Friday night, we went to the Burn here at YWAM-Colorado Springs. It was a fantastic time of just hanging out with God. Almost from the beginning, He took me to Psalm 143, and left me there for the next three hours. Here are some of my random thoughts, learnings, prayers, and insights into this RICH passage.
O YHWH, hear my prayer listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. (Verses 1 and 2)
No matter how hard we try, we cannot stand on our own attempts at righteousness. Righteousness is the result of repentance. It is the free gift of God to those who repent. Upon repentance, God forgives and places us in righteousness. Some deeper thoughts on righteousness can be found on an earlier blog.
The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. (Verses 3 and 4)
The word “me” is a reference to our soul. It is our “mind, will, and emotions.” In other words, the enemy pursues us in our mind, will and emotions. He crushes our mind, will, and emotions. He makes our mind, will, and emotions to dwell in darkness (cross-reference John 1). All of this pressing on our mind, will, and emotions effects our spirit. It causes our spirit to grow weary. It grows faint. As our heart (mind, will, and emotions) grows dismayed our spirit grows faint.
Contrast this with what Jesus says in Matthew 11:28 — “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Also, with the writer of Hebrews 4:9-10 — “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.”
The enemy pursues our soul, which wears out our spirit. Yet, God gives rest to our spirit.
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have down. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. (Verses 5-6)
A couple of beautiful things happen in these verses. First, the word meditate means to murmur or imagine. So, the Psalmist is saying here that he will fill his imagination with all the works of YHWH. Second, the word “consider” is to converse with oneself about them. In other words, I will talk to myself about all the things YHWH has done.
What an amazing thing it would be to spend your time imagining how God might meet your needs instead of imagining all of the bad things that might possibly happen. Or how great would it be to spend your time talking about the great things that God has already done for you instead of talking about how bad things might get. It will drastically change your outlook!
Answer me quickly, O YHWH; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. (Verse 7)
The Psalmist says that his spirit has reached its limit. It has hit the end. Jesus addresses this in the Beatitudes. “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” (Matthew 5:3, The Message).
In the mind of the Psalmist to not see God’s face is the same as being thrown in prison. It is a hopeless life. It is a captive life. It is a meaningless life.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Rescue me from my enemies, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Verses 8-10)
Packed into the idea “unfailing love” are things like God’s favor, His mercy, His kindness, and His beauty! Wow. There’s a lot there. Unfailing love. Favor. Mercy. Kindness. Beauty. All because our confidence is in YHWH. When your confidence is in YHWH, all of YHWH’s best is yours. That’s the beauty of righteousness–right legal and relational standing with God. In the New Testament understanding it is to have an equity of character with the One who made you righteous.
For God to show us the way we should go is for Him to make us to ascertain by seeing. It’s clear. It’s not confusing. It’s a path that you know that you know that you should be on.
Then the Psalmist asks for rescue. Yet, it’s more than a simple rescue. It’s to be snatched away from the enemy. Don’t just swoop in and safe me, rather grab me and yank me away from my enemy.
I can bank on the unfailing love, the clear path, and a snatching rescue because I have hidden (covered) myself in YHWH. Or in the Pauline understanding: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-3 (NIV))
We have been hidden with Christ in God.
Covered by righteousness!
Finally, the Psalmist asks that God teaches him to do God’s will. To do God’s delight. To possess God’s character (compare that with the New Testament understanding of righteousness, or with the Lord’s Prayer). The Psalmist prays a similar prayer in Psalm 86:10-13 — “Teach me your way, O YHWH, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave.”
For your name’s sake, O YHWH, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant. (Verses 11-12)
For the sake of Your Name! The Psalmist prays two things for his enemy. First, that he will be cut off or destroyed. Second, that he will be made to wonder as one who is confused. The path of the righteous man is clear (verse 8), but the path of the enemy is made to be confused.
So, with this understanding, here’s how I now read Psalm 143.
O YWHW, hear my intercession and my supplication, listen to my earnest prayer for mercy; in Your faithfulness, Your trustworthiness, and Your righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgement, for I cannot stand on my own attempts at being in right legal and relational standing with You.
The enemy pursues my soul, he crushes my soul to the ground; he makes my soul to dwell in darkness and chaotic confusion like those long dead. So my spirit grows weary within me; my soul within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago; I fill my imagination with all Your works and I talk to myself about all that Your hands have done on my behalf. I spread out my hands in surrender to You; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land.
Answer me quickly, O YHWH; my spirit has reached its end. Do not be absent from me or I will resemble a prisoner.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, favor, mercy, kindness, and beauty, for I have put my confidence in You. Cause me to ascertain by seeing the path that I should walk, for to You I lift up my soul. Snatch me from my enemies, for I cover myself in You. Teach me to do Your will, to be Your desire, and possess Your character, for you are my God; may Your good Spirit lead me on an upright, plain, straight, even, and prosperous path.
For Your Name’s sake, O YHWH, preserve my life; in Your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In Your unfailing love, destroy my enemy; cause my enemy to walk in confusion, for I am Your servant.