. David would’ve known of the history of Israel up to his time, how many times they had been in tight spots. And he would’ve known how God defended them, provided for them, and delivered them. As David’s harp so often chased away the evil in King Saul, here David chases away his own troubled spirit by looking back to God’s faithful care of His people.
See in this a model for us in our own plights. It’s tempting to turn to worry when feeling crushed or troubled, but we can’t add anything to our life by worrying. It’s tempting to just ignore problems as if they don’t exist hoping they’ll just go away, but that does nothing but add more problems to already existing problems. And it’s tempting to turn towards the new and novel when we’re troubled as if new roads, new things, new teachings, or new practices will be the answer. Instead of these things, when we feel crushed under any plight we’re facing, v5-6 direct us to look back. Not in a kind of nostalgic manner pining for a bygone era, no. We should look back as Jeremiah 6:16 says and tread the ancient paths, the roads God’s people have walked long before us and found strength themselves. In a sense each time we open our Bibles and read we’re doing just this as we see for ourselves how God’s people lived their lives seeking to be faithful to God in this fallen world. So Church, when in trouble and you’re in need of finding your way home, go back, look back at God’s mighty works of old. This will strengthen you in the present, and give you robust hope for the future.
We know David’s crushing plight in v1-6, now turn to v7-12 where we see…
A Confident Plea (v7-12)
As we’ve spent time in the Psalms this past summer, we all slowly began to be aware of a recurring theme. One phrase kept popping up again and again, steadfast love. Many of us have who preached this summer have mentioned these two words in English, steadfast love, come from one word in Hebrew, hesed. It’s translated in many different ways: steadfast love, loyal love, kindness, lovingkindness, and loving devotion. I would make the case that this word hesed is all about covenant. Each time it’s used the context displays God’s unwavering commitment to be with His people, to bless His people, to rescue His people, and to reveal His glory to His people. So, I think the best way to translate hesed is with the phrase covenantal devotion. As we move on now to v7-12 we’ll see this again, and see why it is so vital.
“Answer me quickly, O LORD! My spirit fails! Hide not Your face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit.Let me hear in the morning of Your steadfast love, for in You I trust. Make me know the way I should go, for to You I lift up my soul. Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD! I have fled to You for refuge. Teach me to do Your will, for You are my God! Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground!”
Just as in v1, v7 begins with quick and intense pleading for God to no longer delay and hide His face, but to save and save quickly. The pace of v7-10 is fast and filled with short bursts of prayer. “Answer me”, “Hide not from me”, “Let me”, “Make me”, “Deliver me”, “Teach me”, “Lead me.” It seems this moment of crisis, for David, has notched up a bit and he fears the face of God being hidden from him. If the face of God turns away from him, David knows all would be lost, he would be cut off from all hope and blessing, and truly would be cursed like the dead who down into the pit. But even in his fear he keeps asking for God to come intervene, to teach him, and lead him by His good Spirit. And see it Church, the main thing he asks is for God’s hesed, His steadfast love, to shine on him like the morning sun. See the contrasting images here? If God hides His face from David it will be dark as night, but if the Lord would turn to David in this trouble, he would feel as if he were being warmed by the dawn! But what in particular does David desire to be warmed by? The steadfast love of God, His hesed, His covenantal devotion, His loyal and faithful care over all His people. That’s what David desires. He longs to know God hasn’t left him and pleads to be reminded of God’s faithfulness to His people, of God’s faithfulness to him. Then he adds as v8 ends, “For in You I trust.”
This is raw desperation. Any of you ever felt like this? What or who did you reach out to in that moment? We can learn a lot about ourselves as we see who we cry out for in our darkest moments. See where David goes. He knows God, long long ago, has pledged Himself, in covenant, to ever be with His people and to never abandon them or forsake them. See how God’s promise and covenant impacts David’s prayer? He clings to it and prays it back to God. Church, the promises of God are meant to be this to us. Do you remember His promises? God told Adam and Eve, “One day the snake crusher will come.” God told Abraham, “I will be God to you, and to your descendants after you.” God told David, “One of your sons will sit on your throne as King forevermore.” God told Isaiah, “The Messiah will be both suffering servant and conquering King.” Then He came. Christ came, and lived for us, died for us, rose for us, promised to never leave us or forsake us, and promised to return for us. These promises are firmness in this fallen world. They are light for a thousand dark nights, healing for a thousand deep hurts. For His people God’s promises, His hesed, is like the sunrise. They can scatter the clouds of doubt and despair in a moment. We should not merely know these promises. We should bank on them, and pray them back to God in moments of trial and trouble.
See then how he ends his prayer in v11-12, “For Your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life! In Your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble! And in Your steadfast love You will cut off my enemies, and You will destroy all the adversaries of my soul, for I am Your servant.”
David feels crushed yes, but he’s confident in the Lord. Why? Because of covenant, because God’s hesed has, is, and will ever be flowing forth toward him. Because of this he knows God will bring him out of this trouble and knows that the many enemies of his soul don’t stand a chance. If God cared nothing for His own name and glory, and have never bound Himself to His people in covenant David’s hope would be lost. But because God has, David stands firm.
There is no question David has specific enemies in mind who seem ever bent on seeking his life as he pens these words. I think Jesus found solace in His own life and ministry as He read this Psalm in the midst of the many people and parties seeking His life, though He is the only Man who could have disagreed with v2, for He was sinless. In a similar way I think any Christian can pick up Psalm 143 and be encouraged by it as we ourselves are hounded by various enemies of our own. Whether it’s trials, circumstances, or others sinning against us, these words could very well be our own. And even more so, I think the words of Psalm 143 could be the cry of Christ’s global Church while we feel pressed in on by various enemies in our life here as we await Christ’s return.
Many of you have heard of John Calvin, the second generation Protestant Reformer. Not as many have heard of his successor, Theodore Beza. As Beza pastored a slam packed church full of persecuted and hurting people he picked up Psalm 143 and said the following words:
“Does Satan frighten you? God has vanquished him for you. Does the corruption of your nature amaze you? The Son of God has sanctified it for you. Do your sins astonish you? He has born them all on the cross and paid for them and clothed you in His righteousness. Are you afraid of man? God is with you. Does death frighten you? It is defeated and turned into an entry of life. Behold, Christian, God has vanquished all the enemies of your soul, for you are His servant.”
 Psalm 143 is part of a collection of David’s Psalms found near the end of the Psalter in Psalm 138-145. The purpose of a group of Davidic Psalms closing the Psalter is purposeful in many ways.
 Derek Kidner, Psalm 73-150 (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2008) 512.
 Robert Bellarmine, Commentary on Psalms, quoted in Reformation Commentary on Scripture, vol. 8, Psalm 73-150 (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2018) 367.
 Philipp Melancthon, Loci Communes, quoted in Reformation Commentary on Scripture, vol. 8, Psalm 73-150 (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2018) 368.
 Kidner, 512.
 Charles Spurgeon, Treasury of David – Psalm 111-150 (Mclean, Virginia: MacDonald) 335.
 Spurgeon, 336.
 Kidner, 512.
 Kidner, 513.
 Theodore Beza, Upon the Penitential Psalms, quoted in Reformation Commentary on Scripture, vol. 8, Psalm 73-150 (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 2018) 370.