Cornered and Alone
Cornered and Alone (Psalm 142)
Ultimately, we will all face a situation where we are cornered and alone. We will be hemmed in, and it will appear that nobody cares. On a small scale we face this kind of situation many times. On a large scale we will face this situation in a few great crises of life. King Saul unjustifiably chased David and threatened his existence. Eight psalms are attributed to David during this distress. This psalm claims to be written from the cave where David was hiding (1 Sam. 22–14). He was literally and figuratively cornered and alone. We can learn some valuable lessons from this sincere psalm.
When you are cornered and alone, audibly turn to God as your only ultimate resource.
Cornered and Alone, There Is a Petition in Your Prayer
Such praying ought to be a vocalization. There is a time when for relief you should "cry aloud" to God. With this voice, and not merely in silent prayer, the psalmist called to God for relief. Audible prayer in itself soothes and strengthens. Most prayer in the Bible was audible prayer. The psalmist uttered his "complaint," that which distracted him and troubled him and made him restless. He poured it out at God's feet like liquid. Prayer would be more relief for many of us if it was audible, actually uttered.
Such prayer has a definite direction. The weight rests on the direction of the prayer: "to the Lord, . . . to the Lord. . . . before him; before him" (vv. 1-2). This repetition emphasizes the target of the prayer. This man is utterly alone and cries only to God. Most of us spend our crises muttering to ourselves or complaining to others. Relief comes when the actual direction of our prayer is God Himself.
Urgency of such praying grows out of exhaustion. The psalmist was ready to give up; he was out of inward resources to face the pressure. He felt like Jonah, swallowed by the situation (Jonah 2:7). This dwindling energy caused him to turn to the only Source. There comes that time when only waiting on Jehovah renews our strength (Isa. 40:31).
The relief of an affirmation grows out of such prayer: "It is you who know my way" (v. 3a). This is the first light to shine into the cave! God and God alone is intimately acquainted with the past and future path of the psalmist. There are perils in the path, but God knows every step. The Lord Jesus went through the same exhaustion of spirit followed by affirmation. On the cross He first cried "Why have you forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:47; Mark 15:34), only to follow with the triumphant "It is finished" (John 19:30).
Cornered and Alone, There Is Pressure on Your Path
We will someday walk through deliberate danger, "men have hidden a snare" (v. 3b). The psalmist had no choice; he must walk that way. He had no choice but to walk the path where there is danger; circumstances had hemmed him in. Sometimes we have to walk a dangerous path not of our choice. Every step seems like a trap. Jesus encountered this throughout His ministry.
Such danger may also be a time of desolation. There is no one at his right side. The right was the place open to attack and the place usually taken by a helper and advocate. Even God cannot find anyone to stand with this abandoned person. Someday in most lives there comes a moment of total isolation; no one stands alongside. We spend our lives relying on family, friendship, colleagues, networks, and our own clever resourcefulness. One day nothing is there. This is a providence of God. It forces us to turn to Him alone.
The presence of such danger and desertion can leave us desolate in our spirit. The psalmist decides that no one cares about him, looks after his interest, or befriends him. All around him is only a void. His lonely soul faces nothing but an empty universe where he seems at the whim of the fates.
In the face of all of this, the psalmist makes a decision of faith. He deliberately decides that God is his only refuge and portion. The cry "You are, . . . my portion" (v. 5) is the breakthrough of faith. What if he stands alone? What if he perishes in the cave? He can call Jehovah His God. In the face of all evidence to the contrary, he shouts out in faith. Faith is always in the presence of evidence to the contrary. Otherwise it is not really faith. Christian lives and great churches are built in the face of evidence to the contrary.
Cornered and Alone, There Is Promise in Your Praise
At the end, faith breaks through. Faith climbs out of the cave. Faith reaches a new summit. The psalmist stands on a mountain and sees something entirely different from his circumstances. Suddenly, crowded around him are the people of God in tender sympathy. Instead of being alone, he sees the time when he will stand with God's people worshiping and praising. All of this is because of God's goodness.
Faith literally enabled him to see the invisible and the future (Heb. 11:1-2). His circumstances will be entirely different because of God's faithfulness. He is no unrealistic optimist. There are foes too strong for him and there are snares set to trap him. In faith, he sees that God will overcome.
Jesus said it best: "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NKJV).