George Booker
Psalms Studies - Book 5

Psalm 143

1. Structure

1, 2.
Hear my prayer
3, 4.
Present trouble
A sustained prayer for help

2. Links with Psalm 142

Psalm 142

Psalm 143
My prayer, my supplications
My spirit is overwhelmed
The way wherein I should walk
Bring my soul out of prison / trouble

3. Historical reference

The parallels with Psalm 142 suggest the same period in David’s experience.

In thy faithfulness answer me. This expression always refers to God’s covenants of promise; in this instance, the allusion is to 1 Sam. 16:12, which at this period must have been the backbone of David’s faith.
Enter not into judgment with thy servant. ‘Do not enter into legal proceedings with your servant’ (cp. same phrase in Job 9:32, 14:3; Eccl. 11:9; 12:14). God does enter into strict judgment with those who are not His true servants (Matt. 5:26; 18:27,34) — but not with those who are His believing and obedient servants. This is David’s humble acknowledgment of being at fault (and his request for mercy) in his lapses of faith in fleeing to Gath (1 Sam. 21).
For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead (Psa. 88:3-6,10-12). Note especially the singular pronouns. The language is appropriate to his refugee life in the Adullam cave (especially when it is remembered that caves were often sepulchres also) — and more so to the early days of his wanderings, before others rallied to his cause.
I remember the days of old. Reminiscences of those times when God’s hand was plainly visible in support and help for David: the incidents of the lion and the bear, and of the even more bestial Goliath.
I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Compare Psa. 63:1, and the title there.
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psa. 30:5).
I flee unto thee to hide me. Hebron was a city of refuge and not far away, but evidently, in this period, David’s faith could not commit himself to this resource. Was this perhaps because he was not a man-slayer? Or simply because he did not trust the integrity of Saul in regard to the Law? So instead, he fled to the cave; and, as faith revived, so did his reliance on the Providence of his God.
And of thy mercy (Strange reason! but is it really? see Psa. 136, Par. 6) cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul. Philistines in Gath (1 Sam. 21); the retainers of Saul (1 Sam. 22); the men of Ziph (1 Sam. 23); Saul and his wilderness hunters (1 Sam. 24). Yet David would not take action against any of these, even when there was good opportunity.

Is “cut off” an indirect allusion to David’s cutting off the skirt of Saul’s robe while he slept in the cave (1 Sam. 24:4-6)?

4. David as a type of Christ

He is persecuted because he is the Lord’s Anointed.
With the cave compare Christ’s sepulchre.
He emerges thence with tokens of victory over his enemy.
He is joined by his brethren and others.
He is not accepted by his own people, and so he absents himself from them for a time.
Later he returns in triumph to be their king.
His loyal friends become the king’s “mighty men”.

5. Messianic reference

In thy faithfulness. The Promises; cp. 1 John 1:9:

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
Enter not into judgment with thy servant. Since Jesus had committed no sin, it was not possible that he could be held bound by the bands of death (Acts 2:24). In his case, then, judgment gave way to reward.

For in thy sight shall no man living be justified: Psa. 51:5; 130:3; Rom. 3:9,20,23; Gal. 2:16. (Also see Job 4:17; 9:2; 14:4; 25:4; Eccl. 7:20.) In this phrase, the key word is “living”: “No man living can be justified!” Even Jesus was justified only through his own death.
For the enemy hath persecuted my soul. Here “for” looks back to v. 1: “in thy faithfulness answer me!” ‘God’s promises center in me, yet I am persecuted!’

He hath smitten my life down to the ground, both literally (Matt. 26:39: “He fell on his face”) and figuratively.

He hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead (Lam. 3:6). Christ’s somber anticipation of the nothingness of death.
My heart within me is desolate: Mark 14:33; Heb. 4:15-5:8.
The days of old... the work of thy hands. God’s Purpose in Christ had been written long beforehand in the Old Testament (Luke 24:25-27).
I stretch forth my hands unto thee. (1) His uplifted hands of prayer in Gethsemane; or (2) his outstretched and impaled hands at the Crucifixion.
My spirit fainteth: hide not thy face from me: Psa. 22:1,24.

Lest implies here the real possibility of failure on Christ’s part (cp. “lest” in Psa. 28:1).
Teach me to do thy will. ‘Not my will, but thine!’ In both of these places, the words are eloquent concerning the true human nature of Christ. The fulfilling of his Father’s will did not come “naturally”. So also: Lead me into the land of uprightness: This last word, in Hebrew, is often used for acceptable sacrifice (see Rom. 4:25). Note the sequence of phrases in this psalm implying resurrection:

v. 3:


down to the ground
those long dead
go down into the pit
in the morning
lift up
land of uprightness
quicken me
bring me out of trouble
For thy name’s sake... for thy righteousness’ sake. Here consider Acts 2:24 again, and Rom. 1:17.
Cut off mine enemies, particularly because they are Thy enemies (cp. Psa. 54:5).
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