Seeking Yahweh's Favor
(H) A maskil of David (composed) when he was in the cave. A prayer. (1) With my voice I cry out to Yahweh. With my voice I seek favor from Yahweh. (2) I pour out my complaint before his face. I declare my distress before his face. (3) When my spirit grows faint 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. No one takes notice of me. There is no escape for me. No one cares for my soul. (5) I cry out to you, Yahweh. I say, “You (are) my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” (6) Give attention to my cry, for I am brought very low. Deliver me from those who pursue me, for (they are) too strong for me. (7) Bring my soul out from the dungeon so that I may give thanks to your name. Then the righteous will surround me, for you deal bountifully with me.
Samuel had already anointed David as Israel’s next king, yet King Saul still ruled over the nation and was determined to do away with his young rival. The cave mentioned in the heading of this psalm could have referred to the cave of Adullam where David first took refuge from Saul (1 Sam. 22). It also could have been the cave in the wilderness of En Gedi where David hid from the king and could easily have killed him but refused to do so (1 Sam. 24). Perhaps David had in mind some other cave not mentioned by name in the biblical record. While we may not be able to pin down the precise location or the specific occasion, the phrase in the heading, “while he was in the cave,” indicates that this psalm was written while David was an outlaw, fleeing for his life from King Saul and his soldiers.
Several repetitions indicate how much David felt his need for God during this troubled period in his life. The phrase, “with my voice,” begins both lines of the opening verse while “Yahweh” ends both lines (vs. 1). Both sentences of the next verse finish with “before his face” (vs. 2). We find the synonyms “way” and “path” (vs. 3), the repetition of “no one” emphasizing David’s sense of isolation and abandonment (vs. 4), and the phrase, “I cry out,” repeated (cf. vs 1 with vs. 5).
I. When in distress, I cry out to Yahweh. (1 & 2)
II. When feeling abandoned, I remember that Yahweh is my refuge. (3-5)
III. When in danger I pray, “Deliver me, deal bountifully with me.” (6 & 7)
By crying out to Yahweh in our distress, we turn to the only one who can deliver us.
Among Jesus’ parables is a story often entitled “The Unjust Judge” (Lk. 18:1-8). Luke begins this account in an unusual way, giving us its spiritual principle first: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (Lk. 18:1). He then recounts the story of the widow and the judge, concluding with these encouraging words: “And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly” (Lk. 18:7 & 8). Jesus’ point is that God is not like the unjust judge of the story who reluctantly responds to the widow’s request simply to be rid of her constant nagging. God may delay in answering those who cry out to him, but his reasons for making us wait are never selfish. Instead, we can rely on him to respond to our prayers at just the right time and in just the right way in order to do what is best for us.
David in this psalm cries out to Yahweh in a period of desperation with the confidence that God will hear and answer his prayer. Two phrases in the psalm express this assurance: “You know my way” (vs. 3) and “You deal bountifully with me” (vs. 7). We should learn to pray with the same kind of expectancy that, when we find ourselves in desperate straits, he will surely hear us and will soon answer our prayers for deliverance.