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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms

Psalms 143

Verses 1-12

Psalms 143:1-12.

V. 1. ’ There are... passages which ’ will incline us to. ..apply this psalm to David’s flight ’ from Absalom : for then he had most reason to fear, lest God should deal with him according to his sins ; which ’ he deprecates (v. 2.) with such a deep sense of his un’ worthiness, that it hath made this to be numbered among ’ the penitential psalms, and is the last of them.’ Bp. Patrick. David had the " faithfulness " of God to depend on, according to the promises made to him by name, and to Solomon and his posterity by him, notwithstanding his personal unworthiness : and his cause was righteous, when called on to withstand Absalom’s most wicked and unnatural rebellion.

(Notes, Psalms 7:8-11; Psalms 71:2; Psalms 89:1-4; Psalms 89:19-37 - 2 Samuel 7:12-16. 1 John 1:8-10.)

V. 2. The psalmist, having appealed to the justice of God, to decide between him and his enemies, as well as to his " faithfulness " to his promises, called to mind, that neither he, nor any other man, could stand in judgment before God, according to the tenour of his righteous law. ’ The thoughts of such a trial are enough to appall the soul ’ of the best man living, to make his flesh tremble, and all ’ his bones shake, as if he stood at the foot of Sinai, and ’ beheld JEHOVAH ready to break forth upon him, in the ’ flame of devouring fire.’ Bp. Home. ’ If thou shouldst

’ proceed according to the vigour of the law, the best man ’ living (much less so great a sinner as I,) will not be ac’ quitted at thy tribunal.’ Bp. Patrick. The connexion of this verse with the preceding and the following verses, in which it is evident the Psalmist was referring the cause, between him and his adversaries, to the decision of the just Judge of the world, renders it peculiarly important in the argument concerning a sinner’s justification before God. (Notes, Psalms 130:3-4. Job 4:17-21. Romans 3:19-20. Galatians 3:10-22.)

V. 3. Absalom, Ahithophel, and their zealous adherents, pursued David with unrelenting malice : they drove him from his city and palace, and at once turned his singular prosperity into desolation, almost like death ; as a warrior at one stroke beats his enemy to the ground. Thus he was driven into obscure corners in disgrace and distress : and at the same time consciousness of guilt, and inward disconsolation and temptation, served to shut him up, as in a dark dungeon; while the triumphs of his enemies made his cause to be considered as lost : so that he seemed

to himself no more noticed by the Israelites in general, than if he had been dead and laid in the dark grave, with those who had died ages before.

(Notes, Psalms 7:3-5; Psalms 31:10-13; Psalms 88:5. 2 Samuel 15:13-30.)

V. 4. Notes,Psalms 77:3; Psalms 102:1-28: title, Psalms 142:1-3.

V. 5. The Psalmist may be supposed, in this extremity, to have revolved in his mind all the circumstances of his own eventful life, from the time when " the LORD delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear," and then from the sword of Goliath, and from the javelin of Saul, through all his subsequent persecutions, and every danger, till the time when he composed the psalm. But he also, no doubt, meditated on all the displays of the power, truth, and mercy of. God to his people, from the beginning of the world ; in order to encourage his drooping hope and revive his desponding soul. (Notes, Psalms 42:6-8; Psalms 77:5-20. Isaiah 51:1-3; Isaiah 51:9-11; Isaiah 58:7-14. Micah 6:3-5.) ’ " Remembering the days of old, and meditating ’ " on all the works " of love and mercy, which JEHOVAH ’ then wrought towards those who were sinners like our’ selves ; ... the reflection is obvious, Is he not still the same ’ gracious God ? Will he not do as much for us, upon our ’ repentance, as he hath formerly done for others upon ’ theirs ? " Let us arise and go to our Father." ’ Bp. Home.

V. 6. ’ Though 1 despair of human help, I make my ’ prayer unto thee, with a cheerful confidence, for thy relief, ’ which I long for, and expect with as eager desire, as the 1 parched ground gasps for the refreshing shower.’ Bp.

Patrick. " The joy of God’s salvation," however, seems to have been far more prominent in the Psalmist’s mind, than any outward deliverance, when he used this most striking similitude. ’ Prayer is the voice of faith. The ’ sinner, who views his situation, and believes, ...will soon ’ " stretch forth his hands " in supplication to heaven : ’ His soul will gasp and pant after that grace and mercy, ’ which descend from above, like the rain in its season, to ’ bestow refreshment, beauty, and fertility, on a parched and ’ " thirsty land." ’ Bp. Home.

(Notes, Psalms 42:1-3; Psalms 63:1-4; Psalms 84:1-2. Psalms 119:81-82; John 7:37-39.)

V. 7. Marg. Ref. Notes, 3. Psalms 13:1-4; Psalms 69:13. Isaiah 57:15-16. Go down, &c.] Note, Psalms 28:1.

V. 8. ’ Though this night be very sad ; yet let me hear ...better news the morning.’ Bp. Patrick. Perhaps this was written when David heard of Ahithophel’s counsel to slay him. (Notes, 3. 2 Samuel 17:1-22.) In this emergency he earnestly lifted up his soul to God, and prayed to be directed what methods to adopt for his safety ; or rather, how it behoved him to act in consistency with his duty. (Marg. Ref. q,r. Notes, 10. Psalms 5:7-8. Psalms 25:4-5.) Lift up, &c.] Marg. Ref. s. Note, Psalms 25:1.

V. 9. Marg. Notes, Psalms 142:4-5. Proverbs 18:10-11.

V. 10. ’ Whose guidance I beseech, as well as defence, ’ that I may do nothing, (no, not for my preservation,) but ’ what is perfectly agreeable to thy laws.’ Bp. Patrick. My God.] Notes, Psalms 31:14. 2 Chronicles 28:5. Thy Spirit is good.] ’ He intreateth the good Spirit of ’ God, to lead him out of the mazes of error, and the pollutions of vice, into the pleasant " land " of truth and ’ holiness.’ Bp. Home. When we consider the darkness and pollution of the sinner’s heart, and recollect how men " resist the Holy Spirit ; " and how even believers often quench his emotions, grieve him by their perverseness, and pollute his temple by their sins : and also reflect that he not only enters the soul as a Sanctifier to prepare us for future happiness, but as a Comforter, and as the firstfruits of that happiness ; and how he perseveres in his work of love and power, notwithstanding our folly and ingratitude ; we shall perceive a peculiar propriety in this epithet of " good," as applied to God the Spirit. His condescension,compassion, and kindness, can be equalled by nothing but the bleeding love of Emmanuel, and the mercy of God the Father in sending us such a Redeemer, and such a Sanctifier. The " goodness " of the Spirit formed a very encouraging plea to the broken hearted Psalmist, who, conscious of his unworthiness, could scarcely hope, that this divine Comforter, whom he had so shamefully grieved, would return any more to rejoice his drooping heart. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Psalms 51:11-13. Nehemiah 9:20.)

V. 11, 12. ’ The verbs in these two last verses, as Dr. ’ Hammond hath noted, should be rendered in the future ; ’ " Thou shalt quicken, &c." and then the psalm will end, ’ as usual, with an act of faith and assurance, that all those ’ mercies which have been asked shall be obtained.’ Bp. Home. (Marg. Ref. Notes, 1, 2. Psalms 54:5. Psalms 119:25. Psalms 136:10-22.) Thy servant. (12) ’ I am thy minister, and ’ though never so unworthy, am appointed by thee to ’ govern thy people ; in which office I will do thee all ’ faithful service.’ Bp. Patrick. (Note, Psalms 123:2.)


The believer has not only the " faithfulness," but the " righteousness " of God engaged in his behalf ; because he is " made the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus:" much more then may he be confident, that he has justice on his side in those causes which are pending, between him and his persecutors, before the supreme Judge. But he will not forget, that in himself, and in his best actions, he is a sinner; and that he cannot in any degree, be justified at God’s tribunal by his own obedience : and this consideration will keep him as a humble penitent, pleading guilty, crying for mercy, living by faith, and perceiving more and more preciousness in Christ and his salvation, to the end of his days. Nor need the trembling sinner, who has lately discovered that he cannot stand in judgment before God, be discouraged on that account : for the greatest of saints have confessed the same. But what must be the presumption and delusion of those, who despise free grace and " the gift of righteousness," and expect heaven as the wages of their scanty, formal services ! Nay, strange to say, some of them have even arrogantly thought of meriting for others also! The justified believer, having peace with God, must experience the enmity of the world, and the temptations of Satan. This enemy, at least, will never fail to persecute our souls ; and he often smites our life to the ground, by his seducing and discouraging suggestions. When he can prevail with us to commit sin, and the Lord is provoked to hide his face, he next insinuates that God will no more be gracious : and thus he causes us to indulge despondency and hard thoughts of God, and we dwell in darkness as if we were cast off to perish. But meditation and prayer will recover us from these distresses : while we " muse on the works of God," we shall be encouraged to hope in him ; and then the mourning soul strives to return to him, and thirsts for his consolations, as the parched ground for refreshing rain. And if the eminent peril of death renders men vehement in calling out for speedy relief; much more will the believer call upon God, to hear him speedily, when " his spirit faileth," and, through the hiding of his face, he seems " like them that go down " into the pit." But this night of distress and discouragement shall usher in a morning of consolation and praise. They who trust in the Lord, shall " hear of his loving kindness : " and he will " cause those to know the way " wherein they should walk, who lift up their souls unto " him." Let us then flee to the Lord, to hide us from every enemy ; intreating him to teach us to do his will, and to guide us by his " good Spirit," in the straight way of holiness, to the land of perfect righteousness and peace. And the more we are slandered and persecuted, the more fervently should we pray, that we may not only find peace and comfort ; but that " by well-doing we may put to " silence the ignorance of foolish men." Nor will the good Spirit of our God disdain to be the Guide, Sanctifier, and Comforter of those poor sinners, who seek these blessings in the Redeemer’s name. The Lord counts all those his enemies, who are enemies to his people ; and, in mercy to their souls, he will cut off all that afflict and injure them : but we should especially seek the destruction of our sins, our worst enemies, that we may be more devotedly God’s servants, and fill up our several stations in the family, the community, and the church of God, to the glory of his name ; and then his righteousness and mercy will concur in securing an answer to our prayers for complete and eternal deliverance.

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Bibliographical Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 143". Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. 1804.