David here tells us what he said when he stretched forth his hands unto God; he begins not only as one in earnest, but as one in haste: “Hear me speedily, and defer no longer, for my spirit faileth. I am just ready to faint; reach the cordial—quickly, quickly, or I am gone.” It was not a haste of unbelief, but of vehement desire and holy love. Make haste, O God! to help me. Three things David here prays for:—
I. The manifestations of God’s favour towards him, that God would be well pleased with him and let him know that he was so; this he prefers before any good, Ps. 4:6. 1. He dreads God’s frowns: “Lord, hide not thy face from me; Lord, be not angry with me, do not turn from me, as we do from one we are displeased with; Lord, let me not be left under the apprehensions of thy anger or in doubt concerning thy favour; if I have thy favour, let it not be hidden from me.” Those that have the truth of grace cannot but desire the evidence of it. He pleads the wretchedness of his case if God withdrew from him: “Lord, let me not lie under thy wrath, for then I am like those that go down to the pit, that is, down to the grave (I am a dead man, weak, and pale, and ghastly; thy frowns are worse than death), or down to hell, the bottomless pit.” Even those who through grace are delivered from going down to the pit may sometimes, when the terrors of the Almighty set themselves in array against them, look like those who are going to the pit. Disconsolate saints have sometimes cried out of the wrath of God, as if they had been damned sinners, Job 6:4; Ps. 88:6. 2. He entreats God’s favour (Ps. 143:8): Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning. He cannot but think that God has a kindness for him, that he has some kind things to say to him, some good words and comfortable words; but the present hurry of his affairs, and tumult of his spirits, drowned those pleasing whispers; and therefore he begs, “Lord, do not only speak kindly to me, but cause me to hear it, to hear joy and gladness,” Ps. 51:8. God speaks to us by his word and by his providence, and in both we should desire and endeavour to hear his lovingkindness (Ps. 107:43), that we may set that always before us: “Cause me to hear it in the morning, every morning; let my waking thoughts be of God’s lovingkindness, that the sweet relish of that may abide upon my spirits all the day long.” His plea is, “For in thee do I trust, and in thee only; I look not for comfort in any other.” God’s goodness is commonly wrought for those who trust in him (Ps. 31:8), who by faith draw it out.
II. The operations of God’s grace in him. Those he is as earnest for as for the tokens of God’s favour to him, and so should we be. He prays,
1. That he might be enlightened with the knowledge of God’s will; and this is the first work of the Spirit, in order to his other works, for God deals with men as men, as reasonable creatures. Here are three petitions to this effect:—(1.) Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk. Sometimes those that are much in care to walk right are in doubt, and in the dark, which is the right way. Let them come boldly to the throne of grace, and beg of God, by his word, and Spirit, and providence, to show them the way, and prevent their missing it. A good man does not ask what is the way in which he must walk, or in which is the most pleasant walking, but what is the right way, the way in which he should walk. He pleads, “I lift up my soul unto thee, to be moulded and fashioned according to thy will.” He did not only importunately, but impartially, desire to know his duty; and those that do so shall be taught. (2.) “Teach me to do thy will, not only show me what thy will is, but teach me how to do it, how to turn my hand dexterously to my duty.” It is the desire and endeavour of all God’s faithful servants to know and to do his will, and to stand complete in it. He pleads, “Thou art my God, and therefore my oracle, by whom I may expect to be advised—my God, and therefore my ruler, whose will I desire to do.” If we do in sincerity take God for our God, we may depend upon him to teach us to do his will, as a master does his servant. (3.) Lead me into the land of uprightness, into the communion of saints, that pleasant land of the upright, or into a settled course of holy living, which will lead to heaven, that land of uprightness where holiness will be in perfection, and he that is holy shall be holy still. We should desire to be led, and kept safe, to heaven, not only because it is a land of blessedness, but because it is a land of uprightness; it is the perfection of grace. We cannot find the way that will bring us to that land unless God show us, nor go in that way unless he take us by the hand and lead us, as we lead those that are weak, or lame, or timorous, or dim-sighted; so necessary is the grace of God, not only to put us into the good way, but to keep us and carry us on in it. The plea is, “Thy Spirit is good, and able to make me good,” good and willing to help those that are at a loss. Those that have the Lord for their God have his Spirit for their guide; and it is both their character and their privilege that they are led by the Spirit.
2. He prays that he might be enlivened to do his will (Ps. 143:11): “Quicken me, O Lord!--quicken my devotions, that they may be lively; quicken me to my duty, and quicken me in it; and this for thy name’s sake.” The best saints often find themselves dull, and dead, and slow, and therefore pray to God to quicken them.
III. The appearance of God’s providence for him, 1. That God would, in his own way and time, give him rest from his troubles (Ps. 143:9): “Deliver me, O Lord! from my enemies, that they may not have their will against me; for I flee unto thee to hide me; I trust to thee to defend me in my trouble, and therefore to rescue me out of it.” Preservations are pledges of salvation, and those shall find God their hiding-place who by faith make him such. He explains himself (Ps. 143:11): “For thy righteousness-sake, bring my soul out of trouble, for thy promise-sake, nay, for thy mercy-sake” (for some by righteousness understand kindness and goodness); “do not only deliver me from my outward trouble, but from the trouble of my soul, the trouble that threatens to overwhelm my spirit. Whatever trouble I am in, Lord, let not my heart be troubled,” John 14:1. 2. That he would reckon with those that were the instruments of his trouble (Ps. 143:12): “Of thy mercy to me cut off my enemies, that I may be no longer in fear of them; and destroy all those, whoever they be, how numerous, how powerful, soever, who afflict my soul, and create vexation to that; for I am thy servant, and am resolved to continue such, and therefore may expect to be owned and protected in thy service.” This prayer is a prophecy of the utter destruction of all the impenitent enemies of Jesus Christ and his kingdom, who will not have him to reign over them, who grieve his Spirit, and afflict his soul, by afflicting his people, in whose afflictions he is afflicted.