Friday, 4 December 2020
Title: In the Pits
By: Ps. Cheng Cheung
Psalm 142:2 I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare before Him my trouble.
The heading before the first verse reads: ”A Contemplation of David. A Prayer when he was in the cave.”
It is arguable that David could have penned the same words had he been elsewhere. But the cave sets the scene for the depth of emotion David expresses in this psalm much more aptly than possibly any other location. Adullam cave is said to be the cave and if so, fits the circumstances surrounding David’s life in 1 Samuel 22.
Next, a contemplation or maskil is also instructive. The latter Hebrew word has a root which means to be prudent, wise, to give insight and instruction, leading to the desired result. In other words, David’s intent is that readers of this psalm should learn something significant from it.
Putting the above two together, this cave made a good closet for prayer because David was on the run; its gloom and solitude were helpful to the exercise of devotion and focus on God and Him alone. Yes, David was in dire straits: He was fleeing madman Saul who sought his life, persecuted by his own countrymen, not yet joined by his own relations, nor any other close attendants. He took refuge in the cave. He was utterly destitute, and alone. Or so he thought.
1 Samuel 22:1&2
“1 David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam …”
“2 All those who were in distress or in debt or discontented gathered around him, and he became their commander. About four hundred men were with him.”
Isn’t this a familiar story? Often when we are contending with deep issues of our own, others come flooding to us with their tales of woe. It is not clear from the translation whether David took it upon himself, or whether they appointed him, but he became their commander. How could he say, ‘No’? In his eyes, they were like sheep without a shepherd. With a bit of imagination, one could picture how much more depressed David must have felt. There was a reason why he sought solace in a cave in the first place. He was already in deep distress. Surely he sighed as he thought, “What now? … Why me, Lord??”
Having reached the end of his rope, David prayed and called out to God about his desperate situation instead of giving in to despair. We can see the depth and weight of sincerity in his words in v1&2.
I cry out to the LORD
with my voice;
I make my supplication to the LORD
With my voice
I pour out my complaint
I declare my trouble
To cry out is to literally cry aloud, to scream or shriek. Brother and sister, have you called out your heartrending groans to the Lord before? To make supplication is to “implore favour” because David’s self-image had been torn to shreds. He felt stripped, worthless, useless, he had lost his dignity before his countrymen and family. So he needed evidence of God’s favour. He needed to feel needed, honoured and respected. He needed to know this because his confidence and self-esteem were shot. He hit rock bottom, he was in the pits.
Do you know God longs to hear your words? To hear your voice? Do not just think thoughts of prayers. Verbalise them. Come before Him. And as for complaint, a commentary has this to say:
“‘My complaint’ is not as petulant a word as in English, but might be rendered ‘my troubled thoughts’ … it is not meant to tell Jehovah what He does not know. It is for the complainer’s relief, not for God’s information.”¹ So tell God your ‘complaints’. He wants to hear from you.”
A final assurance for the distressed in this first section can be seen from v3a:
When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
Then You knew my path.
In the way in which I walk
Take heart! Our Heavenly Father knows! Even before a heavy thought is formed in our minds, or a sigh is breathed from our innermost parts, our Jehovah knows it. This is so reassuring. How wonderful that David recorded all this, in this manner, so that we may know what steps to take should we be in similar circumstances.
Prayer for Today
Heavenly Father, it is comforting to know before I was born, or took my first steps on this path with its ups and downs, You knew it. You must have known that it was not too hard, and that there were resources of strength in You sufficient for my day.
Teach me to pray like David, my Heavenly Father. Help me not to deny my emotions, to put up a good front. Help me seek help and cry aloud from the bottom of my heart whenever I am in the pits. Thank You that You long to hear from me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
¹ Enduring Word Commentary on Psalm 142
¹ Enduring Word Commentary on Psalm 142