Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Psalm - Chapter 142 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. (A special psalm and a prayer by David when he was in the cave.) I pray to you, LORD. I beg for mercy.
    2. I tell you all of my worries and my troubles,
    3. and whenever I feel low, you are there to guide me. A trap has been hidden along my pathway.
    4. Even if you look, you won't see anyone who cares enough to walk beside me. There is no place to hide, and no one who really cares.
    5. I pray to you, LORD! You are my place of safety, and you are my choice in the land of the living. Please answer my prayer. I am completely helpless.
    6. Help! They are chasing me, and they are too strong.
    7. Rescue me from this prison, so I can praise your name. And when your people notice your wonderful kindness to me, they will rush to my side.

Psalms - Chapter 142

Entered: May 04, 2009
This psalm is identified as a Maskil, or a psalm of instruction. In light of this the question becomes, "What is the instruction, and who is being instructed?" It is also said to be a prayer, so how do these two purposes come together? The most obvious answer to these questions is that the one being instructed is the Lord, who is being instructed concerning David's state of affairs, and it is brought to the Lord by means of a prayer. No doubt, "instructing" the Lord concerning his state of affairs was more for David's benefit than for the Lord's since the Lord was fully aware of his situation and knew of it before David did.

In this prayer, David was said to cry aloud to the Lord, to plead for His mercy, to pour out his complaint, and to reveal his trouble. We use prayer to petition God for His help asking that He would give us calm in the midst of a storm and that He would deliver us from the storm. Maybe we don't fully recognize how the prayer itself serves to bring that calm and assurance of God's help. That seems to be what David was doing. Much as we find comfort in spilling out our troubles to a friend, so it is when we take them in prayer to the Lord. It is not that He is not aware but that we find comfort in taking them to Him but that we find relief in getting our troubles "off our chest" and feeling that we are not alone. But prayer brings another aspect into play. It demonstrates our trust in the Lord rather than in ourselves or in others for the help we need. It gives the Lord "permission" to act on our behalf when He would not otherwise go against our will.

David was feeling very much alone. He had enemies setting traps for him and no friend to stand alongside him. "Look to the right," he says (verse 4). "No one stands up for me." I believe he is stating this as a complaint to the Lord, but also as a request that the Lord be that one who will stand with him. David cries out for the Lord's help, for he says the enemy is too strong for him. This raises a question. Do we, or should we, go to the Lord for help in situations we feel are not too strong for us - situations we feel fully capable of handling on our own? As for the question "do we" ask for the Lord's help in these situations, the answer is, "usually not."  But as for the question "should we" ask for His help, my response is a definite "yes."  There is more at play in life's situations than whether or not we are capable of handling something on our own. God has a purpose for our lives and for that purpose to be fulfilled we need His guidance for every step we take. The question is not whether we are capable, it is that we need God's guidance so that our solution in every circumstance is His solution. We might solve a problem ourselves, but is it the solution that will fulfill His purpose?

Entered: July 15, 2014

This psalm and prayer of David dates back to before he was king and king Saul was pursuing him in an attempt to kill him. He was forced to hide in a cave. He was pursued by his enemies and deserted by his friends. Everywhere he went he was in danger of someone seeing him and reporting it to Saul. His situation seemed hopeless. In overwhelming situations such as these we are prone to metaphorically roll up into a ball and ask ourselves over and over, "what am I to do, what am I to do?"

The sense of this psalm seems to indicate that David was at that point. But he didn't roll into a ball and wonder what he was to do. Instead, he went to the Lord in prayer. To the one who has not experienced prayer in such situations, this might seem to be a futile exercise and a waste of time. But the one who has experienced it realizes the calm and peace it gives. David poured out his complaint to the Lord, revealing his trouble. Everywhere he traveled, traps were set for him, and when he looked to his right where his defender should be, no one was there. He was alone and on his own. "No one cares about me," he said. (142:4)

Having poured out his troubles to the Lord, David then told the Lord, "You are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living." (142:5) David's answer to the question, "what am I do to," was "I will give it to the Lord." And so he did. The burden was then taken from himself and handed to the Lord. He was no longer trying to find his way out of the troubles but giving it to the Lord and allowing Him to free him from them. "Free me from prison," he said to the Lord. (142:7)

When we finally come to the point of admitting to ourselves and to the Lord that we can do nothing about our situation, we have no control over our circumstances, the Lord can finally set a solution into motion. He just needs us to quit trying to do it ourselves and give it to Him. And the act of giving it to the Lord is such a freeing experience. And in the end, we are not the only ones to be helped. David said in verse 7 that once he is set free from this "prison" of trouble he will give praise to the Lord, and "The righteous will gather around me because You deal generously with me."

Yes, others will celebrate the victory with us when the Lord frees us from our troubles, but amongst those who celebrate with us will be those who also have troubles and are encouraged to trust the Lord with those troubles.