Faithlife Sermons

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A long time ago, the prophet Isaiah wrote, /They that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint/ (Isa.
40:31).
This is one of the best descriptions of the strength that God gives to his people in the entire Bible.
But if you’re like me, there are times when you don’t feel like your strength has been renewed at all.
Mounting up with wings like eagles and running is about the last thing on your mind.
You can barely crawl at a snail’s pace, and even that takes a lot of effort.
What do you do when you find yourself in this kind of situation?
Do you give up in despair?
Do you question God’s goodness or the truthfulness of his Word?
Do you wonder whether God really loves you or is only playing some mean trick on you?
When David wrote the words of our text, he felt like he was at the end of his rope.
He could not imagine his life getting any worse.
He had complaints and problems coming at him from every direction.
His spirit was overwhelmed.
His enemies had laid a snare to catch him in his tracks.
He could not find any one to lend a helping hand.
Yet, even in the hour of his greatest affliction he never forgot God’s promise.
In the midst of the worst affliction he could have imagined, he remembered that God was his refuge and portion.
The Lord would deliver him.
Of that he was absolutely sure.
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David’s Plea for Help
When great problems arise, great men cry out to God in prayer.
That’s what David did in verse 1. Twice he says that he cried out with his voice or, in other words, he prayed audibly.
But this does not mean that he prayed aloud in order to garner the sympathy of men.
If he had done this, it would not only have been a misuse of prayer, it would have rendered his prayer ineffective in the courts of heaven.
Jesus said, /When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.
Verily I say unto you, They have their reward/ (Matt.
6:5).
To the contrary, David prayed aloud because he sought the attention of God.
Only the Lord can keep a man from sinking in the midst of trouble.
Only the Lord can keep him from being swallowed up in the sea of despair.
Only the Lord can take a man’s soul out of prison and put a song of joy and deliverance in his heart.
While there is no point in praying to be heard by men, there is great benefit in calling upon the God of heaven.
Karl Marx, as you know, did not have much use for religion at all.
He once wrote, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.
It is the opium of the people.”
Likewise, many people think that prayer is nothing more than a crutch that people rely on when their lives are falling apart.
Religion and prayer, they say, are for weak people — people who can’t stand on their own.
There is a sense in which these sentiments are correct.
In fact, I would go even further and say that religion and prayer are for people who understand that they are totally helpless like a newborn baby.
You’ve no doubt heard the saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”
But the truth of the matter is that God helps those who cannot help themselves.
Isn’t that what Paul meant when he wrote, /But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ/ (Eph.
2:4–5)?
And when God helps us in our helplessness, we become strong.
Again, Paul wrote, /And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong/ (II Cor.
12:9–10).
In Psalm 142 David confessed his frailty.
We have a tendency to exalt the saints whose deeds are recorded in Scripture above other men, as if their faith were greater or their deeds more remarkable.
But sometimes it’s good to be reminded that they were only men, struggling with the same temptations and problems as everyone else.
When the priest of Lystra wanted to make a sacrifice to Paul after he had healed a crippled man, Paul said to the people, /Sirs, why do ye these things?
We also are men of like passions with you/ (Acts 14:15).
And James wrote that Elijah, whose prayers stopped the rain for three and a half years, /was a man subject to like passions as we are/ (Jas.
5:17).
Even David, who in his youth killed Goliath and in his later years led the armies of Israel into battle, wrestled with his own weakness.
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David’s Plight and Confidence
The superscription to this psalm says that David wrote it “when he was in the cave.”
The problem is that there are two times in the Old Testament when David hid in a cave.
In I Samuel 22 he was in the cave of Adullam, and two chapters later he was in a cave near En Gedi.
Commentators are divided as to which one was intended, but it probably doesn’t make that much difference.
The circumstances of both cave dwellings were basically the same and very little time had passed between them.
The details of David’s cave experience are not as important as the fact that he was in a cave.
The cave was his trial, his affliction, his tutor.
One commentator even says that the theme of this psalm is David’s cry for God’s help from the cavern of despair.
Even glancing over Psalm 142 quickly, we can hardly miss the constant repetition of David’s plea for God’s help.
We see it in verses 1 and 2: /I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.
I poured out my complaint before him; I shewed before him my trouble/.
His cry comes to the forefront again in verses 5 and 6: /I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I/.
When God humbled David, he accepted it as a stroke from the hand of a loving heavenly Father.
Although his enemies threatened his life, he never relin­quished his faith in God.
There were, no doubt, times when his faith was stronger than others, but he never lost it altogether.
Neither did he whine and complain about the lot that God had assigned for his life.
He simply took the matter to the Lord, knowing that God had already determined the outcome.
He rever­ently ex­pressed his request in a spirit of trust and confi­dence.
When he was done, he left the whole problem in the loving hands of his heavenly Father.
To put it another way, his concerns only drove him closer to the Lord, and not farther away from him.
Every cry that swelled up in his aching heart reminded him that he belonged body and soul, both in life and in death, to Jehovah, who had promised to be his God throughout all eternity.
David’s immediate concern, according to this psalm, was his physical safety.
He mentioned this in verse 3: /When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path.
In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me/.
David was more than well acquainted with the snares of the ungodly.
King Saul had not only threatened his life numerous times, but had even tried to assassinate him on several occa­sions.
He knew, of course, that God had given him the kingdom.
Samuel had already anointed him as Saul’s successor.
There was, therefore, no doubt that God had great things in store for him.
But this does not mean that David could just take it easy.
Nor does it mean that the trials and afflictions that he experienced before coming to the throne were not real.
Look at the suffering that Jesus endured before he took his seat at the right hand of God the Father.
Hebrews 12:2 says that he /for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God/.
David had to take every precaution against Saul’s attacks.
When we turn to the Lord for protection, we have the responsibility to do what we can to protect ourselves.
So, what did David do?
Actually, he did quite a few things according to the account in I Samuel 21 and following.
Sometimes, when men fear for their lives, they lose sight of other responsibilities.
They become so concerned about their immediate needs that they forget everything else.
But this was not true of David.
First, David went to the tabernacle and asked Ahimelech for the sword of Goliath.
Remember that this was the sword that he had used to slay the giant who rose up against the Lord.
It had been stored in the tabernacle since then, but now that he had to face another of the Lord’s enemies he asked to have it back.
He took it and found a cave to hide in (cf.
I Sam.
21:8–9).
However, David was not the only one whose life was in jeopardy.
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