A Psalm of David. Hear my prayer, O LORD, give ear to my supplications: in thy faithfulness answer me, and in thy righteousness.
The text may be said to comprise every other prayer. If God gives His servant to "know the way wherein he should walk," and strength to walk in it, peace, and order, and liberty, and joy will soon come. Life is a daily difficulty. Think of the number of things that are to be believed, that are to be renounced, that are to be examined, that are to be distinguished in themselves and from other things, that are to be tentatively dealt with, that are to be done, that are to be left undone, that are to be waited for, that are to be suffered. All these are included in the "way wherein we should walk."
I. Opinions and beliefs. There can be no living way for a man that does not involve these. We are bound to form them, and the point is that there is very great difficulty in forming some of them or in keeping them when we have them. Any one of us, if we will, may be of them that believe to the saving of the soul. How? By bringing the whole case fully and earnestly before God. If we come really to Him, we have solved the difficulty, we have come into the new and living way, and God will make that way more and more plain before our face; whereas if we abide among the exterior things—examining, considering, comparing, putting this opinion against that, and working the whole matter simply as a high intellectual problem, without ever making the last and highest appeal—we have no certainty of a good and true issue.
II. Conduct. In respect of conduct also we find life to be a scene of constant difficulty. Even those who know the way they should go, so far as it consists of beliefs, convictions, principles, find it still in their practice to be a way of continual difficulty. What can we do? We can pray. We can use this text and get the benefits it carries. The solution of all difficulty, be it what it may, is "to lift up the soul to God." God is the God of peace; and to lift up the soul to Him is to rise out of storm into calm, is to leave the self-made troubles of life beneath us while we mount up on eagles' wings into His eternal and illimitable tranquillity.
A. Raleigh, From Dawn to the Perfect Day, p. 190.
References: Psalm 143:8.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 564. Psalm 143:9.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 169.
Psalm 143:10There are two kinds of active obedience: one which is called negative, which consists in refraining from something because God has commanded us to refrain, but which can still be called active, because it ranges from action, and the other because it lies in the direct doing of what we are ordered.
I. All our obedience has to do with the activities of love. (1) Towards God Himself they are either acts of trustful affection, such as the casting of the soul upon God; or acts of worship and adoration, such as prayer and praise, whether public or private, and the holy sacraments; or work done for the extension of God's kingdom upon the earth; or any action which is performed simply for the glory of God. All those are instances of active obedience done direct to God. (2) Towards man they are acts of forgiveness; acts of sympathy, either in joy or sorrow; acts of kindness or charity; acts of submission to constituted authority.
II. But to make any of these "active obedience" two things are absolutely necessary. (1) They must have a far end in God Himself; (2) they must not be mere feelings.
III. Notice a few rules for active obedience. (1) Clear away the dust which is always gathering round a command to mystify and confound it. (2) Be sure of your motive. (3) Obey trustingly. (4) There must be alacrity; it is no obedience that does not feel, "I will run in the way of Thy commandments." (5) Remember that all obedience to God must be like what the Jews were required to give to God: a whole burnt-offering. (6) Your obedience must be your liberty and your joy.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 10th scries, p. 240.
Psalm 143:10Three things David had evidently learned which it would be well for us if we had never forgotten: (1) the kindness of the Spirit; (2) a certain "leading;" (3) that leading into a better, and truer, and more beautiful state of things, which he calls the "land of uprightness." It was a true principle when David laid the base of everything in the kindness of the Spirit. It was as when we say, "God is love," and feel that we have got down to the very rock of the foundation of everything. Just so it stands here in its own grand sufficiency, "Thy Spirit is good." And there was a deep acquaintance with the philosophy of all moral truth when David brought together a Spirit of kindness and a "land of uprightness." For what other than the Spirit of kindness ever does lead any one into those open fields of truth and honesty?
I. Perhaps we have not sufficiently considered the lovingness of the character of the Third Person in the Holy Trinity. To the minds of many, who still recognise His complete personality, He is as One almost passionless. To some He is associated with the thoughts of reproof and sternness. The chief and highest name of the Holy Spirit is "Comforter," and not a comforter, as though He were one among many, but exclusively so that whatever comfort there is in all the world dates itself in Him: "the Comforter." His very title, twice repeated, is "Spirit of love," and His first-fruit and all His fruits—for each fruit in order is only the expression of the first; it is only the same grace placed in a different combination—"love."
II. The Holy Ghost is a great Leader. He guides into all truth: truth of thought first, truth of feeling next, truth of action afterwards. His leadings tend to the land of uprightness. And where is that? Truth's land must be Christ's land, because Christ is truth; and therefore the Gospel must be "the land of uprightness."
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 2nd series, p. 343.
Psalm 143:10The foundations of the religious character which was to be perfected in the mind of Christ were laid in faith in God and in the recognition of the supremacy of the moral law. Through ages and generations the Bible sets before us the slow growth, the unfolding and ripening, of this character, till, after long preparation and many steps, and still with many shortcomings, it became such that when Jesus Christ came it was able and qualified to welcome Him; to recognise, however dimly, His Divine glory; to follow Him; and from strength to strength and grace to grace, to rise to something of His likeness. We have the full birth of religious affection in the Psalms and of religious thought and reason in the Prophets.
I. The Psalms bring before us, in all its fulness and richness, the devotional element of the religious character. They are the first great teachers and patterns of prayer. And they show this side of the religious character not, as hitherto, in outline, but in varied and finished detail, in all its compass and living and spontaneous force.
II. This immense variety of mood, and subject, and occasion, with which reverence and hope are always combined, is the further point in the work of the Book of. Psalms. It is a vast step in the revealing of man to man. It shows what indeed God is to the soul in all its many moods. The soul cannot be alone without Him; He is the centre of attraction to all His creatures, the fountain and the loadstone of all love, high above the highest, yet humbling Himself "to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth." (1) A profound and immovable belief in God's righteousness is the faith which dominates the whole Psalter. (2) With this faith in the soul has come the stirring and enlightening conscience. We see in the Psalms how it has learned to look into itself, how it has learned the need of the inward watch, the inward struggle, the inward self-disclosure. (3) But if the Psalms have taught us the language of penitence, what ever equalled before the Day of Pentecost the freedom, the joy, of their worship? In the Book of Psalms we see the growing up in the religious character of these high gifts of the Spirit of God: devotion, worship, self-knowledge.
III. The great and characteristic ideas of the Psalms reappear in the Prophets, but in the Psalms they come in devotion addressed to God; the Prophets turn them back upon men, and expand and develop them in instruction, and encouragement, and rebuke. (1) Ezekiel is emphatically the prophet of the moral significance of the Law and of personal responsibility. (2) In the awful volume of Isaiah, in which thought and imagination are allowed to master the vision of the world, wherein is embodied all that most concerns man in the present and the future, and in which the tremendous severity of judgment mingles so strangely with a gracious and inexpressible sweetness which even still takes us by surprise—through all these Divinely inspired utterances we may trace, with a fulness, and richness, and depth unequalled in the Old Testament, the personal lineaments of one who not only by faith and self-discipline, but also by thought, and reason, and knowledge, had become fitted to be one of the company of that Redeemer whose person, whose coming, whose life of suffering and glory, he was going to foretell, and in whose perfection man was to be made perfect.
R. W. Church, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxviii., p. 129 (see also Preacher's Monthly, vol. x., p. 201).
References: Psalm 143:10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1519; G. Bainton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ii., p. 198; S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 163; G. Matheson, Moments on the Mount, p. 219; Preacher's Lantern, vol. i., p. 504.
Psalm 143:12I. What goes to make that Christlike title a "servant"—a servant of God and a servant of man for His sake? It was promised in your first and great covenant in life that you would be always a servant of God; but before you really take your place in God's household, there must be a special voluntary act on your part, which is your engagement. The first question then is, Have you, by a definite act of your own will, given yourself to God, to be His servant?
II. This done, the next question is, What marks a servant? The proper word would be "slave." It is the part of a true servant to do anything which his master wishes him to do. He is ready for everything. The reason is that he works from love; and therefore all he does he does with a will, pleasantly, lovingly, faithfully.
III. Does God give His servants wages for what they do? Yes, always. Salvation is not wages; heaven is not wages. Where then are the wages of good works? (1) Very often providences, sometimes happy ones, sometimes bitter ones, but both wages; (2) conscience—a good conscience; (3) growth: more grace, more light, more peace, more faith, and more of the presence of Christ; (4) and in heaven the degrees, higher measures and capacities of glory awarded according to the service done.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 12th series, p. 61.
Psalm 143:12I. We have nothing to do with the historical sense of these and other like passages; it is not, and cannot be, in their historical and human meaning that the Psalms are the perpetual storehouse of prayer and thanksgiving for the people of God in every age. But the spiritual meaning of these words expresses an eternal truth which we should do ill not to remember. We have enemies; we have those that vex our soul; the Psalmist spoke a language which every one of God's servants may echo; and these enemies are bringing our soul every day nigh unto hell.
II. These words are of importance, because we see that if we are indolent or slumbering, we have an enemy who is wakeful; that as we hope for the help of God's Spirit, so we have against us the power of the spirit of evil; that, with a working mysterious indeed and incomprehensible, as is the working of God's Spirit, no less, yet with a fruit clearly manifest, there is an influence busy in undoing every work of grace in our souls, in driving away every thought of penitence or of love, in instigating every evil desire, in deepening every fit of spiritual slumber. The need which we have of this prayer makes it no less needful that our labour and our watchfulness should be in proportion to it.
T. Arnold, Sermons, vol. v., p. 331.
And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.
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.
Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate.
I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
Hear me speedily, O LORD: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
Deliver me, O LORD, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.
Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
Quicken me, O LORD, for thy name's sake: for thy righteousness' sake bring my soul out of trouble.
And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.