|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
143:1-6 We have no righteousness of our own to plead, therefore must plead God's righteousness, and the word of promise which he has freely given us, and caused us to hope in. David, before he prays for the removal of his trouble, prays for the pardon of his sin, and depends upon mercy alone for it. He bemoans the weight upon his mind from outward troubles. But he looks back, and remembers God's former appearance for his afflicted people, and for him in particular. He looks round, and notices the works of God. The more we consider the power of God, the less we shall fear the face or force of man. He looks up with earnest desires towards God and his favour. This is the best course we can take, when our spirits are overwhelmed. The believer will not forget, that in his best actions he is a sinner. Meditation and prayer will recover us from distresses; and then the mourning soul strives to return to the Lord as the infant stretches out its hands to the indulgent mother, and thirsts for his consolations as the parched ground for refreshing rain.
Verse 1. - Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications (comp. Psalm 28:2; Psalm 39:12; Psalm 54:2; Psalm 55:1, etc.). In thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness. In thy faithfulness to thy promises, since thou hast promised to hear prayer, and in thy mere righteousness, since it is right and just that thou shouldest do so, hearken unto me.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications,.... With these requests David begins the psalm; for it was to no purpose to pray and were heard; and for which he always appears to be concerned, as every good man will, and not to be heard only, but to be answered, as follows;
in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness; he does not plead his own faith, with which he believed in God, as rama interprets it; though the prayer of faith is very effectual; but the faithfulness of God to his promises; he had promised to hear, answer, and deliver such as called on him in a time of trouble; and he is faithful that has promised, nor will he suffer his faithfulness to fail; he cannot deny himself; and on this the psalmist relied for an answer, as well as desired and expected it; not on account of his own righteousness, but either on account of the goodness and grace of God, sometimes designed by righteousness, or because of the righteousness of Christ, or for the sake of Christ, the Lord our righteousness; on whose account God is just and faithful to forgive sin, the blessing the psalmist wanted, as appears from Psalm 143:2.
The Treasury of David
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplications; in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.
2 And enter not into judgment with thy servant, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
3 For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead.
4 Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.
5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
6 I stretch forth my hands unto thee - my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
"Hear my prayer, O Lord, give ear to my supplication." In the preceding Psalm he began by declaring that he had cried unto the Lord; here he begs to be favourably regarded by Jehovah the living God, whose memorial is that he heareth prayer. He knew that Jehovah did hear prayer, and therefore he entreated him to hear his supplication, however feeble and broken it might be. In two forms - he implores the one blessing of gracious audience, "hear and give ear." Gracious men are so eager to be heard in prayer that they double their entreaties for that boon. The Psalmist desires to be heard and to be considered; hence he cries, "hear," and then "give ear." Our case is difficult, and we plead for special attention. Here it is probable that David wished his suit against his adversaries to be heard by the righteous Judge; confident that if he had a hearing in the matter whereof he was slanderously accused, he would be triumphantly acquitted. Yet while somewhat inclined thus to lay his case before the Court of King's Bench, he prefers rather to turn it all into a petition, and present it before the Court of Requests, hence he cries rather "hear my prayer" than "hear my suit." Indeed David is specially earnest that he himself, and the whole of his life, may not become the subject of trial, for in that event he could not hope for acquittal. Observe that he offered so much pleading that his life became one continual prayer; but that petitioning was so varied in form that it-roke out in many supplications.
"In thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness." Saints desire to be answered as well as heard: they long to find the Lord faithful to his promise and righteous in defending the cause of justice. It is a happy thing when we dare appeal even to righteousness for our deliverance; and this we can do upon gospel principles, for "if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins." Even the sterner attributes of God are upon the side of the man who humbly trusts, and turns his trust into prayer. It is a sign of our safety when our interests and those of righteousness are blended. With God's faithfulness and righteousness upon our side we are guarded on the right hand and on the left. These are active attributes, and fully equal to the answering of any prayer which it would be right to answer. Requests which do not appeal to either of these attributes it would not be for he glory of God to hear, for they must contain desires for things unpromised, and unrighteous.
"And enter not into judgment with thy servant." He had entreated for audience at the mercy-seat, but he has no wish to appear before the judgment-seat. Though clear before men, he could not claim innocence before God. Even though he knew himself to be the Lord's servant, yet he did not claim perfection, or plead merit; for even as a servant he was unprofitable. If such be the humble cry of a servant, what ought to be the pleading of a sinner? "For in thy sight shall no man living be justified." None can stand before God upon the footing of the law. God's sight is piercing and discriminating; the slightest flaw is seen and judged; and therefore pretence and profession cannot avail where that glance reads all the secrets of the soul. In this verse David told out the doctrine of universal condemnation by the law long before Paul had taken his pen to write the same truth. To this day it stands true even to the same extent as in David's day, no man living even at this moment may dare to present himself for trial before the throne of the Great King on the footing of the law. This foolish age has produced specimens of a pride so rank that men have dared to claim perfection in the flesh; but these vain-glorious boasters are no exception to the rule here laid down: they are but men, and poor specimens of men. When their lives are examined they are frequently found to be more faulty than the humble penitents before whom they vaunt their superiority.
"For the enemy hath persecuted my soul." He has followed me up with perseverance, and has worried me as often as I have been within his reach. The attack was upon the soul or life of the Psalmist: our adversaries mean us the worst possible evil, their attacks are no child's play, they hunt for the precious life. "He hath smitten my life down to the ground." The existence of David was made bitter by the cruelty of his enemy; he was as one who was hurled down and made to lie upon the ground, where he could be trampled on by his assailant. Slander has a very depressing effect upon the spirits; it is a blow which overthrows the mind as though it were knocked down with the fist. "He hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead." The enemy was not content with felling his life to the ground - he would lay him lower still, even in the grave; and lower than that if possible, for the enemy would shut up the saint in the darkness of hell if he could. David was driven by Saul's animosity to haunt caverns and holes, like an unquiet ghost; he wandered out by night, and lay hid by day like an uneasy spirit which had long been denied the repose of the grave. Good men began to forget him, as though he had been long dead; and bad men made ridicule of his rueful visage, as though it belonged not to a living man, but was dark with the shadow of the sepulchre. Poor David! He was qualified to bless the house of the living, but he was driven to consort with the dead! Such may be our case, and yet we may be very dear to the Lord. One thing is certain, the Lord who permits us to dwell in darkness among the dead, will surely bring us into light, and cause us to dwell with those who enjoy life eternal.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 143:1-12. In structure and style, like the preceding (Psalms 104-142), this Psalm is clearly evinced to be David's. It is a prayer for pardon, and for relief from enemies; afflictions, as usual, producing confession and penitence.
1. in thy faithfulness … and … righteousness—or, God's regard to the claims which He has permitted His people to make in His covenant.
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