The super-script calls Psalm 142 a maskil in the Hebrew, but the meaning of this Hebrew word maskil is uncertain. This is why the word is left untranslated in many Bible translations. The verb form of maskil found in Nehemiah 8:8 could give the word maskil here the meaning of “sense-giving harmony” or “instructional lyrics set to music.”
This is a prayer that David set to music for the purpose of instructing others. This is the prayer or cry for help of an individual who approaches the Lord for help.
The psalmist’s confidence in the Lord remains unwavering in his season of crisis. In 142:5 the “you” referring to the Lord is emphatic, and could be stated as, “You, you are my refuge, my portion.” And, it is in this life where David walks and needs help that he has found no one to help (142:4). They have instead laid traps for him (142:3).
David writes the same as other men of faith who recorded in scripture their trust in the Lord. In the midst of a variety of extreme circumstances these writers of scripture, the men of faith, expressed their trust in the Lord by referring to him as “my portion” or “my ground of support.” This “ground of support” stabilized these men in all of life’s extreme situations:
Stability – Psalm 16:5, “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
you make my lot secure.”
Instruction – Psalm 119:57, “You are my portion, Lord;
I have promised to obey your words.
Lamenting – Lamentations 3:24, “I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”
Thanksgiving – Psalm 73:26, “My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Considering the Lord as “my portion” should be understood not only in view of stability in life, but also as the only thing in life we get to inherit or keep when life is over.
This confidence in God and our considering him as our only inheritance in this life is particularly true when we find ourselves in a situation similar to David in 142:5 where he records that there is no one at his right side. The “right side” was the side your help and strength came from in battle or in a legal case. But, in David’s situation there was no one on his right side when he turned for help. Since there was no man who “had David’s back,” it was important for him to understand that in all things the Lord was his portion.