By Franklin L. Kirksey, Pastor, First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort, Alabama, and author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice.
These expositions by Dr. Kirksey are offered to suggest sermon or Bible study ideas for pastors and other church leaders, both from the exposition and from the illustrative material, or simply for personal devotion.
“Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen / Nobody knows but Jesus.” Do you remember this rendition of the first two lines of the old Spiritual?
David expresses a similar sentiment in this Maschil which means “a psalm of instruction”. Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) explains, “This Maschil is written for our instruction. It teaches us principally by example how to order our prayer in times of distress. Such instruction is among the most needful, practical, and effectual parts of our spiritual education. He who has learned how to pray has been taught the most useful of the arts and sciences. The disciples said unto the Son of David, ‘Lord, teach, us to pray’; and here David gives us a valuable lesson by recording his own experience as to supplication from beneath a cloud.” In Psalm 142:1-7, we read, “I cry out to the Lord with my voice; / With my voice to the Lord I make my supplication. I pour out my complaint before Him; / I declare before Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, / Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk / They have secretly set a snare for me. Look on my right hand and see, / For there is no one who acknowledges me; / Refuge has failed me; / No one cares for my soul. I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, ‘You are my refuge, / My portion in the land of the living. Attend to my cry, / For I am brought very low; / Deliver me from my persecutors, / For they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison, / That I may praise Your name; / The righteous shall surround me, / For You shall deal bountifully with me.”
Dr. John Phillips (1927-2010) explains, “This is the third in a trilogy of Davidic psalms mentioning that his enemies were out to trap him, to snare him like a beast (140:5; 141:9).”
Allow me to point out three insights from this instructive psalm.
I. The Trouble David Experienced before the Lord.
In Psalm 142:2b David mentions, “my trouble”. Every believer is to live, “coram Deo” or before the face of God. It is important to remember this when trouble comes.
We find the situation of David’s trouble in 1 Samuel 22:1a, “David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam.” In Psalm 57 we find “A Michtam [or golden psalm] of David when he fled from Saul into the cave”, here we read, “Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me! For my soul trusts in You; / And in the shadow of Your wings I will make my refuge, / Until these calamities have passed by. I will cry out to God Most High, / To God who performs all things for me. He shall send from heaven and save me; / He reproaches the one who would swallow me up. Selah / God shall send forth His mercy and His truth. My soul is among lions; / I lie among the sons of men / Who are set on fire, / Whose teeth are spears and arrows, / And their tongue a sharp sword. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; / Let Your glory be above all the earth. They have prepared a net for my steps; / My soul is bowed down; / They have dug a pit before me; / Into the midst of it they themselves have fallen. Selah / My heart is steadfast, O God, my heart is steadfast; / I will sing and give praise. Awake, my glory! Awake, lute and harp! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise You, O Lord, among the peoples; / I will sing to You among the nations. For Your mercy reaches unto the heavens, / And Your truth unto the clouds. Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; / Let Your glory be above all the earth.”
Dr. Alexander Whyte (1836-1921) states, “We are never content. What would we have given for a full report of all that David said about himself and his cause to God that night? We are thankful for this dramatic 142nd psalm; but it would have been a grand piece of devotional literature, aye, of national history, had we had all that David said to God that sentinel night; but what he did say was not fitted or intended for any human ear. . . . We know that from ourselves, from our own sentinel Sabbaths. We too have troubles and complaints that our ministers do not touch upon in all their most searching Sabbath Day exercises, any more than God touched upon David’s here in the cave. But David seems only to have one ‘complaint,’ and yet it was so blessed to him that it compelled him to spend the hours of the night alone with God, Keep your complaints for God, my afflicted brethren; keep your complaints for God, and for the silence of the night. No one will listen to your trouble but God; no one has time, no one has attention to give to your sorrow but God. You will only expose yourself, and weaken yourself, and humble yourself, if you take your complaints to preoccupied men. Like David, some of you may to-night be labouring and anxious under some complaint against your master, or against some of your relatives; or some of you may have received an insulting, threatening, blackmailing letter, like Hezekiah. I do not say you are not to show that letter to a lawyer; but you must show it first to God, and then, if possible, to a lawyer who knows God. Send all your house to bed to-night before you answer that letter, and again show it to God in the morning before you post it.” Dr. Whyte shares, “The Lord,” says [John] Newton [1725-1807], “is not withdrawn to a great distance from you, His eye is upon you all the time, He sees your case, and does not behold it with indifference, but observes it with attention. He knows and considers your path and not only so, but He appointed it and all the outs and ins of it. Your trouble began at the hour He appointed; its duration to a moment. He knows, likewise, just how your spirit is affected to-night under the trouble, and He will supply you, if you take it—He will supply grace and strength in due season, and as He sees they are needful. Therefore, hope in God; for you, like David, shall yet praise Him.”
II. The Travail David Expressed to the Lord.
From Psalm 142:1-7a we read, “I cry out to the Lord with my voice; / With my voice to the Lord I make my supplication. I pour out my complaint before Him; / I declare before Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, / Then You knew my path. In the way in which I walk / They have secretly set a snare for me. Look on my right hand and see, / For there is no one who acknowledges me; / Refuge has failed me; / No one cares for my soul. I cried out to You, O Lord: I said, ‘You are my refuge, / My portion in the land of the living. Attend to my cry, / For I am brought very low; / Deliver me from my persecutors, / For they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison.”
George Williams (1850-1928) shares in The Student’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures, “To cry ‘with the voice’ expresses deep anguish and the repetition of the expression implies the deepest anguish.” Hence, we find the travail David expressed to the Lord.
Rev. Charles Haddon Spurgeon explains the following about “THE CONDITION OF A BELIEVER WHO IS BEING PREPARED FOR GREATER HONOUR AND WIDER SERVICE.” Spurgeon observes, “Is it not a curious thing that, whenever God means to make a man great. He always breaks him in pieces first? David was to be king over all Israel. What was the way to Jerusalem for David? What was the way to the throne? Well, it was round by the cave of Adullam. He must go there and be an outlaw and an outcast, for that was the way by which he would be made king. Have none of you ever noticed, in your own lives, that whenever God is going to give you an enlargement, and bring you out to a larger sphere of service, or a higher platform of spiritual life, you always get thrown down? Why is that? 1. If God would make you greatly useful, He must teach you how to pray. 2. The man whom God would greatly honour must always believe in God when he is at his wit’s end (ver. 3). Oh, it is easy to trust when you can trust yourself; but when you cannot trust yourself, when you are dead beat, when your spirit sinks below zero in the chill of utter despair, then is the time to trust in God. If that is your case, you have the marks of a man who can lead God’s people, and be a comforter of others. 3. In order to greater usefulness many a man must be taught to stand quite alone (ver. 4). 4. The man whom God will bless must be the man who delights in God alone (ver. 5). Oh, to have God as our refuge, and to make God our portion! 5. He whom God would use must be taught sympathy with God’s poor people (ver. 6). If the Lord means to bless you, and to make you very useful in His Church, depend upon it He will try you. 6. If God means to use you, you must get to be full of praise (ver. 7). If thou art a cheerful spirit, glad in the Lord, and joyous after all thy trials and afflictions, and if thou dost but rejoice the more because thou hast been brought so low, then God is making something of thee, and He will yet use thee to lead His people to greater works of grace.”
David prays in Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden on the Lord, / And He shall sustain you; / He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” Peter writes in 1 Peter 5:7, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” From Philippians 4:6 we read, “Be anxious [careful] for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Dr. F. B. Meyer (1847-1929) comments, “The prison and the persecutor oppress the soul of the sweet singer, who yet towards the close catches sight of a brighter and better time.”
III. The Triumph David Expected from the Lord.
From Psalm 142:7b we read, “That I may praise Your name; / The righteous shall surround me, / For You shall deal bountifully with me.” Dr. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) shares the following insightful comments on this verse:
Bring my soul out of prison “Bring me out of my present condition which is like a prison. I am as it were shut up; I am encompassed with foes; I do not know how to escape. Compare Psalm 25:17 [where we read, “The troubles of my heart have enlarged; / Bring me out of my distresses!”].
That I may praise thy name Not merely for my own sake, but that I may have occasion more abundantly to praise thee; that thus ‘thou’ mayest be honored; an object at all times much more important than our own welfare—even than our salvation.
The righteous shall compass me about They shall come to me with congratulations and with expressions of rejoicing. They will desire my society, my friendship, my influence, and will regard it as a privilege and an honor to be associated with me. David looked to this as an object to be desired. He wished to be associated with the righteous; to enjoy their friendship; to have their good opinion; to be reckoned as one of them here and forever. Compare the notes at Psalm 26:9 [where we read, “Do not gather my soul with sinners, / Nor my life with bloodthirsty men.”]. It ‘is’ an honor—a felicity to be desired—to be associated with good people, to possess their esteem; to have their sympathy, their prayers, and their affections; to share their joys here, and their triumphs in the world to come.
For thou shalt deal bountifully with me Or, when thou shalt deal bountifully with me. When thou dost show me this favor, then the righteous will come around me in this manner. They will see that I am a friend of God, and they will desire to be associated with me as his friend.”
Dr. Arthur G. Clarke (1887- ) comments, “Those who cannot protect us in our trouble may yet participate in our triumph.”
Another who suffered greatly was Job. In Job 14:1-2 he said, “Man who is born of woman / Is of few days and full of trouble. He comes forth like a flower and fades away; / He flees like a shadow and does not continue.” After Job endured great suffering, he said, “Even today my complaint is bitter; / My hand is listless because of my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find Him, / That I might come to His seat! I would present my case before Him, / And fill my mouth with arguments. I would know the words which He would answer me, / And understand what He would say to me. Would He contend with me in His great power? No! But He would take note of me. There the upright could reason with Him, / And I would be delivered forever from my Judge. ‘Look, I go forward, but He is not there, / And backward, but I cannot perceive Him; / When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him; / When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. But He knows the way that I take; / When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:2-10).
Dr. Herbert Lockyer (1886-1984) shares in his devotional titled Seasons of the Lord, “Dr. Robert G. Lee [1886-1978], master of words whose eloquent preaching often thrilled me, commented on Job’s assertion: The fire of the furnace and the smoke of the flames—these show how God brings deep things out of the dark—rich treasures out of darkness. Authorities tell us that the potter never sees his clay take on rich shades of silver, or red, or cream, or brown, until after the darkness and the burning of the furnace. These colors come—after the burning and darkness. The clay is beautiful—the vase is made possible—after the burning and darkness. How wide-lying and universal is this law of life! When did the bravest man and purest woman you know get their whitened characters? Did they get them as the clay gets its beauty and glory—after the darkness and burning of the furnace?”
Dr. Lockyer comments, “It may be that you are presently being sorely tried and are mystified by what God is permitting to overtake you. Remember that he dwells in ‘thick darkness’ as well as in light and is with you in that darkness of your furnace, trying you, sifting out the dross, and transmuting your life into a golden vessel more fit for his use.”
Through the progression of biblical revelation we know more than Job or David about suffering trouble, however, it is still mysterious. As William Cowper (1731-1800) affirms in the first two lines of his beloved hymn, “God moves in a mysterious way / His wonders to perform.”
Dr. Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) explains, “The soul that has to wade through deep waters has always to do it alone; for no human sympathy reaches to full knowledge of, or share in, even the best loved one’s grief. We have companions in joy; sorrow we have to face by ourselves.” Dr. Maclaren adds, “Unless we have Jesus with us in the darkness, we have no one.”
The song often sung by George Beverly Shea titled, “If you know the Lord”, reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ is all we need to get through the troubles of life.
On Psalm 142, Rev. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) concludes, “We may apply it spiritually; the souls of believers are often straitened by doubts and fears. And it is then their duty and interest to beg of God to set them at liberty, that they may run the way of his commandments. Thus the Lord delivered David from his powerful persecutors, and dealt bountifully with him. Thus he raised the crucified Redeemer to the throne of glory, and made him Head over all things for his church. Thus the convinced sinner cries for help, and is brought to praise the Lord in the company of his redeemed people; and thus all believers will at length be delivered from this evil world, from sin and death, and praise their Saviour for ever.”
If you are a genuine believer make sure you add, “Nobody knows but Jesus” when you feel led to sing, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”
Charles Haddon Spurgeon, A Treasury of David (New York: Funk & Wagnall, 1882), Psalm 142
John Phillips, Exploring Psalms, Volume Two: An Expository Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1988, 2002), p. 624, Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.
The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Psalm CXLII , (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n. d. [originally published New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1887]), p. 342
George Williams, The Student’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Analytical, Synoptical, and Sythetical, New Improved ed. (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1960 [originally published in 1926]), 411
The Biblical Illustrator, ed. Joseph S. Exell, Psalm CXLII , (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, n. d. [originally published New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1887]), p. 341
Herbert Lockyer, Sr., A Devotional Commentary Psalms (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), p. 737
Albert Barnes, Notes, Critical, Explanatory, and Practical, on the Book of Psalms, in Three Volumes, Vol. III, Psalm 142:7, (Edinburgh / London: Gall & Inglis, 1868), p. 341
A. G. Clarke, Analytical Studies in the Psalms (Kilmarnock: John Ritchie, Ltd., 1949), p. 343
Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord: Bible Centered Devotions for the Entire Year, (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1990), p. 270
William Cowper, “God Moves In A Mysterious Way”, 1774
Alexander Maclaren, The Psalms: Psalms XC-CL (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1894), p. 408
Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible, Psalm 142, (1706), Available from: http://www.studylight.org/com/mhc-con/view.cgi?book=ps&chapter=142 Accessed: 09/25/12
By Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527
Author of Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice Available on Amazon.com and WORDsearchbible.com
© September 30, 2012 All Rights Reserved