Psalm 142 – On the Brink of Despair in a Cave Somewhere

Psalm 142 Bible with Endangered Species 88 Percent Cocoa Dark Chocolate

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Today’s PassagePsalm 142

I can’t read this psalm without thinking of Sara Groves’ song “Cave of Adullam.” As soon as I read the epigraph “A Maskil of David, when he was in the cave,” the melody starts playing, and then I read the line “No one cares for my soul” (4) and Sara Groves is singing it in my head. David wrote the psalm about a particular point during the time he spent fleeing from Saul, when he took refuge in a cave. I feel like I should note that the cave in question wasn’t necessarily the cave of Adullam (1 Samuel 22:1-2); David hid out in a lot of caves while he was on the run. Sara Groves’ “Cave of Adullam” is an imaginative interpretation of David’s experience. Nonetheless, I will mention music I love at the drop of a hat because it makes for decent intros, and “Cave of Adullam” is good music.

But it’s good to put yourself in David’s head here, and his lyrics give you plenty of opportunity to do that. David is verging on despair, sitting on the edge of his Critical Disorientation Threshold. He describes his spirit as “overwhelmed” (3, literally “my spirit fainted within me”), and he says, “There is no one who regards me; there is no escape for me” (4). A more literal translation would be “Escape has perished from me.” David is telling us and God, “My chances of escape are pretty much dead.” His enemies are too strong for him (6). So he turns to God.

Sara Groves pictures David begging God, “Speak to me, speak to me in my cave of Adullam,” but in Psalm 142, David’s overwhelming desire is for God to hear him. “Give heed to my cry, for I am brought very low” (6), he prays. And he’s confident that God will hear him: the opening two verses are essentially David stating that he’s stating his needs to God. Take a look at what he tells us: “I cry aloud with my voice to the LordI make supplication with my voice to the LordI pour out my complaint before Him; I declare my trouble before Him” (1-2). David knows that he can take his distress to God, that God knows him and cares about him.

Interestingly, the psalm doesn’t explicitly see David escaping the cave. As far as we know, at the end of it, he’s still down there. But he’s coming out of his despair. He tells God, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (5). God is his fortress, his lifeline. And he concludes the psalm: “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” (7). I may be reading into his statement a bit, but I think he’s confident that however this cave situation turns out, David will end up surrounded by God’s goodness and the community of his righteous people.

Even if he dies in the cave, he believes that God will be faithful to him.


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