King David was no stranger to strife. In Psalm 142 we find him empty, alone, and desperate. He is stuck in a cave, his resources have run out, his strength is failing. The parallels to how many of us feel – or have felt for the last 12 months – are striking.
Our normal strategies simply won’t work; our backs are against the wall.
Empty, Alone, Desperate
No doubt, many of us have found ourselves asking these 3 questions: Where can I turn when I have nothing left? Who can I call when I feel so alone? What can I do when I am this desperate? Our normal strategies simply won’t work; our backs are against the wall.
In this sermon, Godfrey Penduka walks through Psalm 142, exploring David’s approach to crisis, and how we can apply it to our lives today.
What Did David Do?
So what did David do? The simple answer is, he prayed. David prayed to God to help him.
God wants to hear our vulnerabilities. Our fragility does not scare him.
“David prays to the one who knew him before he was born (Psalm 142:3). The one who has seen all of David’s days, including this day. Meaning that he is praying to the one who is not surprised at all that David is in a dark cave with nothing.
You see, God so values what we feel, he wants the honesty of how we feel in that situation. When we feel particularly that there is no one – even though there might be someone, but at that point we feel alone – God wants to hear that. He wants to hear our vulnerabilities. Our fragility does not scare him.”
We Can Pray
“Our first strategy; when we are in trouble, when we have nothing, when we are alone, when we are desperate, is not to seek the solutions of human beings – and the wisdom of human beings. We are to pray.
And when we pray, we are not losers. We are summoning a greater power than we could ever have as human beings. We are summoning a greater wisdom than we could ever have as human beings. And this is from our Lord Jesus Christ and our Father in heaven.”
But How Do I Pray?
We have the privilege of coming to God and saying: I cry out aloud, I pray, I tell you about the challenges I am facing.
“Prayer is exactly this: words that we pray personally, and frankness of the words to the Lord Jesus, as we pray to him about the challenges that we face.
I know sometimes, we perhaps talk in a way that it seems as if we are referring to someone else, or perhaps in the third person. So sometimes, we even say: “Umuntu ufuna isinkwa.” Which is basically translated, “a person wants bread” – as if we’re not really talking about ourselves.
But with God, we have the privilege of coming to him and saying: I cry out aloud, I pray, I pour out, I tell you about the challenges I am facing.” Prayer is honest and personal (Psalm 142:1-2)
And How Do I Know God Will Answer?
It is not only David who prayed when he faced major challenges.
“What did Jesus do when he had nothing in his life? When he was alone in his life? When he was desperate? He prayed to God, who alone could save him. And Jesus was heard.
Yesterday is in God’s hands. Today is in God’s hands. Tomorrow is also in God’s hands.
This is the confidence we have, that when we come to God – the God who is the father of our Lord Jesus Christ – when we have nothing in our lives, God who knew our ways before we began, hears us. Then, when we are alone and lonely in our lives, God is our refuge. When we are desperate and we have nothing going for us, God will come through for us – no matter what.”
There is no point at all in my life – in my past, in my present today, and in my future – where I am forsaken by God. All of them are bound up together. My past, my present, my future; together in God’s hands.”
Text: Psalm 142
Date preached: 5 April 2020
Location: Christ Church Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa
Greetings to you all in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. To everybody, particularly those who belong to Christ Church Hillbrow. It is wonderful to be able to still speak to you and to be heard in your homes, even in the lockdown. I hope that you’ve been keeping well and you’ve been keeping safe.
Staying Connected During Lockdown
It’s been wonderfully encouraging to be able to call people and to hear that you are well. There are people that have volunteered to call others, some, we’ve asked them to call others. So a special thank you to those who’ve been calling people. And thank you for picking up the phones when someone from the Church has called you!
I am very confident when I say that all our people are well and it’s been wonderfully encouraging to hear that people are well, they are keeping strong, they are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ. And so, it’s also been wonderful to know that you’ve been listening to the sermons that we’ve been sending. The recordings. Please continue to listen to these recordings so that we may be built up during the lockdown – as we hear the Lord speaking to us, even during this time.
Well friends, our sermon today is coming from Psalm 142.
Normally we read from the NIV together. But today I am going to read from the New American Standard Bible. And the reason I am doing this, is because the way they’ve translated this Psalm, is closest to what the Hebrew says. In this way we will be able to understand the Psalm better.
So perhaps and this moment you’d like to pause the recording so that you may take your Bible and follow as I read from Psalm 142.
A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave. A Prayer.
“I cry aloud with my voice to the Lord;
I make supplication with my voice to the Lord.
2 I pour out my complaint before Him;
I declare my trouble before Him.
3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me,
You knew my path.
In the way where I walk
They have hidden a trap for me.
4 Look to the right and see;
For there is no one who regards me;
There is no escape for me;
No one cares for my soul.
5 I cried out to You, O Lord;
I said, “You are my refuge,
My portion in the land of the living.
6 “Give heed to my cry,
For I am brought very low;
Deliver me from my persecutors,
For they are too strong for me.
7 “Bring my soul out of prison,
So that I may give thanks to Your name;
The righteous will surround me,
For You will deal bountifully with me.”
This is the word of the Lord. Let us pray.
Father we thank you so much that even during this time we can hear you speak to us. Father thank you, that your voice, your word, is there – it’s what we need at this point most importantly. It is not only a lamp unto our feet, but it is the very compass with which we know how to navigate we world we do not know now.
So Father, speak to us we pray, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
A Classic Tale of Good vs. Evil
Well friends, the reason why I picked this Psalm, is because of a story that I’ve been reading to the children, to keep me busy during this time. It’s a story from a book called The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, (read online here) which is a classic story of good vs. evil.
The heroes of the story are four children: two boys, two girls. And they are fighting this evil witch in a land called Narnia. In this particular scene that inspired me, it is the story about the kidnapping of the four children’s friend, called Mr Tumnus, by the evil queen, Jadis.
Formulating A Good Strategy
And at this point the children are plotting, and planning, how they can to rescue their friend, Mr Tumnus, from the evil queen. And they are talking to Mr and Mrs Beaver – who are very wise and old.
And so, as one of the children is asking for a strategy – perhaps for how they can storm the palace of the evil queen, so that they can take their friend – Mr Beaver says to them, the best way to deal with the problem of getting their friend back from the evil queen, is through a Lion called Aslan – who is the Lion King of the Land of Narnia.
But The Advice Is A Bit Disappointing
Now, perhaps this disappoints the children, because they’ve been expecting, perhaps, a much more militant idea or strategy, of how they can rescue their friend. They’ve been perhaps thinking of how they can get horses, and how they can get ropes, and other things, to be able to rescue their friend.
But Mr Beaver says to them, the quickest way to save your friend Mr Tumnus, from the evil queen, is by talking to Aslan.
Where Can We Turn For Help Today?
And now this is very important to us. Because, perhaps in the current crisis we are in, at the point where we find ourselves, unable to come up with the strategies and the plans that on a normal day-to-day we would be able to… I know that when I am short of money, when I need something, I have my friends that I can call. I have people – perhaps brothers and sisters – that I know who can back me out.
We are desperate to save ourselves. And we want to know what resources are available to us.
But at this point in time, all of us are finding ourselves with our backs against the wall. And so the normal resources that we use to get ourselves out of trouble, are not available to us right now.
And it struck me that we are perhaps like the children. Who are desperate to save their friend, and we are desperate to save ourselves. And we want to know the kind of resources that are available to us at this time. So that we can be able to know what to do when we are desperate; when we have nothing. And when we feel alone – perhaps when we feel lonely and when we feel that we are in desperate situations.
Where Should God’s Children Turn?
What are we to do as God’s children?
And now from this Psalm that we see, we see that it is a Psalm of David from the heading. And it is a Psalm that David perhaps recorded when he was in the cave. We know this story from 1 Samuel 22: That David was in a cave in Adullam. And in this cave, David had been running away from King Saul who wants to kill him.
From David’s darkest moments in his life, we also learn what to do in our darkest moments.
He is alone, he is desperate, he has nothing. And he hides in this cave and records his deepest thoughts about his situation. And from David’s darkest moments in his life, we also learn what to do in our darkest moments: when we have nothing, when we are alone, and when we are desperate.
And so let’s look at this Psalm.
Three Situations David Is Facing
There are three situations that David is facing in his life at this point. He has nothing in his life, he is empty – he feels he has nothing. Secondly, he is alone. There is no one else with him. And then thirdly, he is desperate.
Empty, Alone, Desperate
And from how King David navigates his life at this point – when he has nothing, and he is alone, and he is desperate, we too can learn – as God’s people – in this dark moment of our lives, when we are unable to tap into the resources that we normally unable to.
What do we do when we have nothing? What do we do when we are alone? What do we do when we are desperate?
And we can learn from what King David did, in order to know what we ought to do, when we are alone, when we have nothing, and when we are desperate.
Now, let’s look at these three scenarios in turn.
1. What To Do When We Have Nothing
In Psalm 142:1-3 we see that David has nothing in his life. And we see what he does when he has nothing in his life. So, we know he has nothing because he says in Psalm 142:3 that: “When my spirit grows faint within me.” Which is an expression from David to say that there is emptiness in his life. He grows faint because there is nothing in his life.
He has absolutely reached the point where he has no resources within himself, to help himself out of the situation that he is in.
David In The Dark Cave
And so we want to learn, what does David do at this point when he has no resources – when he’s reached the end of wisdom. And when he’s reached the end of the supplies that he has with him, and he is in a dark cave, alone in his life.
Well we know what David does. Because, verse 1, we know that David prays. And between verses 1 and 2 we see four words that are perhaps aimed to show us just how prayerful David was – at the point in his life when he had nothing.
How Prayerful David Was
Verse 1, we are told that he cried out aloud to the Lord. Again in verse 1 we are told that he lifted up his voice to the Lord. In verse 2 we are told that he poured out his complaint to the Lord. And again in verse 2, we are told that he told the Lord of his troubles in his life. (Psalm 142:1-2)
What David is actually doing, is that he is crying out for mercy
And we know that in all this that he is praying, what David is actually doing, is that he is crying out for mercy, verse 1, from the Lord. From the one who is able to give him mercy at this point – when he has nothing in his life. This is the one to whom David cries out.
Why Does He Cry To The Lord?
Why the Lord? Why is it that when David has nothing in his life at this point, he cries out the the Lord?
Well, verse 3 tells us that actually, he cries out to the Lord because he is the one who knew him. And this is actually in the past tense, compare to what the NIV says, which is “knows him”. But the version I read says that: God knew David, in the past tense.
The Lord Knew David
And this actually points us to the fact that David prays to the one who knew him before he was born. The one who has seen all of David’s days, including this day. Meaning that he is praying to the one who is not surprised at all that David is in a dark cave with nothing.
David prays to the one who knew him before he was born. The one who has seen all of David’s days, including this day.
David is praying to the one who is not phased at all about the situation that David is in. He’s seen all this play out before him, before it even happened. And so he prays to God who knew his ways – who has plotted and guided him right up to the day that he is in the cave, and who is with him.
And so this is the God to whom he prays. This is the one that he cries out to, to help him during this time when he has nothing.
A Time of Desperation
Well friends, I know that quite a number of stories and quite a number of books have been written about the desperation of human beings, when we are put under pressure.
And I am reading, currently, a book about one such man called Eric Liddell who was a missionary in China at the beginning of World War II. And he finds himself in a concentration camp, where they’ve been arrested and they’ve been put in prison. And there are about 2000 of them in a small concentration camp. And everyone is desperate.
People that before this were honourable people, because now they want to preserve their lives, they begin stealing. They begin mistreating others. They begin to be mean and they begin to be cruel to others.
The Difference Trusting In the Lord Makes
But the man who records this story, tells that in the midst of all the chaos and all the arguments that were happening in this concentration camp, there was one angel. That prayerful man called Eric Liddell; who trusted the Lord with everything. And who shared his food with those who didn’t have.
There is still the ability of God’s people to pray to God for their needs
Stories are told of how he sold his personal belongings. Liddell was an Olympic champion, and he sold his medals, so that he could buy food and share with those that were with him.
Particularly memorable, is how his country negotiated for him to be released from this prison, and he opted that a pregnant woman would be released in his place instead. And a few weeks later he died in this camp, and was buried there.
You see desperation leads us, as people, to do things that we never thought we were able to do. Desperation leads us to do whatever we can to survive; whatever we can for our children to survive.
Living Out Who We Are In Christ
But what we learn from the story that I’ve just told us, is that there is still the ability of God’s people to pray to God for their needs, and to remain with the character that God’s people ought to have.
That we are able to preserve who we really are in Christ – even in the deepest challenges that we could face. That even in challenges and tragedy that we might face in our lives, we are able to still retain who we are in the Lord Jesus Christ.
A Lesson About Prayer
So we learn something about prayer here.
Prayer is exactly that: words that we pray personally, and frankness of the words to the Lord Jesus, about the challenges we face.
And about something that we should do when we have nothing. That prayer is vocal: it is words that we express – personal words – like we see David doing here when he says, “I cry out aloud, I tell the Lord my troubles, I pour out.”
Prayer Is Personal And Honest
Prayer is exactly that: words that we pray personally, and frankness of the words to the Lord Jesus, as we pray to him about the challenges that we face.
So this is the first thing that David does. And this is what we ought to do when we have nothing in our lives.
We have the privilege of coming to God and saying, “I cry out aloud, I pray, I tell you about the challenges I am facing.”
So that’s what we do when we have nothing. We trust God. We come and pray to him. We pour out ourselves and pray to him. Personal prayers that are very honest.
The Privilege of Crying Out To God
I know sometimes, we perhaps talk in a way that it seems as if we are referring to someone else, or perhaps in the third person. So sometimes we even say: “Umuntu ufuna isinkwa.” Which is basically translated, “a person wants bread” – as if it’s not talking about ourselves.
But with God, we have the privilege of coming to him and saying, “I cry out aloud, I pray, I pour out, I tell you about the challenges I am facing.”
And so when we have nothing, like David, we can pray to God who knew our days before they even began, That we are confident that he who knew them, know how we ought to go from this point onwards.
2. What To Do When We Feel Alone
But the second one… We now know what to do when we have nothing. What about when we feel alone?
No doubt that quite a lot of us are feeling alone. I’ve been thinking particularly about those who are single parents, who are single young adults, who are alone at this point; who do not have their families.
I Feel Alone Now, During Lockdown
I thought myself that perhaps I was going to enter this lockdown married – but it didn’t happen. And I find myself single still, and alone. Worried about my parents, and just worried about the fact that I am alone at this point.
What happens then? What do we do when we feel so lonely, and alone, and all the challenges are overwhelming us? What did David do when he felt alone?
Well, we know that he prayed. That’s what he did in Psalm 142:3-5. He actually told God exactly how he felt. In verse 3b he actually told God he feels ensnared by his enemies. That he feels that there is no one who is concerned about him.
He feels that he has no refuge, and there is no one who cares in verse 4.
How We Feel Is The Real Issue
Now obviously, we do know that in the story in 1 Samuel 22, that actually eventually his family goes to him, where he is in the cave, and many more people come to him to help him and to encourage him.
God wants to hear our vulnerabilities. Our fragility does not scare him.
And many times, actually, we feel at this point that there is no one who cares, there is no one who is concerned – even though it might not actually be factually true. Because there could be other people who are praying, unknown to us.
But God so values what we feel, he wants the honesty of how we feel in that situation. When we feel particularly that there is no one – even though there might be someone, but at that point we feel alone – God wants to hear that. He wants to hear our vulnerabilities. Our fragility does not scare him.
God Is Still Our Refuge
And we see that here. David does that. He comes and tells God exactly how he feels. And the reason why he does this, is because he know that God will hear him. And he actually affirms the truth about who God is. That even though he feels this way, he is crying out aloud (Psalm 142:5) to the Lord, because God is his refuge.
So we see there that he says, “God is my refuge, that is why I cry out.”
So, insofar as David is concerned in the cave that he is in, where he feels alone, with no on caring and no one concerned, is that there is only one person who is able to hear him. And that person is the one to whom he has taken refuge, and it is God.
He Can Take Hearing About How You Feel
I want to encourage you right now that if you are feeling alone, if you feel like no one cares – you feel like there’s no one who is perhaps encouraging and praying – that actually God is your refuge. That God is able to bear with you. God is able to hear and take all your honesty about how you feel.
It was very encouraging to me, just before the lockdown, I got a call from Dave West from Christ Church Blairgowrie. Offering me to come and stay at Christ Church Blairgowrie, where my friends stay. And another single man was there as well, Pastor Ben. And so we’d been together here at Christ Church Blairgowrie, being encouraged.
It was wonderful to have someone thing about the bachelors out there – who perhaps shouldn’t be on their own at this point.
I know, perhaps, that you are not fortunate to have been called by somebody to come and stay somewhere – where you can be safe, where you can be with some people who can encourage you.
But I want to point you to somebody who is much better than any other person. I want to point out to you somebody who’s care and compassion is more astounding than anyone else. It is God who is your refuge, no one else.
Prayer Overcomes Hopelessness
And so we know that when we feel at our loneliest, when we feel that we are alone – there’s nobody around us – that we know that God is our refuge. And he’s the one that we ought to pray to and tell him about our vulnerabilities.
Now, what we learn about prayer in these verses (Psalm 142:3-5), when we are alone, we know that prayer is how we overcome our hopelessness. Because we see here that David is able to encourage himself by the truth that God is his refuge. Particularly when he feels that there is nothing going well for him: there is no on rooting for him, there is no one supporting him.
But he encourages himself from his hopeless situation, with the truth that God is his refuge. And so prayer is how we overcome our hopelessness.
So, we’ve seen two things so far: when I have nothing I pray. And in my prayer, I am personal, and using words to God, and telling him as honestly as I can about my situation. But when I am alone, I also pray. And I know that prayer is how we overcome our hopelessness.
So we are learning from David.
3. What To Do When We Are Desperate
But thirdly, we also see what we ought to do when we are desperate. When we, perhaps, are in a corner where everything else is just overwhelming, and it’s too strong for us.
Be cause we see here that David finds himself, in verses 6-7, in a situation where the opposition around him (Psalm 142:6) is too strong for him. That he is in some sort of a prison (Psalm 142:7). And verse 6, he is in a desperate place, where he needs to be rescued.
Rescue Me! Set Me Free!
And we see, in verses 6 and 7, the strong words that he uses in his prayer.
In this desperate situation he is in, these are desperate pleas of a man who is locked down in a cave where he can’t come out. Verse 6 he says, “rescue me,” in his prayer. Verse 7 he says, “set me free,” in his prayer. Desperate pleas of a man in a desperate situation in his life.
At The End Of His Strength
He has reached the end of human wisdom. He has reached the end of his strength. David, the mighty warrior, who brought down Goliath the Giant. David the mighty warrior who, when he was shepherding the flocks of his father, when the bear and the lions came, he struck them down.
But here, he is in a cave, helpless, and he has no strength to be able to overcome the opposition that he is facing. What does he do? He prays to God to rescue him. He prays to God to set him free.
And we see here, that he is able to pray to God, because God is the only one who is able to help him in this desperate situation.
God Knows Us: Past, Present & Future
While in the first one when he had nothing, he says God knew me in the past, and while he was alone he says God is my refuge, in this particular one he is praying in desperation. Because he knows and trusts that God will vindicate him; God will rescue him in the future.
It might be that that night he spent in the cave with no one and no rescue, but he completely trusts God to be able to rescue him in the future.
And so we see here that he says in verse 7 at the end… in the NIV it doesn’t come out nicely, because in the NIV it says something like, “then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.” But the version I read says: “For You will deal bountifully with me.”
In other words, you will vindicate me in the end.
David Looks To God, Not Himself
So David, when he is desperate, he prays to God to help him.
He doesn’t summon inner strength within himself to be able to overcome his challenges. Because he knows he is now at a place where strength, human strength, is not helpful to him.
So he goes to the one who is able to come through for him – even in the toughest situations.
So when I have nothing, like David, I pray to God, who knew my way, before it even began. When I’m alone and there is no one around me to support me, or encourage me, I pray to God because I know he is my refuge. And when I am desperate, and I have nothing happening for me at that time, I pray to God – knowing that in the future, he will vindicate me.
Friends, this is what we have. Whatever I am facing in my life, when I have nothing, when I am alone, when I am desperate, I can pray it all to God – knowing that God is able to help me whatever the situation that I face.
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: All Are In God’s Hands
One thing that is worth noting about this Psalm, is that David uses the past, present, and future tense, to affirm the truth about God. That in the situation when he has nothing, the truth of the matter is that in the moment when he has nothing, the truth is, he knew his ways before they even happened.
In the time when he is alone, the truth is, God is his refuge. In the time when he is desperate, the truth is that God will vindicate him.
Sometimes, when we are particularly faced with a situation, it seems as if nothing is happening. But I can assure you that something has happened in the past, something is happening in the present, and something will happen in the future.
God is, God was, and he is, and he will.
He knew your ways before they even began. He is your refuge currently. He will vindicate you, and save you from all the troubles in your life.
I Am Never Forsaken By God
Yesterday is in God’s hands. Today is in God’s hands. Tomorrow is also in God’s hands.
Yesterday is in God’s hands. Today is in God’s hands. Tomorrow is also in God’s hands.
There is no point at all in my life – in my past, in my present today, and in my future – where I am forsaken by God. All of them are bound up together. My past, my present, my future; together in God’s hands.
And I am not forsaken, even for one moment at all.
How Do I Know God Will Hear & Answer?
How do I know this works? How do I know that at all times, what every I face in my life, I can pray to God and he will hear me, and he will answer me?
Well friends I can tell you about many stories in my own life, where I prayed to God and he came through. But I want to point you to perhaps a better example. David himself who wrote this Psalm.
The Example In David’s Life
We know in 1 Samuel 22 that when he prays this prayer, that God vindicates him. That God his refuge comes through for him, and he is deeply encouraged when God answers his prayers.
He prayed and he was saved by God when he prayed.
The Example In Jesus’s Life
But also, let me point you to David’s son, Jesus, our Lord and Saviour. Because we know that the experiences of David are the experiences of Jesus. We know in Hebrews 5 we are told that Jesus – in times when he was in challenges in his life – that he prayed.
Hebrews tells us that during the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death. And he was heard, because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7)
Confidence In The Lord
What did Jesus do when he had nothing in his life? When he was alone in his life? When he was desperate? He prayed to God, who alone could save him. And Jesus was heard.
This is the confidence we have, that when we come to God – the God who is the father of our Lord Jesus Christ- when we have nothing in our lives, God who knew our ways before we began, hears us. Then when we are alone and lonely in our lives, God is our refuge. When we are desperate and we have nothing going for us, God will come through for us – no matter what.
I am confident, brothers and sisters, about God’s ability and his willingness to hear our prayers, and to answer our prayers. Whatever it is we are facing.
Applying Psalm 142 To Our Lives
Apply this Psalm in your life. In the current situation that you are facing in your home in this lockdown. Confident that Jesus Christ was heard, and was rescued. And we too – through Jesus Christ – we can be heard in our prayers and be rescued.
That our first strategy; when we are in trouble, when we have nothing, when we are alone, when we are desperate, is not to seek the solutions of human beings – and the wisdom of human beings. We are to pray.
And when we pray we are not losers. We are summoning a greater power than we could ever have as human beings. We are summoning a greater wisdom than we could ever have as human beings. And this is from our Lord Jesus Christ and our father in heaven.
Be encouraged in the Lord Jesus Christ.