From the time of the early church, some psalms were set apart for use during times of repentance and confession of sin. By the 5th century, this group of psalms was known as the “Seven Penitential Psalms.” They model how sinful people should approach God. The seventh of these psalms is Psalm 143.
In this poem, David does not confess a specific sin, but he acknowledges his sinful nature. He confesses that “no one living is righteous before you” (v. 2). The apostle Paul used this verse to ground his teaching—all have sinned and fallen short of God’s standard (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16).
David realizes that his suffering could be the result of God’s judgment. He prays to God to deliver him, not because of his righteousness but because of God’s faithfulness (Ps. 143:1). His trust is not in himself, but in God: “I have put my trust in you” (v. 8).
David has good reason to trust in God. He muses, “I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done” (v. 5). He knows the stories of the Exodus, of Deborah, and Gideon. Israel did not deserve to be saved, but God heard the prayers of His people. David’s difficult situation made him long for God more than ever. He says that he longs for God like parched ground longs for water (v. 6). He knows he needs God’s saving help. He asks for God not only to deliver him from his enemies but also to teach and guide him in the way he should live (v. 10).
>> David models for us how to approach God in humility and faith. Remember today that we are dependent upon God not only for our eternal salvation but also for each breath we make. Our hope in life and death is that we belong to God.
Without Your love and forgiveness, where would we be? Left to the unchecked ravages of our own sin, bitter and embittering, lost and hopeless. How deeply and desperately we need You, God!