Read: Psalm 143; 2 Samuel 15 – 17
The historical context of Psalm 143, which is identified as a Davidic psalm, was possibly the rebellion of Absalom. Psalm 142 was a desperate situation – David and his men cornered in a cave – but the context of Psalm 143 was an even more discouraging circumstance, coming unexpectedly upon David at a time in his life when he might have expected to enjoy the fruits of a successful career. Psalm 143 was classified in a Christian commentary of the 6th century as a “Penitential” psalm, the others being 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130.
Think About It: What aspects of Psalm 143 make it “Penitential”? Compare Psalm 143 with the account of Absalom’s rebellion in 2 Samuel 15 – 17. What internal evidence in the psalm coincides with the account in 2 Samuel? Besides Absalom, who betrayed David? Have I ever experienced betrayal? How did I deal with it?
Prayer: Praise God for His faithfulness.
Read: Psalm 143:2; 1 Kings 8:46; Psalm 130:3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 30:20 – 23
David’s discouraging circumstances included a profound awareness of his sinfulness. Perhaps David was thinking, “My own actions have brought this about.”
Think About It: What were some of David’s specific failings? In Psalm 26:1 David asks God to judge him; in Psalm 139:23 he invites God’s close scrutiny of his heart and thoughts. Why is the request so different in Psalm 143:2? Is there a contradiction?
Prayer: Praise God for His grace, which is greater than all my sin.
Read: Psalm 143:3 – 4; Habakkuk 3:17 – 18; Job 1:21; 3:1
The Hebrew word David uses for “darkness” in Psalm 143:3 is plural; “darknesses” could be translated “darkness within darkness.” Saul had once pursued David into the darkness of a cave, but now his own son and the wily Ahitophel, his former confidant and advisor, pursued him. The darkness in which he found himself was therefore particularly crushing and appalling.
Think About It: David suffered spiritually from betrayal and the loss of all he had worked for. Compare his complaint with Habakkuk’s praise in Habakkuk 3:17 – 18. Contrast Job’s Habakkuk-like praise in Job 1:21, with Job’s David-like complaint in Job 3:1. When I suffer oppression or loss or difficulty, what are my prayers like? What is the function of David’s describing to God his problems and his spiritual state?
Prayer: For the grace to truly say, “I’d rather have Jesus than anything.”
Read: Psalm 143:5 – 6; 1 Samuel 30:6
Not all was darkness for David; he had a way of thinking that helped bring light and hope into the darkest situation.
Think About It: 1 Samuel 30:6 says, “David encouraged his heart in the Lord.” What did David do, according to Psalm 143:5 – 6, that encouraged his heart? What are some things the Lord has done for me in my “good old days”? Why is it important to “thirst for God” (Matthew 5:6)?
Prayer: Praise God for His encouragement.
Read: Psalm 143:1, 7 – 10
Having encouraged his heart, David made specific requests of God that would lead him out of the double darkness in which he found himself.
Think About It: What were the specific requests David made, according the references for today from Psalm 143? Which of these requests are particularly important for me, right now?
Prayer: Ask the Lord for what I urgently need, right now.
Read: Psalm 143:12; 2 Samuel 18:1 – 17
In Psalm 143:12 David visualized God’s answer to his prayers. According to some ancient commentaries, David’s request for God, in steadfast love, to cut off David’s enemies refers to his desire that Absalom would relent from doing evil when he saw God’s love for David.
2 Samuel 18:5 indicates that David hoped that Absalom would be dealt with gently. There were others – “adversaries of my soul” – perhaps those like Ahitophel, for whom David visualized destruction.
Think About It: Are there those who are past repentance, past the hope of God’s grace (Hebrews 6:6)? (Please note — God knows who these people are; we cannot tell!) If Psalm 143 does refer to Absalom’s rebellion, how did God answer David’s prayer? Why doesn’t God always answer prayer according to how we have visualized His answer? Am I willing to accept what He does?
Prayer: Thy will be done.
Read: Psalm 143:1, 9, 11, 12; Psalm 89:28; John 15:15; Romans 8:15 – 17
David based his requests to God on God’s righteousness, not his own. In this regard, he was thinking of God’s faithfulness to His covenant with David (Psalm 89:28). The basis for David’s plea according Psalm 143:9 was that David fled to God for refuge. Some ancient Hebrew commentators translate this verse, “I hid my plight from all but You,” remembering that God often rebuked those who sought help from human alliances or from idols. In Psalm 143:11 David made the basis of his requests God’s reputation and God’s glory — “For Your name’s sake.”
Think About It: Psalm 143:12 makes the basis for David’s request his relationship with God — “For I am Your servant.” David’s relationship to God was that of slave to Master. How is my relationship to God described in John 15:15 and Romans 8:15 – 17? Why can I be confident that God will hear and answer my prayers?
Prayer: Praise God for the privilege I enjoy as His child; Praise the Lord for the friend that I have in Jesus!