A Thirsty Land

The authorship, theme, wording, and placement of Psalm 143 all unite to indicate it serves as a sequel to the preceding psalm, making Psalm 57 the finale of a trilogy of Davidic psalms. David expresses distress once more in a prayer lifted to the LORD, overwhelmed in spirit, and persecuted by enemies. However, the immediate emotions of loneliness and despair have given way to internal reflection and heavenly consecration. The situation has changed little, but David has changed a great deal. Rather than continuing to focus his plea on the desperation of his need, he turns his gaze to the character of the LORD to whom he appeals. In fact, “You” and especially “Your” appear frequently to emphasize this theme.

Therefore, while we all will face challenges in life, both from people who create problems for us and from ourselves when we allow such negativity to get to us (Psa. 143:3-4), the LORD is the answer because He is consistently faithful and consistently righteous. We, on the other hand, fail at both, which should humble us greatly, including when we dare ask for His aid (Psa. 143:1-2). Indeed, this disparity should build in us a recognition of both God’s greatness and our need so that we long to fill our lives with the LORD, who alone can provide what we need (Psa. 143:5-6). Only the LORD can hear and respond to our prayers (Psa. 143:7). Only the LORD pours out His love to mankind and offers purpose in life (Psa. 143:8; Eph. 2:8-10). Only the LORD offers the protective cover from our enemy’s fire (Psa. 143:9; Eph. 6:16). Only the LORD provides the guidance essential for navigating the trials of this life into the pathway of eternal life (Psa. 143:10; Jn. 8:32). Only the LORD can give new life—for David, life beyond the cave, but for us, life beyond self and sin (Psa. 123:11; Rom. 6:3-4, 16-18). Only the LORD can show mercy and judgment in the proper degree toward all. And only the LORD deserves our all as His servants (Psa. 123:12). David had moved beyond despair to see hope, because He ceased focusing on himself and the situation and began focusing on God.

Yet what God offers is for nought unless we soak it in. God is fully capable of all this, but it means nothing if we do not yearn for Him with a soul’s earnest longing. So many people seem to expect God to force-feed their spirits when they never bother to open up their souls to Him. The psalmist said, “I spread out my hands to You; My soul longs for You like a thirsty land” (Psa. 143:6). This was no generic prayer expecting generic fulfillment of generic needs. David’s request began by recognizing he had no right to argue and did not deserve the faithfulness and righteousness that God offered by covenant. Therefore, he opened Himself up to drink in all that God offered and all that God required, to soak it in like a parched land waiting for rain to bring it to life once more. This is how we must see what God offers us through His Word. He is willing to fill us, to renew us, and to strengthen us, but we must be willing to listen, to obey, and to grow. And we must prepare our hearts to do so even in the darkest hours of our existence, for in doing so we prepare our hearts’ soil to spring forth with the firstfruits of life.

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