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.
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.
5 I cried unto thee, O Lord: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.
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.
Though I may be reduced to prison with no advocate on earth to help me, still I will hope that one day God will redeem me so I can sing His praises in the assembly of the saints.
There is no feeling as devastating as abandonment, especially when you are already facing harsh persecution and imprisonment. When the persecuted saint has been in the prison for so long that everybody, including his own wife and children, have forgotten about him, he will cry out these plaintive words to God. Here, the believer is brought very low, yet he still longs for the time when God will bring him out of the prison and enable him to lift up songs of praises once again in the assembly of the saints.
The first portion of this psalm contains four statements that more or less say the same thing. This repetition adds to the pitiful nature of the cry. It accentuates the desperation of David’s condition. “I cried out, I made a supplication, I poured out my complaint, I showed him my troubles.” This cry shows his helplessness and his urgent need for help. He also carefully delineates the specific problems he faces. Sometimes it is hard to put our troubles into words when we take our prayers to the Lord. There may be no easy way to summarize the various facets of the problem and the totality of the struggle. Nonetheless, we must do the best that we can. Although our heavenly Father knows what we need before we ask, it is still important that He hears from us. Calling on the name of the Lord and crying out to Him is how we are saved. It was after the birth of Enoch in the line of Seth that men began to “call on the Name of the Lord” (Gen. 4:26). It is no different in the New Testament era (Acts 2:21, Rom. 10:13). Those who do cry out to God and pour out their needs to Him are the ones who will be saved.
This second portion of the psalm describes the situation faced by the psalmist—not altogether unfamiliar to us. He is overwhelmed, perplexed, and somewhat paralyzed. His capacity to function physically, emotionally, and mentally has been seriously curtailed. Indeed, any Christian can be subjected to tremendous emotional and mental suffering. It is important that the believer realize that this suffering is not the totality of the renewed man within him. At the center of his being, there is still hope in God. This faith is more essential to his very being than the crushing emotional trauma that he is experiencing. David is content to know that God has ordained his path, every step along the way.
David has two problems. First, the bad guys are doing their utmost to destroy his reputation—or his life! They watch his every move, and critique him every opportunity they get. It’s worse than that, however, because now David is abandoned by all his friends as well. He says that no man cares for his soul. Towards the end of his life, the Apostle Paul stood trial before Nero, a terrifyingly powerful, evil man. Paul wrote to Timothy, “No man stood with me” (2 Tim. 4:16). When the going gets really tough for godly leaders, they will more than likely be abandoned by all. Nobody wants to risk their reputation to stand by a man who is reproached by the whole world, especially when he is shamed by the most powerful men in the world. The devil and all of his powers are arrayed against him. These conditions are not unusual. The devil is always going after Christian leaders; there is no escaping the devastating attacks from within the church or outside of the church. Under such horrifying circumstances, the godly man is left with only one thing to do. He has no support on earth that can help him. His only hope is found in God.
This short psalm comes across as both powerful and poignant. It is one piercing cry for help. There is no need for wordiness. These last three verses contain the substance of the cry. As all other supports disappear and as all comforts and reasons to live fade away, this is what he has left. He confesses to God, “You are my refuge and my portion in the land of the living.” He is not a depressed man. At this point, his confession smells of hope and satisfaction in God. Only God can save him now. So he lays out his predicament before the Lord in plain terms. The psalmist is oppressed, persecuted, and completely under the immediate control of forces stronger than he is. Since the 2000s, this describes something of the condition of almost every Christian leader in Western countries (as well as in many Eastern countries). There is very little political strength left anywhere in the world to defend Christians from persecution. It will only be by the supernatural work of God that Christians will be enabled to worship God freely in the years to come.
Freedom, for God’s man, is not to be used for indulging in opiates and excessive pleasures. What God’s man wants to do is to gather with the people of God on a daily basis and praise the Name of the true and living God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Nothing delights his soul more than to meet in the company of the saints of God and offer sacrifices of thanksgiving. Obviously, this is difficult to do when he is cast into solitary confinement for weeks or months at a time.
The psalm ends with a certain confidence that God will deal bountifully with the persecuted soul. One day, the abandoned soul will find himself surrounded by God’s people again. They will receive him, recognize God’s grace on his life, and warm gratitude and praise comes in the assembly of God’s people. What a great vision to cheer the soul of the man who is still in solitary confinement!
God will test each of us in different ways. When we wake up and realize that all of the supports we were used to relying upon are gone, how will we react? Some may give way to despair, but not us. It is in times like these that we turn to God in complete reliance and pray these sorts of prayers.
Do we always realize that God “knows our path?” When it appears that evil forces have gotten the best of us, are we still content in the realization that God “knows our path?” If He is attending to every sparrow that falls and if He has counted every hair on our head, then we can be sure that He is very familiar with the path we traverse (even when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death).
The believer is always looking forward to corporate worship, even when he is buried in the deepest dungeon and hasn’t seen the light of day for ten years. When sitting in prison camps, ungodly men will only anticipate their next cheeseburger or mug of beer. Believers will instead look forward to the fellowship and public worship of the body of Christ. This is one reason why imprisoned Christians usually find themselves conducting prison ministries. They labor in the prisons to form their own churches. That is freedom enough for the believer when he finds himself in these conditions.
1. What is the comfort David receives when his spirit is overwhelmed and his enemies are setting traps for him?
2. What is necessary for salvation according to Romans 10:13?
3. What are the two problems that David enumerates in this psalm?
4. How can it be said that David appears hopeful in this psalm?
5. Why does David want to be free from prison?
1. Have you ever felt overwhelmed, as the psalmist describes himself here in this psalm? What kept you from complete confusion and despair?
2. When you are severely oppressed, what are the comforting thoughts that give you hope? Does the worship of God play an important part in your life’s priorities?