Read Psalm 142
A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.
1 I cry aloud to the Lord;
I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
2 I pour out before him my complaint;
before him I tell my trouble.
3 When my spirit grows faint within me,
it is you who watch over my way.
In the path where I walk
people have hidden a snare for me.
4 Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
no one cares for my life.
5 I cry to you, Lord;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Listen to my cry,
for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
for they are too strong for me.
7 Set me free from my prison,
that I may praise your name.
Then the righteous will gather about me
because of your goodness to me.
We know two important facts about Psalm 142 from the outset; first, it is historically attributed to King David, whom we read about in 1st and 2nd Samuel. Knowing who David is and the deep intimacy of his relationship with the Father as a “man after God’s own heart,” can help us get inside David’s head as he calls out to God. This psalm is typically associated with the period found in 1 Samuel 22 where David hides in the cave of Adullam from a disgraced Saul—up until this point in the narrative, likely the lowest point in David’s life.
Secondly, we know that Psalm 142 is a maskil. While scholars aren’t absolutely certain what this word means in Hebrew, it’s clear based on the psalms that are labeled accordingly that it refers to a kind of contemplative or meditative psalm, often designed to impart a principle to the reader. David learned difficult lessons hiding in a cave on his knees, and in this maskil, seems to write to instruct others in how to cry out in similarly difficult situations.
This psalm is a powerful offering for the one who sits in the midst of loneliness and isolation. In a generation that is identifying more than ever before as exceedingly alone, David reminds us that we have a sure and steady comfort in the person of Jesus, a tender friend and willing lover of our souls who will “Listen to [our] cry” and “set [us] free from [our] prison.” David’s words could not be clearer—he is lost, alone and feels as though he has no one he can rely on, so he cries out to God, begging Him to meet him in a dark, dirty cave in the wilderness. As 1 and 2 Samuel go on to tell us, God answers the prayer of David, and He wants to answer us as well when we find ourselves alone in the caves of our lives crying out to Him.
- What moments in your life have you felt like David in this psalm? Do you feel like David right now? How did God meet you in the midst of your fear, isolation, or distress?
- David used his experience of difficulty to write this psalm as a model for how to cry out to God—how can you use your “alone in the cave” type moments to reveal the character of God to those around you?
- “Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name” (v. 7). Where has God set you free? Praise Him for that today.
In the spirit of the last maskil in the Bible, spend some time contemplating how God has rescued you from your moments of despair. As they come to mind, spend a moment thanking God for His kindness in each of those circumstances and worshiping Him for His faithfulness.
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