Psalm 143—penned by David, as the heading says—is a persecution psalm. Three times it refers to David’s enemy (3) or enemies (9, 12). We are not told who they were: Saul and his men or David’s rebellious son Absalom and his forces? The persecution was severe and it was getting David down: “For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, as those that have been long dead. Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me; my heart within me is desolate” (3-4).
Psalm 143 is not only a persecution psalm; it is also a penitential psalm. There are traditionally reckoned to be seven penitential psalms, all dealing with repentance or confession of sin (Ps. 6; 32; 38; 51; 102; 130; 143). In Psalm 143, the last of the penitential psalms, verse 2 is key in this regard: “And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” David knows this about himself and his nature, life and ways: “There is no way I, in myself, could withstand God’s perfectly holy and righteous scrutiny!” Psalm 143:2 is true also of all fallen sons and daughters of Adam, including us, for “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight” (Rom. 3:20).
There is a connection between Psalm 143 as a persecution psalm and as a penitential psalm. David confesses his guilt (2), “for” the enemy is afflicting him (3). David recognizes that one reason for the enemies’ persecution of him is that God is chastening him for his sin. If David’s enemies see something wrong with him, how much more will not God? Therefore, he prays, “And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified” (2).
As a persecution psalm and a penitential psalm, it will come as no surprise that Psalm 143 is also a verypersonal psalm. Throughout this psalm, David speaks repeatedly of “I,” “me” and “my.” In Psalm 143, he does not refer to himself as part of a group (“we,” “us” or “our”). Seven times David speaks of his “soul” (3, 6, 8, 11, 12) or “spirit” (4, 7), with “soul” or “spirit” always being preceded by the pronoun “my.” “My life” (3), “my heart” (4) and “my hands” (6) are other phrases David uses.
In the midst of this persecution psalm, this penitential psalm, this very personal psalm, we read of God’s blessed Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity (10). There is something very instructive and comforting here for us in all our struggles and trials. There is something very precious for us to learn here about the Comforter whom the Lord Jesus sent to be with us and to be His abiding presence in us.
“Thy spirit is good,” Psalm 143:10 affirms. This does not refer to David’s spirit; he does not say “my” spirit is good. The Psalmist speaks of God’s Spirit, the Spirit who peculiarly belongs to God. God’s Spirit is divine and not a creature.
In stating that God’s Spirit is “good,” David declares that the Holy Spirit is good absolutely (cf. Matt. 19:17). Like the other two persons in the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the implication of all God’s glorious ethical perfections, for He is infinite and unchangeable in His truth, faithfulness, love, holiness, mercy and righteousness. “What dost thou believe concerning the Holy Ghost?” asks our Heidelberg Catechism. Its answer begins, “First, that he is true and co-eternal God with the Father and the Son ...” (Q. & A. 53). The Holy Spirit, states Belgic Confession 11, is “of one and the same essence, majesty, and glory with the Father and the Son.”
To the Holy Spirit are assigned various perfections and works in, or in connection with, the Psalms. In Psalm 139:7, David ascribes to the Spirit the divine attribute or perfection of omnipresence. Psalm 104:30 confesses the Spirit’s work regarding this created world, for the Spirit renews the vegetation and animals in providence through the seasons, just as it was the Spirit who perfected the creation in the beginning of the world (Gen. 1:2). The Holy Spirit inspired all of the Scriptures, including the Psalms, for David, “the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the Lord spake by me, and his word was in my tongue” (II Sam. 23:1-2). The Spirit also works our salvation, as David teaches in the greatest penitential psalm: “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit” (Ps. 51:12). The Spirit, given generously to the penitent saint, brings joy, the joy of God’s salvation.
What aspect of the blessed Spirit and His work is in view here in Psalm 143 and especially in verse 10? It is not His omnipresence (Ps. 139:7) or His providential work of renewing the vegetation and animals (Ps. 104:30) or His inspiring Scripture (II Sam. 23:1-2), though, our text is, of course, inspired. Like Psalm 51:12, Psalm 143:10 deals with our salvation, salvation as it is applied to the child of God in answer to his prayers and confession of sin. This ought not surprise us because Psalms 51 and 143 are both penitential psalms penned by David. The New Testament believer can understand and appropriate this since the Holy Spirit “is also given me, to make me by a true faith, partaker of Christ and all his benefits, that he may comfort me and abide with me for ever” (Heidelberg Catechism, A. 53). The Spirit comforts us, Psalm 143:10 declares, by His teaching and leading us. This we shall consider next time, DV.
- Volume: 13
- Issue: 24
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
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