Psalm 143 - ḥěʹ·sěḏ Love
You'll never stop stumbling as you follow God, but He'll never stop picking you up.
Read / Listen
Read Psalm 143
A psalm of David.
1 Lord, hear my prayer,
listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
come to my relief.
2 Do not bring your servant into judgment,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 The enemy pursues me,
he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
like those long dead.
4 So my spirit grows faint within me;
my heart within me is dismayed.
5 I remember the days of long ago;
I meditate on all your works
and consider what your hands have done.
6 I spread out my hands to you;
I thirst for you like a parched land.
7 Answer me quickly, Lord;
my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
for to you I entrust my life.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
lead me on level ground.
11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes,
for I am your servant.
Listen to passage & devotional:
Heidelberg Catechism Q&A 114
Q. But can those converted to God
obey these commandments perfectly?
A. No. In this life even the holiest
have only a small beginning
of this obedience.
with all seriousness of purpose,
they do begin to live
according to all, not only some,
of God’s commandments.
Although it's impossible to know for sure, it seems that David wrote Psalm 143 late in life. In the trial he faced while penning these words, he "remembers the days of long ago (v5)." David here demonstrates one of the best things you can do when facing difficulty: look back over your life, and look for the ways that God was at work. "Meditate on all God's works, and consider what His hands have done (v5)."
You would think that King David, whom God Himself described as being "a man after my own heart (1 Samuel 13:14)," would have 'arrived' at a certain point in life. Certainly he had trials and temptations in his youth and made his share of bad decisions, but it would make sense that this man, who'd by this point written so many psalms under the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit, should have been able to navigate around sin and rest in his righteousness.
But he couldn't.
Nobody, except, of course, Jesus, can. David realized that "no one living is righteous before God (v2)." After all those years walking in God's light, David's spirit still felt "faint (v4)" and was "failing (v7)."
No matter how diligently you try to live righteously - and tomorrow we'll notice that you should diligently try - you, like David, will never attain perfection here on earth. But whenever you see an adjective preceding the word 'love' in the Old Testament (unfailing, steadfast, loyal, lovingkindness, etc) like what we read in v12, it's likely translating the Hebrew word ḥěʹ·sěḏ, which describes God's continual covenant love.
So come to the same conclusion David did: that although you'll continue to stumble no matter how long you live, God's ḥěʹ·sěḏ - His covenant love - will always "preserve your life... bring you out of trouble... and silence your enemies (v12)."
Did you notice the shift we made today? For the past two and a half months, we've been unpacking the implications of the 10 commandments. Yesterday we took a brief look at what it means to covet, but now today, just like that, the catechism moves on.
It's not that coveting is a simplistic concept that's easily and quickly described. Quite the opposite, in fact. It's just that the catechism has nothing new to say about it at this point. As you look back over the commandments, you'll quickly notice that coveting - lusting after something you don't have - is the primary temptation each commandment was written to address.
So today, rejoice in the fact that God, in His perfect ḥěʹ·sěḏ, provides you the perfect righteousness you need to fulfill His commandments in His Son, our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ. But remember what the catechism says: no matter how many years you've been a Christian, you "have only a small beginning of this obedience."
You will certainly continue to trip up and even fall on your face. But when you do, know that God will "hear your prayer and listen to your cry for mercy (v1)."
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: Our Father, who shows us His ḥěʹ·sěḏ love;
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray "teach me to do your will, for you are my God (v10)."
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED:
Read the New Testament in a year, a chapter a day - John 12