Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Psalm 143 – Benefits of the Past

Here we have another psalm by David describing a difficult situation in which he found himself. It is not possible to identify it, so he may be describing an experience he had written about elsewhere or he may be describing an isolated experience. Yet we can see a consistent response by David to times of difficulty in his life, and that response is that he wrote down his prayer for help.
In verses 1 and 2 David expresses his concern to God. It is not surprising that David pleads for mercy. What is surprising is that he recognises that in order for God to act mercifully he will have to act faithfully and righteously. Yet there is no contradiction here. David is aware that the Lord must always be righteous even when he is showing mercy (1 John 1:9).
In his current circumstances David felt crushed (vv. 3-4). He graphically describes where he is by a series of word pictures. He is being chased for his life, he is being trampled underfoot, he is sitting in isolation, he is without inner strength, and he is overwhelmed by the oppression he feels. What is the point of speaking like this in prayer? Why does David not just say, ‘Lord, I am having a difficult time. Please help me.” I would suggest two possible reasons. First, true prayer is an expression of our feelings. Second, true prayer is a sharing with God about where we sense we are in the spiritual life. We are not informing him – after all, David is where he is primarily because of God’s providence. Sometimes our sinful hearts and minds are reluctant to say where we are, perhaps because we think we will disappoint God. The impression is sometimes given that Christians should not be like David was here. But the reality is very different.
Crushed David has consolation (vv. 5-6). I suspect David here was looking back to the Exodus or to the Entrance into the Promised Land. They were great days of God’s love and power when his kingdom made great progress. As he thought about them, he found his longings for God stimulated. This is an important insight in the psalm as we can deduce from the word ‘Selah’. It is as if David says to those using his psalm, ‘Note carefully this detail and imitate it.’
Thinking about those past events stirs David to even more earnest prayer. He wants the Lord to answer him soon, to be his protection wherever he is. Moreover David wants his protecting God to be his teacher and lead him in a straightforward path. He is not despising the way that God has led him. But he knows that God can lead him in easier ways from a spiritual point of view (vv. 7-10).
David describes the Spirit as his guide. We can think of this picture in different ways. First, the Spirit is his personal guide, almost as if David was the only one who needed guidance. Second, the Spirit is his knowledgeable guide – following the Spirit will not lead us into false locations. Third, the Spirit is his powerful guide – who will divert David if the Spirit is ahead of him?

So David closes the psalm with expressions of confidence about deliverance from God (vv. 11-13). Having taken a little look into the history of God’s people he now anticipates an end to his time of trouble and complete victory over his foes.

No comments:

Post a Comment