Prayer and psalm 142
by Joseph Jagde
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Psalm 142 reads as follows from the NIV Bible:
I cry aloud to the Lord, I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy,
I pour out my complaint before him,
Before him I tell my trouble,
When my spirit grows faint within me,
It is you who know my way,
In the path where I walk,
Men have hidden a snare for me,
Look to my right and see;
no one is concerned for me,
I have no refuge,
No one cares for my life.
I cry to you, O Lord;
I say,Ē You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living,
Listen to my cry,
For I am in desperate need,
Rescue me from those who pursue me,
For they are too strong for me,
Set me free from my prison,
That I might praise your name,
Then the righteous will gather round about me,
Because of your goodness to me.
In this psalm David is from his own perspective overmatched by his surrounding circumstances.
A number of Biblical commentaries point to this psalm as evidence of David falling into despondency. However Davidís rendition of what is happening to him is more of a factual compilation and objectification of where he is. He is playing the role of observer of his own circumstances.
He believes he has been brought low, he does not have a right hand man, and although he may have a few men with him, he is being outright pursued by sharp and alert enemies.
His sinking spirits is a natural reaction to potentially crushing circumstances, he is actually not despondent however as he knows of another reality that supersedes the individual circumstances that he is now in and can override the set of facts that he is dealing with and David does not sink into actual despair.
There is a natural human tendency to almost totally tie into presenting circumstances. One way this obviously happens is with just how people tie into the location they are actually in. They might be struggling with where they are physically, yet another part of the world would present very different surroundings and these other could indeed be simultaneously available.
In Davidís case, in this psalm, he is being actively pursued by enemies and feels he lacks the seeable or available resources to find his way free. His circumstances and his own lack of visibility around them are like the walls of a prison.
It is maybe a longer more extended version of David versus Goliath. His stamina is fading as well. There are several strands of difficulty that can not seemingly be overcome.
David is objectively able to view his circumstance and refer past them to the goodness of the Lord for him. It is not his say, it is not the say of the circumstances, but it is the say of the goodness of the Lord that will rule.
He has an answer he believes in the goodness of the Lord for him. The goodness of the Lord will reach him and gives him what is needed to get him past these dire circumstances to where he will soon be standing in the throng of the righteous ones.
David is admittedly overmatched and cannot summon his own strength as this begins to fade on him, he cannot summon his own forthrightness or visibility and doesnít have the road out. He cannot get past the walls of his difficulty. Yet he retains knowledge of the Lordís goodness for him and calls upon the Lordís goodness which he believes will be more than enough to get him through and past this round of difficulties, because the goodness of the Lord rules, not anything else.
Soon he will be standing with the throng, safely surrounded by the righteous. The Lordís goodness for him, will take him to another place. With and from the Lordís goodness he will be someplace else.
Reflectively from this psalm one can meditate as to where the goodness of the Lord can lead. David was able within his dire circumstances to ponder as he prayed what the Lordís goodness could be, and he pondered being surrounded with the righteous rather than being pursued by the enemies. It is unlikely that most people will be in circumstances as trying as Davidís, but any trial can refer to the goodness of the Lord even as troubles deepen and widen.
The winds of difficulties will come and despairing is not the model presented in this psalm, but the correct portion or apportionment is the Lordís presence, his overriding goodness and now he deals with us from his deep wells of goodness, which brings us to another place.
Thanking the Lord for his goodness in advance is a good idea in helping to see the other side of difficulties and to standing free and clear of them. In this psalm, the Lordís goodness is right there with David, even in the midst of his great troubles. He referred to the Lordís goodness not as something distant but as close and presently operative and he also refers to his own ongoing developed relationship with the Lord as he says the Lord is his portion in the land.
Part of the reason David was not despondent was that despite all, he knew that he had kept the Lord as his portion and knew of his personal goodness for him. He had the relationship and had worked the relationship.
A key is to keep the relationship with the Lord to where it can be said the Lord is my portion even when things are going well, or things are going busy, it is critical to be able to say, what David is saying here, that the Lord is my portion in the land. David could say this because he had kept the relationship going on all occasions and if and when sudden difficulties came, he was still able to refer to the help of the Lordís goodness.
This psalm also shows how the Lordís goodness and bounty is not just something that for example adds material blessings, or just gives more, but the goodness for the Lord in this psalm is something that brings escape from great difficulties as Davidís described what was happening to him as being imprisoned and it is a goodness that brings spiritual blessings as David would be afforded the company of the righteous as part of the Lordís bounty. The goodness of the Lord finds ways and paths where there are seemingly none even amidst traps set by the wicked. What was happening to David at several levels would also be relieved by the goodness of the Lord. The goodness of the Lord would bring renewed strength as he says he will be standing with the righteous and no longer at risk from the wicked. The palms reflects on to where the Lordís goodness can bring us, and not just in one way but in many and varied ways often bringing us from the impossible to the possible and to what can be a reality of experiencing the Lordís goodness in new and rich ways.
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