Psalm 142:4

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 4. I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me. He did not miss a friend for want of looking for him, nor for want of looking in a likely place. Surely some helper would be found in the place of honour; some one would stand at his right hand to undertake his defence. He looked steadily, and saw all that could be seen, for he "beheld"; but his anxious gaze was not met by an answering smile. Strange to say, all were strange to David. He had known many, but none would know him. When a person is in ill odour it is wonderful how weak the memories of his former friends become: they quite forget, they refuse to know. This is a dire calamity. It is better to be opposed by foes than to be forsaken by friends, When friends look for us they affect to have known us from our birth, but when we look for friends it is wonderful how little we can make them remember: the fact is that in times of desertion it is not true that no man did know us, but no man would know us. Their ignorance is wilful.

Refuge failed me. Where in happier days I found a ready harbour I now discovered none at all. My place of flight had taken to flight. My refuge gave me a refusal.

No man cared for my soul. Whether I lived or died was no concern of anybody's. I was cast out as an outcast. No soul cared for my soul. I dwelt in No man's land, where none cared to have me, and none cared about me. This is an ill plight -- no place where to lay our head, and no head willing to find us a place. How pleased were his enemies to see the friend of God without a friend! How sad was he to be utterly deserted in his utmost need! Can we not picture David in the cave, complaining that even the cave was not a refuge for him, for Saul had come even there? Hopeless was his looking out, we shall soon see him looking up.

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 4. I looked on my right hand, and beheld. The first two verbs must be translated as imperatives, as in the margin of the English Bible. ("Look on the right hand, and see.") The right hand is mentioned as the post of a protector. --Joseph Addison Alexander.

Verse 4. Looked on my right hand. The allusion here, it is supposed, is to the observance of the ancient Jewish courts of judicature, in which the advocate, as well as the accuser, stood on the right hand of the accused ( Psalms 110:5 ). The Psalmist felt himself in the condition of one who had nobody to plead his cause, and to protect him in the dangerous circumstances in which he was placed. --James Anderson's Note to Calvin in loc.

Verse 4. There was no man that would know me. The fact that David, although surrounded by a band of loyal subjects, confesses to having no true friend, is to be understood similarly to the language of Paul when he says in Philippians 2:20 : "I have no man like minded." All human love, since sin has taken possession of humanity, is more or less selfish, and all fellowship of faith and of love imperfect; and there are circumstances in life in which these dark sides make themselves felt overpoweringly, so that a man seems to himself to be perfectly isolated, and turns all the more urgently to God, who alone is able to supply the soul's want of some object to love, whose love is absolutely unselfish, and unchangeable, and unclouded, to whom the soul can confide without reserve whatever burdens it, and who not only honestly desires its good, but is able also to compass it in spite of every obstacle. Surrounded by bloodthirsty enemies, and misunderstood, or at least not thoroughly understood by his friends, David feels himself broken off from all created beings. --Franz Delitzsch.

Verse 4. There was no man that would know me. Teacheth us of what little estimation God's children be, with the world and worldly men. --Thomas Wilcocks.

Verse 4. There was no man that would know me. Persecution from the side of our enemies presses sorely, but abandonment by our friends, who should have stood by one's side as helpers and defenders, presses more sorely still. --Taube, in Lange's Commentary.

Verse 4. Observe the beautiful opposition between "Thou knewest" ( Psalms 142:3 ) and "no man would know me." Refuge failed me, -- literally "perished" from me ( Jeremiah 25:35 Amos 2:14 ). But "thou hast been my refuge in the day of my trouble"; Ps 59:16. --Andrew Robert Fausset.

Verse 4-5. Refuge failed me ... Thou art my refuge. Travellers tell us that they who are at the top of the Alps can see great showers of rain fall under them, but not one drop of it falls on them. They who have God for their portion are in a high tower, and thereby safe from all troubles and showers. A drift rain of evil will beat in at the creature's windows, be they never so well pointed; all the garments this world can make up cannot keep them that travel in such weather from being wet to the skin. No creature is able to bear the weight of its fellow creature; but as reeds, they break under the pressure, and as thorns, they run into the sides of those who lean on them. The bow drawn beyond its compass breaks in sunder, and the string wound above its strength snaps in pieces. Such are outward helps to all that trust to them in hardships. --George Swinnock.

Verse 4-5. Refuge failed me ... Thou art my refuge. Are there any among us to whom the world's face is quite changed, and the brooks of comfort in it are dried up, and they are so tossed, chased, and harassed in it that they have forgotten their resting place? Are any of you "become a stranger unto your brethren and an alien unto your mother's children"? Ps 69:8. Is it grown such a strange world, that even "your own familiar friend, in whom you trusted, which did eat of your bread, hath lifted up his heel against you"? ( Psalms 41:9 ); and that wherever you turn yourselves in it, to find rest and refuge, the door is shut in your face? Here is a refuge for you; here is one open door; come in, thou blessed of the Lord: "the Lord gathereth the outcasts of Israel" Psalms 147:2 . It seems the Lord minds to have you in: he is doing with you as a father with a stubborn son who ran away from his father's house, thinking to shift for himself among his friends, and not come back: the father sends peremptory word through them all, saying, "In whoever's house my son is skulking, presently turn him out of doors, and let none of you take him in; and if he come to you give him not one night's lodging, nay, let him not eat in your house." Wherefore is all this but just to get him back again to his father's house? --Thomas Boston, 1676-1732.

Verse 4-5. When all slighted him, when none took care of him; what doth David in this case? The words in Psalms 142:5 tell us what. I cried unto thee, O LORD: I said, Thou art my refuge and my portion in the land of the living. As if he had said, Upon these unkindnesses, disrespects, and slightings which I found in the world, I took occasion, yea, I was stirred in my spirit to cry unto thee, O Lord, and to say, "Thou art my refuge", that is, then I made thee my refuge more than ever. Having made thee my choice in my best times, when men honoured and embraced me, I am much encouraged in these evil times when men regard me not to shelter my weather beaten self in thy name and power. When we have most friends in the world, then God is our best friend, but when the world hates us, and frowns upon us, especially when (as the prophet speaks of some, Isaiah 66:5 ) "our brethren hate us, and cast us out for the name's sake of God himself", saying, "Let the Lord be glorified", when 'tis thus with us (I say) our souls are even forced into the presence of God, to renew our interests in his love, and to assure our souls that we are accepted with him. --Joseph Caryl.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 4. (last clause). The soul considered of no value.

  1. Consider the worth of the soul.

    1. The soul will continue for ever.
    2. The righteous will grow more happy, and the wicked more miserable.
    3. A great price has been paid for it.
  2. Contrast the care we take of our souls, and our anxiety about worldly objects.

    1. The solicitude we manifest for riches.
    2. Our care in educating the intellects of our children.
    3. Eagerness in pursuit of business, honour -- even trifles.
    4. How anxious about a human life! Describe the search for a lost child.
    5. Contrast our care for souls and our Saviour's care for them: Paul's, Luther's, Whitefield's.
  3. Remember some things which show that this care does not exist.

    1. If you do not statedly observe secret prayer.
    2. If your soul is not burdened with the souls of others.

c) If you neglect family prayer, or observe it as a mere form. d) If you do not regularly go to prayer meetings.

Remark: The great responsibility resting upon every Christian.

--Jacob Knapp, in "The Homiletic Monthly", 1882.

Verse 4. (last clause). The burden of souls.

  1. What is meant by care for souls?

    1. To have a firm conviction of their value.
    2. To cherish tender solicitude for their welfare.
    3. To feel alarming apprehensions of their danger.
    4. To make zealous exertions for their salvation.
  2. Who ought specially to exercise this care?

    1. Parents.
    2. Teachers.
    3. Ministers.
    4. Members.
  3. The criminality of neglect.

    1. It is ungrateful.
    2. It is cruel.
    3. It is fatal.

--W.W. Wythe, in "The Pulpit Analyst", 1870.

Verse 4-5.

  1. A terrible plight; no friend, no helper, no pitying heart.
  2. A touching prayer. A cry and a saying.

Verse 4-5.

  1. Human help fails most when most needed.

    1. In outward troubles: "I looked", etc.
    2. In soul troubles: "No man cared for my soul."
  2. Divine help is most given when most needed. A refuge and a portion when all others fail. Man has many friends in prosperity, one only in adversity.

--G.R.

Verse 4-5.

  1. Why the saints make God their refuge, and the object of their faith and hope in their greatest afflictions.

    1. God has given himself to the saints, in the covenant of grace, to be their God, and has promised that they shall be his people.

b) God stands in a most near relation to the saints, and condescends to sustain many endearing characters of love, which he fulfils to their advantage.

c) The saints, through the power of God's grace upon their souls, have chosen him for their portion, and their highest felicity.

  1. What perfections there are in God that render him a safe refuge for the saints, and a proper object of their confidence.

    1. God is infinite in mercy.
    2. God is infallible in wisdom.
    3. God is boundless in power.
    4. God is omniscient and omnipresent.
    5. God is a Being whose love never changes.
    6. God is an independent Being, and the Governor and Director of all things.
  2. The many sweet advantages, arising to the saints, from this practice of making God their refuge, in their greatest troubles.

    1. They have been preserved from fainting under their heavy burdens.
    2. They have derived from God new and seasonable supplies of divine grace and strength for service.
    3. God has refreshed his saints with divine consolations for the future.

--John Farmer, 1744.