June 23, 2019

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Old Testament Lesson; 1 Kings 8:22-23

                                      1 Kings 8:41-43

Gospel Lesson; Luke 7:1-10                            

Sermon Text; Psalm 142


Today we are going to look at Psalm 142.  Very seldom do we preach on the psalms.  (I went through my sermon file, and I have maybe preached on the psalms just a few times in my many years of the ministry!)  Before we look at that psalm, I want to do a little primmer on,

“What in the world are the psalms?” 

        The word 'psalm' means 'Hebrew poetry.  It is meant to be sung.'  So, the book of psalms is Hebrew poetry, and it is intended to be sung by God's people. 

-Hebrew poetry is not like our poetry.  Our poetry usually rhymes.  You will notice that often, Hebrew poetry is what we call 'parallel', or follows a pattern called, 'parallelism'.  It will say something, and then it will say the same thing again, using a different way of saying it.

For example, if you look at verse one. 

“With my voice I cry out to the Lord.” 

Now, it is going to say the same thing, just in a little different way.  “With my voice, I call to the Lord for mercy.”

'Parallelism'.  That is the kind of poetry it is.

Sometimes it is 'progressive poetry'.  So, it will say a statement, and then it will progress that thought a little further.

For example, if you go to verse three,

“When my spirit grows faint within me,”

then it is going to carry that thought a little further,

“you are the One who knows my course.”

That is typical Hebrew poetry.

        The psalms were written primarily by David.  But, there were other writers of the psalms.  For example, the sons of Korah, and Solomon wrote some psalms.  Asaph wrote some.  Moses wrote a psalm. 

        The psalms are basically broken up in to five different types of psalms.

-For example there are 'Prophetic Psalms'.  Maybe the best example of that is Psalm 22.  It describes in detail the crucifixion of Jesus, one thousand years before He was ever crucified.  Prophetic.

-Some of the psalms are 'Instructive'.   For example Psalm 119 is a really long psalm that is instructive all about the Word of God.

-Some of the psalms are primarily 'Comforting'.  Psalm 23 is a great example.  “The Lord is my Shepherd...”  Talk about comfort.

-Some of the psalms, number four, are primarily 'Thanksgiving, or Praise'.  For example Psalm 100.  “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth...” is how it begins.  It is primarily about thanksgiving and praise.

-Then, there is the fifty category.  That is the one we are going to look at today.  About one third of the psalms are a certain type of prayer.  It is a prayer called, 'A Lament', or “A Prayer of Complaint'.  We are going to look at that today. 

What is a Prayer of Lament?  What is a Prayer of Complaint?  There are a lot of them in the book of Psalms. 

        When we look at the psalms, there are some things to help you, as you read a psalm to understand, “What is going on in this psalm?”  Number one, ask this question.  “Who is talking to whom?” 

Is an individual talking to God? 

Or, is a group of people talking to God? 

Or, is God, in this psalm, talking to people? 

Or, is one individual talking to another individual? 

So, it is important to ask, “Who is talking to whom?”

        Lastly, before we jump in to this psalm, the psalms are very picturesque.  God uses pictures in the psalms to help us grasp, or understand what He is saying.  For example, (talk about picturesque), “The Lord is my Shepherd...”.  That is a great picture, and it really helps us understand.  It is very picturesque.

So, given that, let's look at our psalm for today, Psalm 142.  Some of the psalms the Holy Spirit has told us who the author was, or who the writer was, and what the occasion was.  In this case it tells us right up front. 

A prayer of David.  A maskil... (We don't know what that means, exactly, but we think it is like a contemplative prayer).

A prayer of David.  A maskil by David.  When he was in the cave.  A prayer.

So, number one it is prayer.  That means an individual is going to be talking to God.  We know who the individual is.  It says it is a prayer of who?  David.  So, this is David speaking to God.

This prayer is intended to be instructive.  It is going to show you how to pray in a certain circumstance.  In fact, you can even use this as a personal prayer.  That is what the psalms are for.

Then, it describes a picture.  Right away, it wants you to start having this picture in your mind.  It says,

“When he was in a cave.” 

A cave is dark.  It is damp.  There are bugs, and bats.  There are labyrinths of tunnels.  If you don't have electricity you could get lost, confused, and disorientated.  So, it is this picture of being in a situation in life, where it is dark.  “I have anxiety, and am feeling disorientated.  Now, what do I do?”
Given that, let's read this prayer. 

Verse one,

With my voice I cry out to the Lord. 

With my voice I call to the Lord for mercy.

I pour out my complaint before Him.

I tell my distress before Him.

When my spirit grows faint within me,

You are the One who knows my course.

On the path where I walk they have hidden a snare for me.

Look to my right and see.

There is no one who recognizes me.

There is no escape for me.

No one cares about my life.

I cry out to you, Lord.

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

Pay attention to my loud cry,

because I am very weak.

Rescue me from those who pursue me,

because they are too strong for me.

Set me free from my prison,

so I can give thanks to your name.

Then the righteous will gather around me,

because you have accomplished your purpose for me.

These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Now, let's look at the setting of this psalm, the context.  It says when David was in the cave.  You need to know the back story here, to understand the emotions David was going through.  There were two times in scripture where we know David was in a cave.  If you want to do research on this, read 1 Samuel 22, and 1 Samuel 24.  In 1 Samuel 22, David is in a cave called The Cave of Adulam.  In 1 Samuel 24, he is in a cave called The Cave of En Gedi.  David is running away, and hiding from King Saul.  King Saul is pursuing David's life.  King Saul is trying to kill David. 

Why in the world was King Saul trying to kill David?  Saul, who was the first king of Israel, had eventually become unfaithful to God, and the Lord had rejected Saul as king.  The Lord had David anointed as the one who was going to be the next king of Israel. 

Now, David had not become king yet, because Saul was still king.  David respected King Saul, and he understood God put him in that position of authority.  So, he respected that position.  David was not going to try to take the kingship away from Saul.  But, David knew he had been anointed to be the next king. 

The Lord had richly blessed David.  The Bible tells us David was ruddy and handsome.  He was a man of bravery and courage.  We know he was very skilled at many things. 

We know that King Saul had this spirit that would trouble him, an evil spirit.  And when he would be very troubled, he could be comforted by the playing of music.  David was the one who could play music on a lyre that would comfort King Saul.  So, David was very, very helpful to King Saul.

We know that David was the one who the Lord gave the bravery to go out, and kill Goliath.  And, because of the fact David killed this giant, Goliath, David helped all of the people of Israel.  They were freed from the oppression of the Philistines. 

We know that David became part of Saul's household.  Saul would send him out on missions, military missions.  The Bible tells us David would come back extremely successful, more successful than any military leader. 

So, here is what happened.  The people's hearts turned to David.  They loved David.  The Bible tells us the women would sing songs about David.   They loved David.  The Bible tells us Jonathan, Saul's son, became such good friends with David that they were closer than brothers to each other.  The Bible tells us Saul's daughter, Michael, loved David, and became his wife.  The Bible tells us all of Judah, and all of Israel loved David.

As a result, Saul became very, very jealous of David.  Even though David had been so helpful to Saul, so helpful to all of the people of Israel, Saul tried to kill David.  Twice he threw his spear at David, and tried to kill him.  Saul even told his son, Jonathan, “Kill David.”  He told his leaders, “Kill David.” 

Saul pursued David, so he had to run, and hide.  We find David hiding in these caves, all alone, by himself.  Eventually, four hundred men came with him.  The Bible tells us they were people in debt, “discontent”. 

Even then, when Saul came into one of the caves where David was hiding, and the men who were with David encouraged David to kill King Saul, David would not do it.  He just would not do it, because Saul was the Lord's anointed.  He was the king.  Even his own men probably didn't understand why in the world David would not take advantage of this situation.

So now here we find David, and he is in this cave. 

Imagine what David is going through, emotionally.  He is thinking to himself, “Where are they all now?  I helped Saul immensely, whenever he was troubled by an evil spirit.  I helped all of Israel, when I got rid of Goliath, by God's strength.  I went on so many military missions.  I helped him, and others in so many ways.  And where are they all now?  There is nobody here to help me.  There is nobody who cares about me.  God, here I am, and I am supposed to be the next king of Israel, and I am hiding in this cave, running for my very life.”  

Talk about feeling as if you have no support, nobody watching over you, nobody to be there to help you.  Have you ever been in a situation like that in your life?  If you have not, you will be some day.  And, this psalm is intended to be instructive on what to do.  What do you do when you are in a situation, and emotionally you think, “Wow!  I did this, and this, and this, for these people.  I looked after them.  I watched over them.  I cared for them.  I prayed for them.  And now, I am in need and where are they?  Where are they?  Nobody cares about me.  Nobody is watching over me.  Nobody is checking in on me.  Nobody is praying for me.  In fact, some of them are even trying to hurt me, or harm me, or persecute me, or say bad things about me.  Now what do I do?”
And so, here in this psalm we find David coming to God in prayer.  I want you to see four things about this prayer that are very instructive for us.

        -Number one, when you find yourself in a situation like that, the first thing David does is he pours out his complaints to the Lord.  It is ok to complain to the Lord.  Not complain about the Lord, but complain to the Lord.  We find that throughout the psalms.  It is coming to the Lord, and saying, “This doesn't seem fair.”  “This doesn't seem right.”  “I am confused.”  “I feel disorientated.”  “I feel anxious.”  “What is happening to me just doesn't seem right, Lord.”  “I am going to pour out my heart to you, and I am going to pour out my complaints to you.  This seems unjust.”

This is what he says in verse two.

I pour out my complaint before Him. 

I tell my distress before Him. 

When my spirit grows faint within me,

you are the One who knows my course. 

On the path where I walk,

they have hidden a snare for me. 

Look to my right and see. 

There is no one who recognizes me. 

There is no escape for me. 

No one cares about my life.

Pour out your complaints to the Lord, whatever they might be, when you find yourself in a situation like this.  “Lord, here, when somebody else lost their husband, or their wife,  I was there for them.  I went to the funeral.  I have written them cards.  I have prayed for them.  I have called them on the phone, and checked up on them.  Now, I have lost my spouse, and where is everybody?  They didn't come to the funeral.  They didn't write me any cards.  Nobody is calling me, Lord.” 

Go ahead, and pour out your complaints to the Lord.  Go ahead.  He invites us to do that. 

“Lord, when somebody has been sick, and in pain, I asked them how they are doing.  I have tried to help them in whatever way I could.  I even brought them food.  I kept them in my prayers, and now I am sick, and in pain.  Lord, nobody cares.  Nobody even asks how I am doing.” 

Pour out your complaints to the Lord.  Pour them out to the Lord, whatever the circumstances may be, because He is the One who gets you.  He gets you.  It doesn't do any good to pour out your complaints on Facebook.  Maybe it is ok, sometimes to pour them out to somebody in the family.  But, the One who really gets the injustice, the trouble, the trials, the 'cave you are in' is God, Himself.  In fact, look at what David says in verse three.

When my spirit grows faint within me,

you are the One who knows my course. 

If there is anybody who understands what it is like to be as helpful as you could possibly be, it is Jesus.  Who did Jesus help?  People lost their dear children, and Jesus raised them from the dead.  People were sick, and Jesus healed them.  People were blind, and Jesus gave them sight.  People needed instruction in The Word of God, Jesus gently instructed in The Word of God.  Jesus helped everyone in need. 

But then, what happened?  What happened to Jesus?  The very people He tried to instruct, rejected Him.  They hated Him.  They put Him on a cross.  His friends denied Him, betrayed Him, ran away from Him, and forsook Him.  Here He had helped all of these people, and where were they?  Where were they in His greatest hour of need? 

If anybody understands what you are going through, when you go through those trials, it is the Lord, Himself, who loves you dearly, and came to suffer, and die, because we are sinners living in a sinful world.  All of the terrible things that happen to us, Jesus came to take care of all of that.  In fact, in fact, probably the greatest psalm, which is a Psalm of Complaint, or a Psalm of Lament, probably the greatest Psalm of Lament is Psalm 22.  It is Jesus, Himself, speaking.  It begins this way.

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”

Talk about understanding what it feels like to be forsaken.  It is Jesus, Himself.  So come to Him.  Pour out your complaints to Him.  He gets it.

        -Number two, I want you to see what David does next.  David instructs himself with The Word of God.  He instructs himself with The Word of God.

Martin Luther once said, “Prayer should always be anchored in The Word of God.  It should never be a playpen for emotions, and feelings.”
I am going to repeat that. 

“Prayer should always be anchored in The Word of God. 

It should never be a playpen for emotions and feelings.”

Certainly, we pour out our emotions, and feelings to the Lord, but then we anchor ourselves where?  In The Word. 

This is what David says in verse five.  He is going to instruct himself, and comfort himself with God's Word.

I cry out to you, Lord. 

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

So now David, in prayer, is instructing himself with God's Word, and comforting himself with God's Word. 

We are instructed here to do the same thing.  “God, you are my refuge.  You are my refuge.”  That is what The Bible says.  A refuge is a place you go for safety, where you hide for safety.  “God, there is no safer place I can go at a time like this, than right into your arms.  God, even though no one else may be there to help me, no one else may care about me, you are my refuge.  You spread out your arms for me.  You died on the cross for me.  You wash away my sins every day.  You love me, for Christ's sake.  There is no safer place I can go, God, than in your arms.  You are my refuge.  There is nothing that can hurt me here.  Jesus, you rose from the dead.  You have power over sin.  You have power over death.  You have power over the devil.  I am safe in your hands, no matter what they do to me, no matter what they think.”   

You are “my portion in the land of the living.”  

That means you are my inheritance.  You are my inheritance in the land of the living, David said.  “God I am you child, your adopted child.  As your adopted child, I inherit everything that belongs to you.  Everything you have is mine, everything.  Someday I am even going to be in Heaven with you.  Your home is going to be my home.”

“So, whatever is going on right now, whatever it is, whatever people say, or think, or do to me, you are my refuge.  And, everything you have is mine.” 

That is comforting.

        -Then, look at the third thing David does.  He asks for help.  You can never ask too much.  He asked for help based on one thing.  It is based on God's character.  It is not based on who David is, like, “God help me, because I am going to be the next king.”  It is all based on God's character.

In verse one he says,

With my voice I call to the Lord for mercy.  

Mercy is a key word, there.

Then, in verse six he says,

Pay attention to my loud cry,

because I am very weak. 

Rescue me from those who pursue me,

because they are too strong for me.

So, David here admits, “I am weak.  I am powerless.  I can't do anything about this situation, Lord.”

We come before the Lord, and say, “God, I am weak.  I am a sinner.  I don't deserve any of your help.  But, I am coming to you based on who you are, your character.  Be merciful.”
See, that is God's character.  God's character is He is merciful.  The Hebrew word for 'mercy' means, 'it is His nature'.  It is the very nature of God to look at you, and say, “Even though you have sinned against  me, and you deserve whatever happens to you, all of the bad things that happen to you, my nature is such, as God, that I want to help you.  I want to be your friend.  I want to be kind.” 


And so, we rely on God's mercy.  “God, be merciful to me, and help me.”

When we read the other psalms of complaint, we discover God helps in one of two ways. 

        -Number one, with our enemies.  And, there are people who are our enemies.  They may not become our friends, but certainly we pray God would thwart their plans to hurt or harm us.

        -Number two, to our friends who may have forsaken us, we pray the Lord would restore them to us, in His mercy.

Now I want you to see the last thing David does here. That is,

-having poured out his complaints to the Lord,

-understanding the Lord gets me,

-having comforted himself with The Word,

-and then asked the Lord to deliver him,

-he closes with this absolute statement of confidence.  The word 'Amen' is Hebrew.  It means, 'Yes.  Yes it shall be so'.  In other words, God is going to answer my prayers.

Look at what he says at the very end in verse seven.  He asked to be freed.

Set me free from my prison,

so I can give thanks to your name. 

Then the righteous will gather around me,

because you accomplished your purposed for me.

That is the Amen.  That is the believer's statement of faith.  It is the believer's statement, “Lord, I have come to you for help.  I have asked for your mercy.  And, you are going to help me.  I know that.  How do I know it?  Because you are a merciful God.  You are a loving God.  You promised to deliver those who call upon you.  Lord, I know you are going to deliver me.  You are either going to deliver me by taking these troubles away, or you are going to give me the strength to pare up under them, and make me stronger because of it, or you are going to take me home to Heaven, which is the greatest deliverance of all.  But, Amen Lord.  I am going to give you thanks, because I know you are going to deliver me.  Then the righteous will gather around me.  I won't be all alone.  I will be with your people.  I will be in church, and they will be comforting me.  We will be comforting each other with The Word.  Someday we will be in Heaven.  And, we will never be forsaken, again.  We will be with God's people.”

I want to close with this thought.  The psalms are intended to be instructive.  They are called, The Prayer Book of The Bible.  Use them as prayers. 

If you look at the next page, copied from the Christian Worship hymnal, page 62, if you ever want to pray about something, this page down the categories of the psalms, different occasions in life.  Use this as an instructive way to pray.