TEXT: Psalms 140 to 144
The text reveals David’s prayer when he was threatened by enemies who envied and hated him for no just cause. Malicious, vicious and capricious, they attacked, persecuted and often tried to ensnare him at every opportunity. In the midst of his trials, the psalmist turned to the Lord in prayer for deliverance, preservation and divine justice. Rather than resort to use of carnal weapons, he engaged in sincere, fervent and persistent prayer. This is instructive for contemporary believers who are also not spared the challenges of life, ranging from persecutions, afflictions, sicknesses, calamities and economic downturn, among others. The psalmist’s painful experiences, which reflect present challenges of some believers in Christ lend credence to the truth that “Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). This is akin to what Jacob told Pharaoh about himself, that “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years: few and evil have the days of the years of my life been…” (Genesis 47:9). In all these, the Lord assures us of victory. “…In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When we are faced with challenges, we should not despair but cry to God for deliverance, knowing full well that there is no problem He cannot solve. This study highlights David’s distress, prayers for deliverance, conduct in trials and God’s presence and power in challenging times.
PERPLEXITY AND PRAYER OF THE PERSECUTED (Psalms 140:1-5; 142:1-7; 31:10-13; Job 7:1-6)
“Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man”. The psalmist prayed to God for deliverance from the hand of the violent and evil man. The evil man is a wicked fellow that makes life uncomfortable for his victims without a cause. He is naturally mischievous and possesses poisonous tongue. The persecutor, who falls into the bracket of wicked men, is usually proud, aggressive and merciless. Such is the portrait of the devil who is described as the wicked one (Matthew 13:19), the tempter (Matthew 4: 3; 1 Thessalonians 3:5), the thief (John 10:10) and the enemy (Psalm 107:2). He makes life miserable for people in his captivity and never opens his prison doors for their release (Isaiah 14: 16, 17). A sinner is a prisoner in the hand of the devil and the only way out is repentance and faith in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 3: 19; 17:30). The plight of persecuted persons can sometimes be perplexing. The perplexed are battered with pain, rejected and abandoned with many sorrows. Believers should, however, understand that persecution is unavoidable for heaven-bound saints, The Scripture says, “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). So, when we go through persecution because of our righteous stand or service to God, we should not see it as something strange or allow it to dampen our zeal for the Lord.
The persecuted and oppressed should humble themselves and seek God’s help and strength through prayer. During intense persecution, David prayed to God and said, “LORD, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:1,2). By taking his challenge to God, the psalmist had the right spiritual strategy to survive persecution. His crying signifies the importance of total dependence on God (Psalm 7: I), fervency in prayer (James 5: 16b), and faith and fixity of purpose (Mark 11:22; Psalm 57: 7) in moments Of challenges. Prayer is a mighty spiritual weapon and an indispensable tool for victory. The secret of David’s constant victory in life’s battles was prayer. He prayed at all times and everywhere, even in the cave while trying to hide from Saul. Believers should borrow a leaf from the prayer life of David. Every challenge we face should be tackled with fervent and persistent prayers. “…Men ought always to pray, and not to faint” (Luke 18:1).
However, contemporary believers are not expected to ask God to “cut off [their] enemies, and destroy all them that afflict [their] soul…” Although this pattern of prayer was permitted in the Old Testament era, New Testament believers must not pray for the destruction of their enemies. Christ commands, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45,46)
PATTERN OF PROPER CONDUCT AMIDST PROBLEM (Psalms 140: 6-8; 141:3-10; 143: 10; Romans 12:17-21; Matthew 1 Peter 2:21-23; 5:10)
“O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle” (Psalm 140:7). The psalmist expresses trust in the Lord even in the midst of trials. Despite the raging storms in his life, his heart was fixed on God and he had strong faith in Him. He depended upon Him for deliverance in times of distress. “But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord: in thee is my trust; leave not my soul destitute” (Psalm 141 : 8). Believers should learn to bring their matters before God (1 Peter 5:7). Situations and circumstances create opportunities for believers to demonstrate their confidence in God. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego trusted God for their deliverance at the fiercest hour of their persecution and He saw them through (Daniel 3:16-18,25). Daniel was unperturbed when an ungodly decree that forbade prayer was promulgated in Babylon. He demonstrated unparalleled trust in God through continuous, devoted prayer life and that eventually paid off (Daniel 6: 7, IO-13,16,20,22). David was mindful of the fact that the temptation to sin with the tongue is higher during persecutions or trials. He knew God hates sin and that it is a barrier to our relationship with Him (Isaiah 59:1,2). Therefore, he prayed, “Set a watch, O LORD, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart to any evil thing, to practice wicked works with men that work iniquity: and let me not eat of their dainties. Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness” (Psalms 143:10). As believers, we must maintain our integrity during trials and watch over our words, thoughts and actions. Instead of complaining, we should depend on God in prayer (Psalm 46: 1); love and pray for our enemies (Matthew 5:44); and follow the example of our Lord Jesus (1 Peter 2:21-23).
In times of crises or persecution, be calm, pray, meditate on the Word and stay close to the Lord (Psalm 46: 10). When we are calm before God, we give our hearts the convenient setting to meditate on His promises.
PRIORITY OF PROCURING GOD’S PRESENCE AND POWER IN TROUBLOUS TIMES (Psalms 140:9-13; 143:10,11; 144:1,2,5-15; 16:11; Exodus 33:14,15; Jude 1:24)
“Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence” (Psalm 140:13). God promises to be with the righteous and sustain him in times of trouble. “But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee” (Isaiah 43:1,2). In the presence of God, there is joy (Psalm 16: I l), assurance Of victory (Exodus 33: 14), protection (Psalm 91: 1) and steadfast love. We cannot go through life successfully without God. We need His presence to see us through the battles of life.
Believers should endeavour to attract and keep God’s presence at all times. Israel cherished that priority and held the ark of God (a symbol of His presence) in high regard and honour in their generations. “And when the people were come into the camp, the elders of Israel said, Wherefore hath the LORD smitten us to day before the Philistines? Let us fetch the ark of the covenant of the LORD out of Shiloh unto us, that, when it cometh among us, it may save us out of the hand of our enemies” (1 Samuel 4:3). Obedience to God’s word, faithfulness to His revealed will and uncompromising stand against sin attract the divine presence in a believer’s life, to enjoy His continuous presence, backsliders must seek restoration while sinners must repent of their sins and accept Jesus as their Lord and personal Saviour.