Psalms 143:1-7 Hear My Plea
Psalms 143:1-7 NLTse Hear my prayer, O LORD; listen to my plea! Answer me because you are faithful and righteous. (2) Don’t put your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before you. (3) My enemy has chased me. He has knocked me to the ground and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave. (4) I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. (5) I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. (6) I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. (7) Come quickly, LORD, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die.
As I think about this last prophecy I am going to write about in this book, I can’t help but wonder if the main theme of this book is coming through. It would be wrong to claim this book or any other contains all the answers. The Infinite God we serve will never run out of details to share with us. That’s why the main theme of this book, sharing the little I know about studying God’s Word has to come through. That reflects David’s theme in this prayer when he prays and pleads with God.
This was one of the most difficult prophecies to find a parallel chapter for. Which word would you use to search? Chased, knocked, and forces seemed to be the obvious choice, but didn’t come up with any results. The next choice was hear, listen, and answer. Still no results. This led me to prayer and plea which offered a number of choices. The result also follows the theme we’ve been following as the series of prophecies David recorded lead into prophecies about Jesus’ disciples. The parallel chapter to the prophecy in Psalm 143 is another story of God saving a disciple in need.
Acts 12:1-6 NLTse About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. (2) He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. (3) When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) (4) Then he imprisoned him, placing him under the guard of four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring Peter out for public trial after the Passover. (5) But while Peter was in prison, the church prayed very earnestly for him. (6) The night before Peter was to be placed on trial, he was asleep, fastened with two chains between two soldiers. Others stood guard at the prison gate.
The months and years after Jesus’ resurrection was not a good time for His disciples. Priests persecuted them. Herod joined in the persecution and later Rome developed the own form of persecution. Of course Rome had to out do the others. It wasn’t safe to walk down the streets and less safe to meet in homes. Meeting in public was out of the question. How was the Good News going to spread under such conditions? Its a shame people ignore the trials and sacrifices Jesus’ early disciples had to endure which should be examined today for the lessons that still apply. For one thing, most of us have it easy compared to the original disciples. We also see one of the effects of preaching the right message. People are pleased to see us imprisoned and killed.
These two chapters are linked by the single word pray. Once we compare the two chapters we see how chased, knocked, and forces are related to persecute, killed, arrested, imprisoned, prison, and fastened. We can see which future enemy David was referring in his prophecy.
There is a questionable translation in Psalm 143 verse 2. Don’t put your servant on trial, for no one is innocent before you. The words, “before you,” were added in this translation. If you take time to look at the original Hebrew, you’ll see how some of the words can be translated in a variety of ways. Comparing this verse to Acts 12, a better translation may read: Don’t let your servant see a verdict, for no one is innocent. This would explain how Peter felt at the time. We can see what’s going through his mind at the time. Peter and the other disciples know Herod had James executed and the people supported Herod’s evil methods. Peter was a step away from death. We can hear Peter’s prayer from the prison cell. My enemy has chased me. He has knocked me to the ground and forces me to live in darkness like those in the grave. I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. We also see what gave Peter hope in that prison cell. I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Peter went over the prophecies Jesus taught the disciples while he laid there chained to two guards. Do you think Peter preached to those guards? Do you think the guards gave their lives to Jesus before Herod had them executed?
So we’ve learned another Bible Study method. How to look at a questionable verse. You need to look at the original Hebrew to see the lesson. The Bible Study method shows how proper translations can be derived by comparing the prophecy to the fulfillment. How many more of those verses do you think the Bible contains? Only one or two may be enough to change the way we look at the unfolding history of this world.
That may be what churches fear the most. There are some churches that don’t openly claim, but base their future on being infallible. If one of their members was to find something in the Bible questioning any of their doctrines or sacred interpretations to prophecy and they found it hard to defend their views, what do you think will happen? That member would find themselves in the same position Peter did — condemned without a trial. That’s why it’s important to follow the Bible Study rules revealed in God’s Word, stick to them and let God’s Spirit build up the evidence He wants to give you and when.
When Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples He didn’t stop at the physical evidence He presented to them. He spent forty days training them by teaching them all the scriptures about Himself. Think of those forty days and about Pentecost which means fifty days after offering the first fruit. Pentecost refers to the harvest in the Old Testament. See Leviticus chapter 23. Seven Sabbaths were counted off from the first fruits which represented the disciples who learned from Jesus. On the fiftieth day Israel began the celebration of of the harvest. This pointed to the people the disciples reached in those days. Put yourself in Peter’s shoes. What do you think the seven Sabbaths or seven times seven reminded him of?
When Peter laid down in that cell and began remembering the days of old and all the great works He saw Jesus do, did Peter remember what Jesus said about forgiving people? “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matthew 18:21-22 NLTse).
While Peter laid on the cold stones trying to get comfortable, his mind wandered back over his life. Peter knew he was a condemned man. All hope was lost. Now all he could do is think back over his life and repent for his sins while there was still time. Peter remembered the three times he denied Jesus and how Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. Peter thought of all the times he competed with James and John for leadership of the small group. Peter thought of how he told Jesus he would follow him no matter what. Even if it meant his life. Now Peter faced the answer. Now it was going to cost Peter his life.
If Pilate and the priests guarded Jesus’ tomb with eight or ten soldiers, you can bet Herod placed twenty or thirty guards in charge of guarding Peter. Herod spent his life in competition with Pilate and the priests. He mistrusted them and looked for every opportunity to out do them. Everything looked bleak for Peter as he laid in his cell in the dim light of a distant torch. Peter thought about the doubts he had when he heard Jesus rose from the tomb and how he didn’t listen to Jesus when He tried to explain what was about to happen to Him. Peter let out a long sigh then took a deep breath. Was this how it was all going to end? Sitting in a dark, cold cell smelling of rotten hay and urine. Peter thought this was worse than a grave.
Acts 12:7-16 NLTse Suddenly, there was a bright light in the cell, and an angel of the Lord stood before Peter. The angel struck him on the side to awaken him and said, “Quick! Get up!” And the chains fell off his wrists. (8) Then the angel told him, “Get dressed and put on your sandals.” And he did. “Now put on your coat and follow me,” the angel ordered. (9) So Peter left the cell, following the angel. But all the time he thought it was a vision. He didn’t realize it was actually happening. (10) They passed the first and second guard posts and came to the iron gate leading to the city, and this opened for them all by itself. So they passed through and started walking down the street, and then the angel suddenly left him. (11) Peter finally came to his senses. “It’s really true!” he said. “The Lord has sent his angel and saved me from Herod and from what the Jewish leaders had planned to do to me!” (12) When he realized this, he went to the home of Mary, the mother of John Mark, where many were gathered for prayer. (13) He knocked at the door in the gate, and a servant girl named Rhoda came to open it. (14) When she recognized Peter’s voice, she was so overjoyed that, instead of opening the door, she ran back inside and told everyone, “Peter is standing at the door!” (15) “You’re out of your mind!” they said. When she insisted, they decided, “It must be his angel.” (16) Meanwhile, Peter continued knocking. When they finally opened the door and saw him, they were amazed.
Luke really wanted to emphasize the word angel in this part of the story. We really can’t be sure what part angels play in God’s plan of salvation. Scripture tells us about angels delivering messages and saving entire cities. In this case the angel God sent broke the chains holding Peter, opened doors and barred gates. It seemed to Peter like he was in a dream. Once out of the cell Peter looked around to discover he’d never been in that place before. He had no way of knowing the way out. With guards posted all around him, Peter wasn’t sure he should get his hopes up or not. In his sleepy state fear gripped Peter’s heart. He felt the weight of uncertainly and fear mixed with the grief he fell asleep with. All of this confused Peter, making him feel like all of this was a dream until he reached the relative safety of the street where Peter felt over joyed. He was free!
Rhonda didn’t close the door and leave Peter standing outside for no reason at all. Standing on the street taught Peter other lessons. Once again Peter felt alone and vulnerable. This gave Peter time to think. He didn’t like the feeling of being alone in the dark. Once the door opened and his friends greeted him, told Peter how they’ve been praying for him, and took him inside the house to share food and light, Peter saw how important it is to reply on not only God, His angels, but also the people he shared struggles with.
Everyday we see and feel the effects of friends, family, business associates, and people we meet. Some times they effect us for good. Other times they place trials on us without being aware of what their doing. The fact of the matter is, Peter’s friends prayed for him and the effect was good beyond imagination. People may be trying to help us without praying. Often the effects are much like those seen when Sara tried helping Abraham and Rachel tried helping Jacob. It took a long time to see the effects, but we are still living with them today. Were those women helping their husbands or trying to help themselves? The problem they shared was, they didn’t pray before acting.
How often people act without praying and seldom do they see the effects until its too late. Some times they fail to see the effects or make excuses to keep from accepting responsibility. Too often we forget to pray. Too little do we consider the true effects of prayer and too soon do we forget the miracles God performed at our request. When miracles do occur, we never give enough praise and glory to God. It seems the least we can do is cling to God’s Word and listen to Him for the messages He has for us. And of course this study would not be complete without examining the summations.
Psalms 143:8-12 NLTse Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you. (9) Rescue me from my enemies, LORD; I run to you to hide me. (10) Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. (11) For the glory of your name, O LORD, preserve my life. Because of your faithfulness, bring me out of this distress. (12) In your unfailing love, silence all my enemies and destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.
Acts 12:18-25 NLTse At dawn there was a great commotion among the soldiers about what had happened to Peter. (19) Herod Agrippa ordered a thorough search for him. When he couldn’t be found, Herod interrogated the guards and sentenced them to death. Afterward Herod left Judea to stay in Caesarea for a while. (20) Now Herod was very angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon. So they sent a delegation to make peace with him because their cities were dependent upon Herod’s country for food. The delegates won the support of Blastus, Herod’s personal assistant, (21) and an appointment with Herod was granted. When the day arrived, Herod put on his royal robes, sat on his throne, and made a speech to them. (22) The people gave him a great ovation, shouting, “It’s the voice of a god, not of a man!” (23) Instantly, an angel of the Lord struck Herod with a sickness, because he accepted the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. So he was consumed with worms and died. (24) Meanwhile, the word of God continued to spread, and there were many new believers. (25) When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission to Jerusalem, they returned, taking John Mark with them.
The summation to Psalm 143 appears to be a continuation of Acts 12:7-16. It may have been close to Peter’s prayer when he ate dinner with the other disciples the night God’s angel delivered him from Herod’s prison and sure death. The last few lines lead us right into the summation in Acts 12. The introduction to Psalm 143 began with a plead for God to listen to prayer. Acts 12 began with a description on the persecution the disciples faced at the hands of Herod and Peter’s arrest. One of the rules of Bible Study tells us the introduction and summation cover the same theme. In this case we see the beginning and end of a story showing how God saw the affliction His people were suffering and acted to save them. God sent an angel to free Peter. Then God dwelt with Herod. When we consider the entire chapter we see Herod was struck with sickness for more than accepting the people’s worship instead of giving the glory to God. This shows the mistake people make when separating a few particular verses to make a point. By restricting or holding back information, teachers take the glory from God as sure as Herod did. God’s glory is expanded through His Word. In Acts chapter 2 we’ve seen how important it is to deliver the message God provides without adding to it or subtracting from it. We’ve also see what is revealed in God’s Word when the right chapters are compared. The question is, how do we use this power? There are a million answers to that question. Not everyone will receive the same message to deliver. Some messages will concentrate more on some points while other points will be emphasized in other messages. Herod’s death is not a major consideration here because the message is tailored to a broad audience where each individual must consider the trials they faced, the personal prisons they need delivery from, the personal way God delivers them, and the people around them who they share the experience and joy. Part of that individual experience is how they give glory to God which we see taught in the contrast presented in Acts 12. Peter and his friends prayed. God answered their prayer and they glorified God. In Herod’s distorted view, he was serving God. We also see the same attitude with the priests. One of the warning signs we can’t ignore is the competitive nature they shared. God’s never competes. Jesus never competed with anyone in His ministry. The competitive nature comes from the enemy and he knows how to introduce it without people being aware of what they’re actually doing, what the out come will be, or who is leading them. Herod didn’t pray. He let his pride and competitive nature lead him. In the end Herod paid for the crimes he committed.