March 15: Psalm 142

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March 15: Psalm 142

Prayer for deliverance; hope only in God

Long meter 88.88                     Hamburg (When I Survey the Wondrous Cross), p. 90
Tallis’ Canon, p. 109
In Christ Alone
Before the Throne of God Above

Unto the Lord my voice I raise, unto the Lord my voice now prays;

Before His face my grief I show and tell my trouble and my woe.

When gloom and sorrow compass me, the path I take is known to Thee,

So are the snares that foes do lay to trap Thy servant in his way.

Look to the right, and Thou will see, there’s no one who takes care of me;

No place of flight or refuge near, and none to whom my soul is dear.

O Lord, my Saviour, now to Thee, without a hope beside, I flee,

To Thee, my shelter from the strife, my portion in the land of life.

Be Thou my help when troubles throng, for I am weak and foes are strong;

My captive soul from prison bring, and thanks unto Thy name I’ll sing.

The righteous then shall gather round to share the blessing I have found,

Their hearts made glad because they see how richly Thou hast dealt with me.

Psalm 142 is a prayer of desolation and loneliness. It is easy to think of this psalm as inspired by the many “cave” experiences in the life of David. Scripture contains no end of other stories in which this would have been an appropriate psalm to pray. One thinks of Jacob fleeing from Esau. Or the mind may jump forward to his son, Joseph, sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused and thrown into prison, with no friend in this world. The sentiments of this psalm fit well what we know of the prophetic career of Elijah, living in secrecy in the desert, then making the long trek down to Sinai, pursued by the forces of Jezebel, to meet the Lord at the mouth of the ancient cave. Surely this psalm graced the lips of Jeremiah, cast into the well, and drawn out of it only to be imprisoned until the fall of Jerusalem. No effort is needed to hear this prayer welling up from the throat of Job, as he sat on his dung heap, bereft of every earthly consolation. And if this psalm is a fitting supplication for those in prison, then John the Baptist is to be counted among those who may have prayed it. Likewise the Apostles Peter, Paul, and John. But most of all, and adding superabundant dignity to the rest, there is Christ our Lord, the Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, abandoned by His closest friends, betrayed by one of them and denied in public by another, but finding His sole refuge in the Father. (Reardon, p.283-284)

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