Teach me, Lead me — Psalm 143

Psalms of David

There are different ways of learning. This psalm mentions two of them, Teach me and Lead me. These line up with the last two phrases in a saying by Benjamin Franklin. Only thousands of years earlier.

A man and a boy fishonf on the side of a river, The caption reads: Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn. Benjamin Franklin.

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

A Psalm of David.

143 Hear my prayer, O Lord;
    give ear to my pleas for mercy!
    In your faithfulness answer me, in your righteousness!
Enter not into judgement with your servant,
    for no one living is righteous before you.
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.
Therefore my spirit faints within me;
    my heart within me is appalled.
I remember the days of old;
    I meditate on all that you have done;
    I ponder the work of your hands.
I stretch out my hands to you;
    my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. Selah

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.
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.
Deliver me from my enemies, O Lord!
    I have fled to you for refuge![a]
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.

Psalm 143 ESVUK

Like the previous psalm, this one falls into two parts, each one starting with a call to God. It is easier to spot here because of the Hebrew word Selah, either an instruction to pause and think or for an instrumental break.

The first part is penitential. Davis cries for mercy and asks God not to judge him. Like many of the psalms he remembers what God has done in the past, and that is usually the pivot point of the psalm, but not here, remembering is not enough in this case, a penitential man remembers whay God has done and cries out for help and is left still thirsting for God. Then follows the Selah. We are asked to ponder this before we move on. Please pause here and think also.


The second part of the psalm is introduced, then takes on the Hebrew poetic form of the of chiasm. A chiasm introduces the points in order, then after an optional centre section deals with them in reverse order. I have put th”ese points in bold in the quote above. Here they are:

“Your steadfast love:” vv. 8a and 12.
“My soul:” vv. 8b and 11b
“LORD:” The name of God, Yahweh vv, 5 and 11a.

The cental portion, verse 10, is crutial for understanding not only the psalm but how teaching works. Teacking is not enough, even though Davis asks for God to teach him, but he also needs to be led by God’s spirit; to work alongside God. I do not know if Benjamin Franklin’s statement, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn,” was based on this verse, Franklin was aware of biblical teaching, or if he had come upon it independently; but involvement is the best way of learning. David is asking God to teach him by involving him. In churches a lot of weight is put on the sermon, but sermons, and blog posts like this, are often not enough. We could really do with mentoring. People who are led by the Holy Spirit who get alongside those young in the faith, or even those with a mature faith who are struggling, and work with them in showing how to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. The holy Spirit indwells all Christians and is our greatest mentor.

A Prayer:

Holy Spirit, I welcome you in to my life as my mentor.
Walk with me as I learn how to walk in the ways of God.


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