A Prayer for Rescue- Psalm 143:1-2

As we begin our study of this Psalm, we must, as with any Psalm, examine who wrote it and why. It is very important, when looking at a Psalm, to be aware of who wrote it and what was happening in their life at the time of its composition. Failure to do so will often cause us to completely miss the primary message of the Psalm, and Psalm 143 is a classic example of this. The Psalm was written by David. What was happening in his life at this point in time is that his own son (Absalom) has spent several years falsely gaining favor with the people of Israel and turning them against David. At the opportune moment, Absalom incites a rebellion, removes his father from the throne and pronounces himself king. All of this happens because David fails to deal with issues within his own family (specifically with Absalom, who murdered his own brother), which the prophet Nathan had foretold in 2 Samuel 12:10 when he told David that (because of his adultery with Bathsheba) “the sword will not depart from your household”. David then receives word of his son Absalom’s intention to have David killed and flees. This Psalm is written while David is hiding in a cave, with a hit squad sent by his own son searching for him to kill him. An awareness of all of this will help us understand exactly what David is saying here and what message God wants to bring to all of us from what David says. He begins by identifying this as a prayer, a petition or request, not a demand. God is his Lord, and David will ask God to do something and leave the results of the request up to God. He asks God to “hear” his prayer, which the idea of in the Hebrew is to “take heed”, or in other words, not merely to hear what David asks but to respond to it, to act on David’s behalf. What David asks for is mercy, which means he is asking God not to give him what he deserves. He realizes he deserves what Absalom intends to do, but asks God for mercy, to deliver him from the thing which Absalom intends. He asks for mercy here not based on who he is, but on who God is. He realizes that his former position as king does not cause him to merit special treatment, that there is nothing about him that makes him worthy of mercy, but that being merciful is part of who God is, and he appeals to God’s “faithfulness and righteousness”, to God always being true to who He is and always doing what is right. We are then told what it is that David is asking for, what he seeks to obtain through his prayer, what he desires God to do for him, what form he feels the mercy should take. What he asks for here, then, is “relief”. This is likely a purposefully vague request, for relief here could mean relief from the circumstances or relief in the circumstances. David could be asking for deliverance from the circumstance of hiding in fear for his life from his own son, or from the fear, anxiety and stress which being in this circumstance brings. He may be asking God to deliver him from the circumstances, or to give him peace in them. He leaves this decision in God’s hands. What we must note here is that David is in this cave, alone with God, and crying out to God in his need, at this point unaware of what his true need actually is. As he begins to move from his general request in verse one to a more focused and specific time of prayer, he begins by asking God first to deliver him from “judgment”, which in this context means he begins by asking God to save his life, to allow him to live even though he deserves the “judgment” which the men seeking to find him intend to deliver. The following series of posts will continue our study of this Psalm, in order to see how David’s prayer is answered, how he comes to understand that maybe God does not want to deliver from the cave at this point, but that God may have him in this cave for a reason, that his present circumstances are part of God working His will in David’s life, and how David’s time spent alone here with God serve to transform him into one who understands God and His ways more clearly.

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