Psalm 142

I cried unto the Lord with my voice. . . Here the cry of the poet is directed to his only hope in a time of loneliness and desperation. “Even unto the Lord” he makes his supplication. The superscription suggests that it was written by “when he was in the cave.” The exact circumstances are unclear, but the two incidences we have recorded in Scripture—1 Samuel 22:1 and 1 Samuel 24:3-4—refer to the time when David was fleeing for his life from a jealous and vengeful King Saul. Not all who pray this psalm do so out of such dire conditions, though even today, in many parts of the world, faith in God is still lived at the risk of losing one’s life. Such desperate words as these can be prayed in the name of those who suffer such persecution.

On a more personal level, however, there are two significant elements to this psalm that anyone can understand. The first is the utter sense of loneliness, even of abandonment. Not only is the psalmist in trouble, but no one cares. He looks for someone to offer compassion, but “there was no man that would know me,” he laments (v.4), “and no man cared for my soul.” However self-sufficient we may consider ourselves to be, the human heart in such bitter times yearns for a companion.

In fact, the psalmist does have company in his condition. Despite his fear, he knows that there is one who “knows his path.” For the psalmist, this is no theological platitude. Placing his hope in the Lord is the conviction of his heart. Notwithstanding his vacillation between despair and trust, he expects God to “bring his soul out of prison.” The psalmist uses an interesting word when he describes the Lord as his “portion” in the land of the living (v.6). This is the same Hebrew word used to refer to the “inheritance” of land apportioned to the twelve tribes of Israel. As one lives off the land the psalmist “lives off” God. The psalmist’s very life depends upon the provision given him by the Lord.

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