In a variety of Psalms the writer cries out for God’s help as if he deserves it. “Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord without wavering. Test me, O Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for your love is ever before me, and I walk continually in your truth” (Psalm 26:1-3).
But you won’t find that sentiment in Psalm 143.
The writer is crushed and weary to the point of fainting. He knows not where to turn, but he turns to God. The poem has three parts:
1) A cry to God for help (vss. 1-2).
2) A description of his condition (vss. 3 – 5)
3) A cry to God for help (vss. 6 – 12).
Through it all, the writer depends not on his own strength, nor even on the sincerity of his penitence. He depends solely on the faithfulness, righteousness, and unfailing love of God. He knows obedience is essential, but if his fate is to be determined by justice, his goose is cooked. He can depend only that God will do the right thing, the loving thing. Walter Bruggemann writes: “This psalm moves some distance from the usual speech of complaint, which appeals to rights rather than need. That move is difficult in a culture that prides itself on competence and the capacity to work one’s way in the world.”
Difficult, yes. But the reality of our true frailty requires it.