The Righteous One’s Cry When Forsaken & Overwhelmed

a brief study of Psalm 142, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 30 March 2012

Psalm 142 is another Psalm of David which he penned while being persecuted by Saul. The superscription informs us that David was hiding in a cave at this time. There were two occasions recorded in inspired records when David had to hide in a cave. The first was when he had to hide in the Cave of Adullam after he escaped from Achish, king of Gath (1 Sam 22:1). The second occasion was when he had to hide in the caves at Engedi (1 Sam 23:1-3) with Saul hard at his heels with 3000 men searching for him.

We do not know exactly which of the two occasions, it was. What we do know is that at the moment when he wrote the Psalm, David was feeling extremely lonely and overwhelmed in his soul.

And quite amazingly, the situation that he was in actually reflected the situation that the Lord Jesus, the Greater David, was in. This is such that the experience of David undoubtably foreshadowed the experience of Christ. Or to put it in another way, David wrote in the Spirit of Christ a song about the suffering of Christ, which we may sing in union with Him.

We may entitle this Psalm, “The Righteous One’s Cry when Forsaken and Overwhelmed.” It has essentially three parts, which corresponds to his reflection (vv. 1-2); his lamentation (vv. 3-4) and his petition (vv. 5-7).

1. His Reflection (vv. 1-2)

An interesting feature of the inspired Psalms is that they are not always addressed to God unlike uninspired songs and hymns. Very often, portions of the Psalm are actually addressed to fellow believers so that we may teach and admonish one another though singing as Paul requires of us in Colossians 3:16.

This appears to be the case in the first two verses of this Psalm. Notice how verses 3-4 addresses God directly, whereas verses 1-2 refers to God in the third person:

1  I cried unto the LORD with my voice; with my voice unto the LORD did I make my supplication.  2 I poured out my complaint before Him; I shewed before Him my trouble.

When David first sung this Psalm, he might have been addressing those who were gathered with him. He is reflecting upon how in the hour of perplexity he had cried unto the LORD, and poured out his heart to Him.

Today when we sing these words in congregational worship, we are taking the words of Christ on our lips, so that we may hear Christ speaking to us about His suffering on our behalf. Our Lord did not remain completely silent in His hour of suffering. He did not complain to man, indeed, but He did pour out His complaint before the LORD with His voice. The Apostle to the Hebrews reflecting on this truth reminds us of how our Lord “offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto the Father” (Heb 5:7).

It is never wrong to cry unto the Father; and indeed it is helpful when undergoing painful emotional struggled to verbalise our prayer: To cry unto the Father with our voice.

What did David and the Greater David verbalise, in essence? Consider…

2. His Lamentation (vv. 3-4)

3 When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. 4 I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

When we are overwhelmed in our heart, and no one seems to understand or can help us, we can take comfort that our heavenly Father understands and cares. David was assured of this privilege and experienced the LORD’s care.

Our Lord experienced what David experienced! The unbelieving Jews were constantly trying to lay snares to trap Him. We can imagine the stresses that He must be experiencing because of that. He must constantly be on His guard. And none of His disciples were able to help Him out when the Pharisees and the Scribes set traps for Him. In fact, in His hour of greatest need, they literally abandoned Him. There was no one to support him on His right hand. In fact, His right-hand man denied Him three times! Refuge failed for He had nowhere to hide. And no one seems to care for His life (v. 4).

Oh how our hearts ought to tremble and be filled with shame and gratitude as we consider what our Saviour went through for our sakes. Oh how we must remember Him when we have occasions also to feel overwhelmed and lonely in our Christian walk. Let us at such times, seek to imitate our Lord in His petitions…

3. His Petition (vv. 5-7)

5 I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.

We may lose our confidence in men, but let us never lose our confidence in God. Let us affirm with David and with the Greater David that the LORD our Father is our Refuge and our Portion. He is our Refuge in that we can always go to Him by faith, and hide in Him and be safe from all the storms of life. He is our Portion, for if we have the LORD, nothing else really matters.

But as He is pleased as our heavenly Father, to hear our cries, so let us imitate David and our Lord to cry unto Him. Verse 6—

 6 Attend unto my cry; for I am brought very low: deliver me from my persecutors; for they are stronger than I. 7 Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Thy name: the righteous shall compass me about; for Thou shalt deal bountifully with me.

Like David, our Lord was being persecuted. Like David, our Lord would have felt that He was at the mercy of His persecutors: “they are stronger than I.”

Again, like David, our Lord would have felt imprisoned or entrapped in the desperate situation that He was in. In fact, our Lord would have been actually imprisoned by the grave, for He was bounded, buffeted and crucified by His persecutors. And not only so, but He was buried for three days.

David petitioned the LORD to free him from the stifling situation that he was in. He envisaged that many righteous people would gather around him after the LORD has dealt bountifully with him. Christ the Greater David was even more certain than David, for He came for His elect. He died for their sin. He rose again for our justification. And indeed, the righteous, i.e. those imputed with the righteousness of Christ would gather around Him for all eternity. These have been given unto Him, these will enjoy His fellowship for all eternity.


This is Psalm 142. May the Lord grant us that we may appreciate what our Lord went through as we sing the Psalm with Him. And may we also find the courage He found in the Father when we have to undergo the same experiences of loneliness and insecurity. Amen. W