by Pastor David Groendyk
The title of this psalm is similar to Psalm 57. Both bear in their inscriptions “in the cave.” Probably this points back to 1 Samuel 22 when David was on the run from Saul. Take a moment to read Psalm 57, then come back to read Psalm 142 and notice the similarities and differences in David’s two psalms both in terms of the language he uses and the tone.
Psalm 57 stands at the mouth of the cave and is much more confident and theologically exultant as David awaits his deliverance from Saul and commands his instruments to play a thankful tune. Psalm 142 is cowering in fear at the back of the cave. There is the tiniest bit of hope at the end, but otherwise it is all lament, grief, and complaint. Derek Kidner says that these two psalms together “give us some idea of the fluctuating state of David’s emotions in this ordeal,” and if even David fluctuated this greatly in his faith and emotions, then surely we can say that unwavering confidence will not be our experience in life 100% of the time. Not just David’s personal example, but even the fact that Psalm 142 exists in the Bible distinct from Psalm 57 is proof that God sees and knows our valleys, and he’s given us a means by which we can voice it to God and be rescued.
Consider verse 4 as well. David is communicating that he is alone. While hiding in a cave, he is certainly physically alone, but he’s also alone relationally in the sense that he feels like everyone has abandoned him and is his enemy. What an incredibly painful experience. However, this is the very point at which God does incredible things with his children and gives more grace, because God himself should be the only refuge of our souls and the ultimate care-giver whose eye never wavers from watching us. If we’re being honest, we find refuge in a lot of different places and people and earthly things. Sometimes God must strip all of those earthly refuges away and force us to go to him alone. In order to know that God is your perfect protector, only refuge, and the only one who is always with you, he might need to turn that hypothetical into a reality. It is hard, but if our faith comes out on the other end of it purer and stronger, then it is worth it, according to Scripture.
As despairing and alone as David sounds, we can’t forget that this entire psalm is a cry to God for deliverance, and since he is crying to God, it is a faith-full cry. The faith-full cry is not one that doesn’t complain or struggle; rather the faith-full cry is the one that is addressed to God. Even in the pit or the valley, the Lord promises to hear his children’s pleas.