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Psalm 142 should be read in tandem with Psalm 57; both were the product of David’s experience of hiding in a cave while fleeing King Saul. In some ways, however, the two psalms are quite different. Although in both cases David is pushed to the edge, in Psalm 57 he sounds reasonably buoyant, perhaps bold — certainly confident of the outcome. Here in Psalm 142, however, the mood is gloomy, characterized by “desperate need” (Ps. 142:6), with only three rays of hope. It should not be thought strange that the one crisis should precipitate more than one emotional response. Both Scripture and experience testify that extreme danger and uncertainty can push us to conflicting responses. However we think about such matters, Psalm 142 reflects raw despair — and correspondingly, it speaks tellingly to believers whose circumstances draw them through dark waters no less deep.
The opening lines find the psalmist urgently and frankly begging for help: “I cry aloud”; “I lift up my voice”; “I pour out my complaint”; “I tell my trouble” — these are the words of a frightened and desperate man. The word rendered “my complaint” sounds less petulant and whiny than the English: perhaps “what’s wrong” or “my troubled thoughts” might be better.
The first ray of hope comes in verse 3a: “When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who know [sic] my way.” When he has sunk so low that he is ready to give up, the psalmist finds reassurance in the fact that God is never taken by surprise: “It is you who knows my way.”
The worst hurts, of course, are personal betrayals. When all around there is no one who can be trusted, when experience after experience demonstrates that this conclusion is pathetically sound and not a symptom of paranoia, when the sheer loneliness of the fight adds a thick layer of depression (“I have no refuge; no one cares for my life,” Ps. 142:54), where does the psalmist turn? Here is the second ray of light: “I cry to you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living’” (Ps. 142:5). The move from “my refuge” to “my portion” demonstrates that David is not thinking of God as merely the solution to a problem. There is progression from fear to gratitude.
None of this reduces the stark reality of David’s “desperate need” (Ps. 142:6). This need is not merely emotional: his emotional crisis is grounded in the reality that he is being pursued by soldiers and their bitter king. The final ray of hope serves as contrast: God’s goodness and fidelity ensure that David will be rescued. David dares to envision the day when the righteous of the land will not only surround him but applaud his reign.
Most of Jeremiah 4 is devoted to depicting the devastation that will be caused by the Babylonian hordes from the north (Jer. 4:5–31). Much of this prediction is on the lips of Yahweh himself. At one point there is an interlude in which Jeremiah expresses his own devastation at the prospect: “Oh, my anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain. Oh, the agony of my heart! My heart pounds within me, I cannot keep silent. For I have heard the sound of the trumpet; I have heard the battle cry” (Jer. 4:19). However faithfully he reports God’s words, however much he recognizes that God’s judgments are just, Jeremiah nevertheless identifies with the agony his people will endure. In this he anticipates the Lord Jesus, who condemns the sins of his day, but weeps over the city as he contemplates the judgment that must inevitably follow.
In the opening four verses of the chapter, however, the Lord demonstrates that it is still not too late. In fact, if Israel returns to him, not only will the nation be spared, but she will resume her role as a channel of blessing to the nations (cf. Gen. 12:3; Ps. 72:17). But such a return must not be a masquerade, a mere show of repentance. Israel must genuinely abandon her idols. She must swear “in a truthful, just and righteous way … ‘As surely as the LORD lives’ ” (Jer. 4:2). There are at least two facets to this oath. The first is that it constitutes, in effect, a renewal of the Sinai covenant. If the oath were not meant—i.e., not truthful, just, and righteous—then of course it would be not only false but blasphemous. The second facet is that it reflects the Mosaic stipulation that the oaths of the nation should be in the name of the Lord (Deut. 10:20). A nation steeped in idolatry would take its oaths in the names of the many false gods. If all in the nation take their oaths in the name of the Lord, it could only be because the Lord alone is supreme, the only God, the highest Being by whom they can swear.
Two word pictures further describe the genuineness of repentance and the sincerity of heart that God demands. (a) “Break up your unplowed ground and do not sow among thorns” (Jer. 4:3). The people show no genuine receptivity to the Lord and his words. The hardness must be broken up. There is no fruitfulness in sowing where thorns choke the life out of all that is worthwhile (cf. Mark 4:1–20). (b) What God wants is more than circumcision of the foreskin, however deeply symbolic the act is. He wants circumcision of the heart (Jer. 4:4)—a cutting away of all that is evil. That was so even in Mosaic times (Deut. 10:16). Reflect on Paul’s inferences (Rom. 2:28–29).
10:1 As soon as Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had captured Ai and had devoted it to destruction,1 doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2 he2 feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, like one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all its men were warriors. 3 So Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem sent to Hoham king of Hebron, to Piram king of Jarmuth, to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 “Come up to me and help me, and let us strike Gibeon. For it has made peace with Joshua and with the people of Israel.” 5 Then the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon, gathered their forces and went up with all their armies and encamped against Gibeon and made war against it.
6 And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not relax your hand from your servants. Come up to us quickly and save us and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered against us.” 7 So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valor. 8 And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have given them into your hands. Not a man of them shall stand before you.” 9 So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10 And the LORD threw them into a panic before Israel, who3 struck them with a great blow at Gibeon and chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11 And as they fled before Israel, while they were going down the ascent of Beth-horon, the LORD threw down large stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died. There were more who died because of the hailstones than the sons of Israel killed with the sword.
12 At that time Joshua spoke to the LORD in the day when the LORD gave the Amorites over to the sons of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,
“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,
and moon, in the Valley of Aijalon.”
13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,
until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.
Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the midst of heaven and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14 There has been no day like it before or since, when the LORD heeded the voice of a man, for the LORD fought for Israel.
15 So Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.
16 These five kings fled and hid themselves in the cave at Makkedah. 17 And it was told to Joshua, “The five kings have been found, hidden in the cave at Makkedah.” 18 And Joshua said, “Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave and set men by it to guard them, 19 but do not stay there yourselves. Pursue your enemies; attack their rear guard. Do not let them enter their cities, for the LORD your God has given them into your hand.” 20 When Joshua and the sons of Israel had finished striking them with a great blow until they were wiped out, and when the remnant that remained of them had entered into the fortified cities, 21 then all the people returned safe to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah. Not a man moved his tongue against any of the people of Israel.
22 Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.” 23 And they did so, and brought those five kings out to him from the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24 And when they brought those kings out to Joshua, Joshua summoned all the men of Israel and said to the chiefs of the men of war who had gone with him, “Come near; put your feet on the necks of these kings.” Then they came near and put their feet on their necks. 25 And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous. For thus the LORD will do to all your enemies against whom you fight.” 26 And afterward Joshua struck them and put them to death, and he hanged them on five trees. And they hung on the trees until evening. 27 But at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves, and they set large stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day.
28 As for Makkedah, Joshua captured it on that day and struck it, and its king, with the edge of the sword. He devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah just as he had done to the king of Jericho.
29 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Makkedah to Libnah and fought against Libnah. 30 And the LORD gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel. And he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.
31 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Libnah to Lachish and laid siege to it and fought against it. 32 And the LORD gave Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he captured it on the second day and struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it, as he had done to Libnah.
33 Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish. And Joshua struck him and his people, until he left none remaining.
34 Then Joshua and all Israel with him passed on from Lachish to Eglon. And they laid siege to it and fought against it. 35 And they captured it on that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword. And he devoted every person in it to destruction that day, as he had done to Lachish.
36 Then Joshua and all Israel with him went up from Eglon to Hebron. And they fought against it 37 and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it. He left none remaining, as he had done to Eglon, and devoted it to destruction and every person in it.
38 Then Joshua and all Israel with him turned back to Debir and fought against it 39 and he captured it with its king and all its towns. And they struck them with the edge of the sword and devoted to destruction every person in it; he left none remaining. Just as he had done to Hebron and to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and to its king.
40 So Joshua struck the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings. He left none remaining, but devoted to destruction all that breathed, just as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 41 And Joshua struck them from Kadesh-barnea as far as Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, as far as Gibeon. 42 And Joshua captured all these kings and their land at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 43 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.
142:1 With my voice I cry out to the LORD;
with my voice I plead for mercy to the LORD.
2 I pour out my complaint before him;
I tell my trouble before him.
3 When my spirit faints within me,
you know my way!
In the path where I walk
they have hidden a trap for me.
4 Look to the right and see:
there is none who takes notice of me;
no refuge remains to me;
no one cares for my soul.
5 I cry to you, O LORD;
I say, “You are my refuge,
my portion in the land of the living.”
6 Attend to my cry,
for I am brought very low!
Deliver me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me!
7 Bring me out of prison,
that I may give thanks to your name!
The righteous will surround me,
for you will deal bountifully with me.
143:1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
give ear to my pleas for mercy!
In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
2 Enter not into judgment with your servant,
for no one living is righteous before you.
3 For the enemy has pursued my soul;
he has crushed my life to the ground;
he has made me sit in darkness like those long dead.
4 Therefore my spirit faints within me;
my heart within me is appalled.
5 I remember the days of old;
I meditate on all that you have done;
I ponder the work of your hands.
6 I stretch out my hands to you;
my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah
7 Answer me quickly, O LORD!
My spirit fails!
Hide not your face from me,
lest I be like those who go down to the pit.
8 Let me hear in the morning of your steadfast love,
for in you I trust.
Make me know the way I should go,
for to you I lift up my soul.
9 Deliver me from my enemies, O LORD!
I have fled to you for refuge.2
10 Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God!
Let your good Spirit lead me
on level ground!
11 For your name's sake, O LORD, preserve my life!
In your righteousness bring my soul out of trouble!
12 And in your steadfast love you will cut off my enemies,
and you will destroy all the adversaries of my soul,
for I am your servant.
4:1 “If you return, O Israel,
declares the LORD,
to me you should return.
If you remove your detestable things from my presence,
and do not waver,
2 and if you swear, ‘As the LORD lives,’
in truth, in justice, and in righteousness,
then nations shall bless themselves in him,
and in him shall they glory.”
3 For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem:
“Break up your fallow ground,
and sow not among thorns.
4 Circumcise yourselves to the LORD;
remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem;
lest my wrath go forth like fire,
and burn with none to quench it,
because of the evil of your deeds.”
5 Declare in Judah, and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say,
“Blow the trumpet through the land;
cry aloud and say,
‘Assemble, and let us go
into the fortified cities!’
6 Raise a standard toward Zion,
flee for safety, stay not,
for I bring disaster from the north,
and great destruction.
7 A lion has gone up from his thicket,
a destroyer of nations has set out;
he has gone out from his place
to make your land a waste;
your cities will be ruins
8 For this put on sackcloth,
lament and wail,
for the fierce anger of the LORD
has not turned back from us.”
9 “In that day, declares the LORD, courage shall fail both king and officials. The priests shall be appalled and the prophets astounded.” 10 Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD, surely you have utterly deceived this people and Jerusalem, saying, ‘It shall be well with you,’ whereas the sword has reached their very life.”
11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, “A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow or cleanse, 12 a wind too full for this comes for me. Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them.”
13 Behold, he comes up like clouds;
his chariots like the whirlwind;
his horses are swifter than eagles—
woe to us, for we are ruined!
14 O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil,
that you may be saved.
How long shall your wicked thoughts
lodge within you?
15 For a voice declares from Dan
and proclaims trouble from Mount Ephraim.
16 Warn the nations that he is coming;
announce to Jerusalem,
“Besiegers come from a distant land;
they shout against the cities of Judah.
17 Like keepers of a field are they against her all around,
because she has rebelled against me,
declares the LORD.
18 Your ways and your deeds
have brought this upon you.
This is your doom, and it is bitter;
it has reached your very heart.”
19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain!
Oh the walls of my heart!
My heart is beating wildly;
I cannot keep silent,
for I hear the sound of the trumpet,
the alarm of war.
20 Crash follows hard on crash;
the whole land is laid waste.
Suddenly my tents are laid waste,
my curtains in a moment.
21 How long must I see the standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
22 “For my people are foolish;
they know me not;
they are stupid children;
they have no understanding.
They are ‘wise’—in doing evil!
But how to do good they know not.”
23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void;
and to the heavens, and they had no light.
24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking,
and all the hills moved to and fro.
25 I looked, and behold, there was no man,
and all the birds of the air had fled.
26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert,
and all its cities were laid in ruins
before the LORD, before his fierce anger.
27 For thus says the LORD, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end.
28 “For this the earth shall mourn,
and the heavens above be dark;
for I have spoken; I have purposed;
I have not relented, nor will I turn back.”
29 At the noise of horseman and archer
every city takes to flight;
they enter thickets; they climb among rocks;
all the cities are forsaken,
and no man dwells in them.
30 And you, O desolate one,
what do you mean that you dress in scarlet,
that you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold,
that you enlarge your eyes with paint?
In vain you beautify yourself.
Your lovers despise you;
they seek your life.
31 For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor,
anguish as of one giving birth to her first child,
the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath,
stretching out her hands,
“Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers.”
18:1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,1 it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin!2 For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes! 8 And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell3 of fire.
10 “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.4 12 What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? 13 And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray. 14 So it is not the will of my5 Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed6 in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.7 24 When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents.8 25 And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant9 fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ 27 And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt. 28 But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii,10 and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ 30 He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt. 31 When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. 32 Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. 33 And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ 34 And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers,11 until he should pay all his debt. 35 So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”