Psalm 143 (NIV)
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.
Psalm 143 is the seventh and final penitential psalm in the psalter. It is a striking testimony to one of the key themes in the New Testament; namely, the nature of righteousness in the life of the believer. The psalm begins with David as a sinner in need of God’s forgiveness and mercy: “O LORD, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy…” (vs. 1). This theme is why it is one of the penitential psalms.
What is striking is the very mature understanding of the nature of righteousness. The opening invocation of verse one goes on to say….“in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.” David then makes a bold assertion that later becomes a hallmark of New Testament theology: “Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you (vs. 2). The psalm ends on the same note: “For your name’s sake, O LORD, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble” (vs.11).
The psalm makes it clear that we are incapable of saving ourselves and we cannot perform enough righteous deeds to be declared righteous before God. Only God is righteous. This psalm is preparing God’s people for what will later be spelled out very explicitly in Paul’s letter to the Romans. In that letter Paul establishes, as this psalm does, “There is no one righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10), a quote from Psalm 14, but the language is almost identical to Psalm 143:2. Paul then makes the same point that David makes: “But now a righteousness from God apart from Law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify” (Rom. 3:21).
Paul then makes the connection which the psalmist could only foreshadow, namely, that righteousness must be received as a gift, and is available through faith in the merits and perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23, 24). It is also applied and worked into our lives through the power of the Holy Spirit to which this psalm testifies: “May your good Spirit lead me…” (vs. 10). This is just one of several examples where the psalms attest to the work of the Spirit (See, 51:11; 104:30; 106:33; and 139:7). A survey of these verses reveals a remarkably early theology of the Holy Spirit. These texts already testify that the Holy Spirit is the source of our life, communicates the presence of God to us, anoints and empowers us, counsels us, and makes us holy!
Psalm 143 is just one tiny example of why it is said that the entire New Testament is found in seed form in the Old Testament, and the entire Old Testament finds it full flowering in the New Testament. As you grow in your understanding of Scripture, you will find an ever increasing appreciation for the continuity across the entire Bible. It is true that the Bible contains sixty-six books written by forty different authors over several thousand years. Behind this diversity, we must capture the grand unity of the Bible, and the single thread of redemption which runs through the whole. As Christians, we should always see ourselves as a part of this grand, redemptive story that stretches across time, around the globe, and even spans heaven and earth! What a wonderful thing to be a part of this great story!