Psalm 143


In this psalm, David pours his heart out to God in distress and he calls upon God to help him. He longs for God to hear him and reflects upon his relationship with God in times past.


‘A psalm of David.’

Although the headings aren’t inspired by God, they are important because they give us some understanding of the Psalm and they help us to see why it was written. The headings usually tell us four things.

1. Who wrote them, probably wrote them or possibly wrote them.

2. Information about the historical background to the Psalm. Why it was written.

3. They tell us of the tune the Psalm was written to.

4. How it was used.

The heading tells us this psalm of David. Psalms 138-145 are all accredited to David.

‘LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.’ Psalm 143:1-6

We don’t know the historical setting for this psalm, but David begins by asking the LORD to hear his cry for mercy, Psalm 4:1 / Psalm 5:1. He’s pleading to God, on the basis of God’s faithfulness and righteousness, that is, knowing that God would be faithful in His answer and bring him relief.

He pleads that God doesn’t bring him into judgment based on his own righteousness because there is no one living who is righteous before God, Ecclesiastes 7:20.

He pleads for God’s mercy based on God’s righteousness, not his own, 2 Samuel 12:7-12. In other words, he requested justice that was lessened with grace and mercy, for he knew that no one can stand before God justified, Job 4:17 / Job 9:2 / Job 9:20 / Job 15:14-16 / Job 25:4-6 / Romans 3:9-10 / Romans 3:23 / Romans 11:32 / 1 John 1:10.

David describes the effects of being pursued and crushed by his enemies, they make him dwell in the darkness like those long dead, Psalm 72:4 / Psalm 89:10 / Job 6:9.

In other words, they treated him as if he had been long dead. David was suffering as in death and his heart was faint, he was dismayed because of the oppression he was receiving from his enemy, Matthew 26:38.

It’s natural when we’re in a dark place to reminisce about days long ago, here, David thinks back to the time when life was better and probably easier. When he thinks back to days long ago, he remembers how he meditated on God’s works and the things God had done with His hands.

It’s interesting to note that David didn’t reflect upon the things he had done in the past, he reflected upon the things which God had done in the past.

When David reflects upon the things God had done in days long ago, he spreads out his hands to God, that is, he prayed to God to draw closer to God so that God might draw closer to him, James 4:8.

Despite being in a dark place, his soul still thirsts for God like a parched land, Isaiah 32:2 / Matthew 5:6.

You may notice at the end of verse six, some translations have the word, ‘selah’, although no one really knows what this word means, it’s likely it means to pause. It’s a time to stop and reflect upon what has just been said.

We can almost imagine David pausing for a breath as he contemplates feeling close to God again.

‘Answer me quickly, LORD; my spirit fails. Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Rescue me from my enemies, LORD, for I hide myself in you. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground. For your name’s sake, LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. In your unfailing love, silence my enemies; destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.’ Psalm 143:7-12

David is in a desperate way, maybe he felt he was about to die, and so, he asks God to answer his prayer quickly, Daniel 9:17-18 / Ephesians 2:1. He obviously doesn’t feel God’s presence in his life and so, he asks that God doesn’t hide His face from him, Romans 8:31.

As far as David was concerned, if he doesn’t feel God’s presence, he would be like those who go down to the pit, that is the grave. In other words, he feels that he can’t go on without God’s presence in his life.

He’s desperate to feel God’s presence in this time of distress, he’s desperate to hear a word of God’s unfailing love. To hear words of assurance from God in the morning would give him the encouragement to face the rest of the day, Lamentations 3:22-23.

David asks the LORD to show him the way he should go because he trusts God with his life. This tells us that David didn’t only want to feel God’s presence in his life, he didn’t only want to hear of God’s unfailing love, but he also needed God’s guidance.

Because his enemies were perusing him and crushing him, he asks God to rescue him from his enemies because he hides himself in God. In other words, he didn’t rely on himself to defend himself against his enemies but found refuge in God, knowing that God would defend him from his enemies.

David not only wanted God to show him the way he should go, but he also wants God to teach him His will. God is David’s God and he knows if he wants to enjoy hiding in God’s comfort, then he needs to be obedient to God’s word.

This was going to happen through the direction of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit would lead him on level ground, that is, He would guide his steps, Galatians 5:16 / Galatians 5:18 / Galatians 5:25.

David pleads with God to preserve his life, that is, save his life, save him from the trouble he found himself in. Notice he doesn’t plead for his own sake or his name’s sake, but for the LORD’s Name’s sake, for the sake of the LORD’s reputation. David is asking God to save him, in order that he may give God all the glory for doing so.

He acknowledges that he is only a servant of God and so, he asks God to silence his enemies and destroy all his foes on the basis of God’s unfailing love.


David declared that no one living could stand before God on the basis of their own righteousness and in the New Testament, no one learned this lesson better than the apostle Paul.

Paul had ‘inheritance advantages’, and he had ‘performance advantages’, Philippians 3:5-6, but yet he understood that no one was righteous, Romans 3:10.

He understood that he couldn’t confidently stand before God based on his own righteousness, he needs to stand on Christ’s righteousness, Romans 3:20-21. Paul says his righteousness gains him nothing, Philippians 3:4 / Philippians 3:7-8, but Christ’s righteousness gains him everything.

We must learn not to rely on our own merit or good deeds to be right with God, we must accept and trust Christ’s redeeming work to make us righteous before God, 1 Peter 3:18 / 2 Corinthians 5:21.

Go To Psalm 144


"But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me"