In the midst of his persecutions, David penned Psalm 143, a very personal, penitential psalm. In verse 10, he prays, “Teach me to do thy will.”
In this context, this means, first, “teach me to do thy will” in a very difficult situation. David is being persecuted by his enemies (9), probably Saul and his men or Absalom with his forces. He is but a footstep from death, “For the enemy hath persecuted my soul; he hath smitten my life down to the ground” (3). It is hard to do God’s will in dangerous, stressful circumstances, as we know. How much more so with David, who was assailed much more violently than we are!
Second, David’s prayer means “teach me to do thy will” even when I am very low and afflicted. David speaks of dwelling in darkness like those who have been “long dead” (3). Have you ever felt like that? He is “overwhelmed,” broken, crushed, “desolate,” without comfort or cheer (4). He feels spiritually dry (6), and his spirit fails (7): “I can’t hold out any longer! I am tempted to give up and die!” Thus he cries, “Hear me speedily” (7). “It has been so long since I sensed God’s covenant mercies!” “Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning” (8). It is so difficult to obey the Lord when we are distressed and down, overwhelmed and desolate; when we are covered in darkness, close to death and feeling far from God. So David prayed, “Teach me to do thy will” (10).
Third, his petition means “teach me to do thy will” even when I am plagued with the sense of my guilt: “And enter not into judgment with thy servant: for in thy sight shall no man living be justified” (2). David knows his depravity, yet he did not give up!
Notice how practical this prayer is. “Teach me to do thy will” here is not a matter of abstruse theological learning but of deeply practical obedience. David feels the need of a renewed, empowered will so that he can keep God’s precepts, despite the distress of his persecution, despite feeling down and dry and dead, despite the oppressive awareness of his terrible sinfulness. “Teach me to do thy will!” is his cry.
The word for “will” here is significant (10). It includes the idea of pleasure, delight, approbation. “Teach me to do Thy will so that in keeping Thy commandments I may please Thee and be aware of Thy approval.” Isn’t this beautiful? David is persecuted and distressed, feeling desolate, afflicted with his guilt and almost unable to hold out any longer. And what does he ask? “Teach me to do Thy will and please Thee!” Truly, he is the man after God’s own heart (I Sam. 13:14)! What an example to us!
David bolsters his prayer with an argument: “for thou art my God” (Ps. 143:10). Here he is appealing to the covenant: “I am Thy friend-servant and Thou art my gracious Lord.” In effect, David is saying, “It is truly Thy promise, O Lord, that Thou wilt teach me, strengthen me to do Thy will and enable me to honour and serve Thee, for I am Thy covenant child.” Surely, God answers such prayers! This is how we should pray, especially in all our distresses!
Thus, we return to the Holy Spirit: “Teach me to do thy will ... thy spirit is good.” We must not think that this reference to the Holy Spirit is unrelated to the preceding. Oh no! David knew from experience his need of the Spirit to inspire him to write Scripture (II Sam. 23:1-2) and especially to bring comfort and joy (Ps. 51:12). “I need God’s Spirit!”—this is David’s cry—“for He is good, being full all ethical and moral perfections: mercy, love, righteousness, truth and faithfulness.”
David especially mentions the Spirit because He is the Person of the Holy Trinity whose office it is to touch and heal us in the inmost recesses of our hearts. The same Hebrew word used for God’s Spirit (Ps. 143:10) is used for David’s “spirit” (4, 7), which is closely related to his “soul” (6, 8, 11, 12) and “heart” (4). God’s good Spirit administers divine blessedness, comfort and strength to David’s persecuted soul (3), overwhelmed spirit (4), desolate heart (4) and thirsty, troubled and afflicted soul (6, 11, 12). This is what we need, beloved: God’s Holy Spirit touching and comforting our spirit, soul and heart, by bringing us Jesus Christ and Him crucified through the gospel and so assuring us of the forgiveness of sins, righteousness and God’s fatherly care! As New Testament believers, we know God’s good Spirit of Psalm 143:10 as the Spirit of Christ, the other Comforter whom He pours out on His church.
David’s prayer continues, “Lead me into the land of uprightness” (10). The connection with the other parts of Psalm 143:10 ought clearly to be understood: Jehovah is our covenant God who teaches us to do His will by His good Spirit within us so that He leads us into the land of uprightness. The land of uprightness here is the earthly Canaan as it typifies the heavenly Canaan, the new heavens and the new earth, the glorified cosmos (Rom. 4:13; Heb. 11:9-16). The persecution spoken of in Psalm 143 is probably one of those which drove David out of the promised land physically and rendered him unable to attend Israel’s holy assemblies in the central place of worship.
God leads the believer more and more consciously into the land of uprightness as, by His grace, He enables us to walk uprightly and do His will. The divine leading of our text is not by mystical intuitions but by His guiding us according to Scripture so that we keep His precepts. Only the Holy Spirit can do this, by renewing our wills to obey God’s Word. Thus the believer is enabled to honour his heavenly Father by keeping the ten commandments out of gratitude and so loving the brethren and serving Christ’s church and kingdom—all by the power of God’s good Spirit!
- Volume: 14
- Issue: 1
Rev. Angust Stewart (Wife: Mary)
Ordained - 2001
Pastorates: Covenant Protestant Reformed Church of Ballymena, Northern Ireland - 2001Website: www.cprf.co.uk/
Address7 Lislunnan Road
State or ProvinceCo.Antrim
Zip CodeBT42 3NR
Telephone(01144) 28 25 891851