Sometimes the Psalms give insights even before they begin! Psalm 142 is one of those. Before we read verse 1 we read: ‘A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A prayer.’ The cave in question is the cave of Adullam and we read about David’s time in this cave in 1 Samuel 22 and the chapters nearby.
Things are at a pretty low point for David. I mean, they’d have to be for him to end up in a cave when a short time before he’d been in the house of the king.
– He arrived at the cave because he was fleeing for his life. King Saul had decided he was Public Enemy Number 1 and decided to try to kill him.
– King Saul’s son, Jonathan, was David’s best friend. Now they were now separated because of the hatred Saul had for David.
– David had become so desperate just before he arrived at the Cave of Adullam that he had fled to Israel’s enemies, the Philistines. Given the danger he then faced living among enemies he’d had to pretend he was mad. However, this caused trouble because the king of the Philistines didn’t want any more madmen and so he’d had to flee from there. (See 1 Samuel 21 for the full story.)
– A crowd then gathered to David at the cave. They consisted of ‘everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented’ (1 Samuel 22:2). Great!! That was exactly what he needed!
– Still to come for David in the near future were further threats on his life, a continued running from one place in the wilderness to another in order to avoid death, and the death of his mentor and wisest friend, Samuel.
Without friend, without home, without safety and with a bunch of outcasts and no-hopers in a remote cave. To say that things were bleak is an understatement.
And it is in this place, at this time, when he pens his prayer in Psalm 142. Why not read it again, slowly?
This psalm is a prayer. This is David pouring out his petitions to God. He cries aloud (v1a), makes supplication (v1b), pours out his complaint (v2a) and declares his trouble (v2b). He describes his overwhelming circumstances, his isolation and his enemies on the lookout to trap him (vv3,4). He realises he has no standing or status amongst his peers – ‘no one who regards me’ (v4) – despite previously being the warrior-hero of Israel.
And so he does the only thing he can do. He falls back onto God. He recognises that his enemies are too strong for him and pleads that he is delivered from them (v6). He declares the truth that God is his refuge and portion (v5) and asks that God will bring his soul out of prison (v7). Why? ‘So that I may give thanks to Your name’ (v7).
David’s frame of reference is not limited to the cave of Adullam. He rests on His Rock and Redeemer. His sight is fixed firmly on what God can do and on what He will do because ‘You will deal bountifully with me’ (v7).
Are you in cave? Has everything gone wrong that could go wrong? Are you helpless, friendless, and overwhelmed? The best thing you can do is pour out your complaint in prayer to the One who hears your every whisper and sees your every tear, and then declare that He is sufficient for you and see what God does.
What a prayer – and from the depths of a cave!