The Care of Souls
Psalm 142:4
I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

: — This psalm is the last one of eight which are, not unreasonably, associated with the persecution of David by Saul in the south country of Judah (see the heading). It was an anxious, lonely, wearisome time; all the harder to bear because David knew he was innocent of any evil intentions concerning the Lord's anointed. But it was, in some respects, a best time for David. Then there was a great crying after God. In his despondency, when everything seemed to be going wrong with him, David took up the idea that nobody really eared for him. And when a man gets into that mood and mind he is in grave danger of becoming reckless. If David had gone on to say, "And even God does not care for me," he would have become altogether desperate, and would have said, "Then why should I care for myself? Why should I any longer try to be true, and good, and faithful? Why not let things go? Nobody cares for my soul." By his "soul" David would mean his bodily life; and the history tells us that, just matching the exclamation of this psalm, towards the end of the persecution spoken of, David bitterly and hopelessly exclaimed, "I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul." He was wrong in that. Some one did care for his soul, both in the lower sense of his "life," and in the higher sense of "his spiritual welfare." Taking the word "soul" in its higher sense, there are many around us who may use the words of the text.

I. CARING FOR SOULS IS NOT THE WORK OF THE WORLD. Caring for one another in all the ranges of the material and the moral is the world's work. Our interest in each other as worldly men and women is limited to physical well-being, social comfort, educational progress, and moral goodness. Not until man is quickened himself with the higher spiritual life is he in the least likely to concern himself about the possibilities of the higher spiritual life for others. There is such a thing as seeking the welfare of the race. There have always been philanthropists moved by "the enthusiasm of humanity." But their efforts do not go beyond the removal of disabilities, and reformation of abuses, and uplifting in the social and intellectual planes. But man is no mere body with a material environment. God has "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life." Man has become a "living soul." He is a spirit, and we must find spirit forces if we would deal with his most real necessities.

II. CARING FOR SOULS IS THE PROPER WORK OF THE CHURCH. From the Church's point of view men are perishing; they are dying in their sins, and she, and she alone, has the evangel that can save the perishing and quicken the dead. The Church of Christ may do, and ought to do, all that the philanthropist would do; but it must do more. The Church exists to do just what its Divine Lord did, seek and save the lost. Its work is to devise and carry through schemes for the salvation of souls, and whatever form its agencies and efforts may take, this, and nothing less than this, must be at the heart of them.

(Robert Tuck, B. A.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

WEB: Look on my right, and see; for there is no one who is concerned for me. Refuge has fled from me. No one cares for my soul.

Neglected Souls
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