Psalm 51 Lynne McCarthy 4/29/22
Observe: A man is racked with guilt and shame; memories of past sin haunt him. He craves mercy because of his terrible, multiple wrongs. No ordinary man (though it could be anybody); this is David, King David, chosen and loved by God. How could he sin, having such a special place in God’s heart?
He recounts first his appeal for mercy (1,2) then in agonies of conscience, recognizes he deserves God’s just judgment. But David longs for a new sense of God’s presence; humble repentance compels him to ask to hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have broken rejoice (8) – there’s no self-flagellation here, but His Presence will blot out (remove) the stain of sin that He cannot look upon.
Verses 10-12 are powerful and poignant. God has indeed made his heart new, but rather than removing His Spirit, as David feared, He answers his appeal for mercy. Remembering Uriah’s murder he prays, Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O Lord … and my tongue will sing aloud of Your salvation. (14). If God can forgive this evil, He can forgive all else, so David asks for a renewed disposition of heart: … open my lips and my mouth will declare Your praise (15), and later, a broken and contrite heart (17), a sacrifice to honour God.
His people, united as broken penitents who follow His covenant and worship Him, foreshadow His Church, sharing in God’s life. (18, 19)
Interpret: Probably the best-known of David’s Penitential Psalms. He knows guilt and implores God, in penitence, for His mercy. His sin? He looked, but didn’t look away, look became desire, desire became a sequence of horrific actions: deception, murder, adultery. But this man after God’s own heart couldn’t remain in his guilt and shame; he runs to his God and repents, voicing his wrongdoing, asking for mercy, and receives it.
The Holy Spirit is rarely spoken of regarding the interior life in the Hebrew Bible – the only references are v. 11b here, and Ezek. 36:27.
Apply: As we recognize our sin, we come to God for His mercy and forgiveness. Our spirits are renewed and refreshed in knowing He has truly forgiven us – proven by Jesus and His cross. As He gave David grace, so He gives to us in our need.
But we must: 1. Recognize that we have sinned (specifics and humility needed here); 2. Take hold of that gift of humility, confessing our wrongs to the one we hurt, if possible (Mt. 5:23), then come to God to ask for His mercy; 3. Cleansed now, we make efforts to remove ourselves from agents or environments of sin. But if in our weakness, we do fail -- 4. Repeat the above, again and again, until we know that this sin has no dominion over us (Rom 6:14).
We thank God for conscience and ask Him to clear it so we don’t fall into self-condemnation, self-pity; nor do we ignore it, hoping the proddings go away. They won’t, until we come before God for His help in time of need.
Ask: Jesus, I’m so weak and fall away from You so often, with such ease, and I am ashamed. Would You cleanse the thoughts of my heart, to grow my desire to remain in You? Would You keep me close to Your heart?
Pray: Lord, Your property is always to have mercy. Cleanse the thoughts of my heart by the blood of the Lamb and the breath of Your Spirit that I may come to You in humble praise and thanks for Your great mercy. Lead me away from temptation by Your mercy and grace. Let me always be thankful that You, God of all comfort, are Mercy itself.
Song: Psalm 51 Sons of Korah A Broken Spirit and Contrite Heart https://youtu.be/8RnDuwbz5UI
Basilica of the Holy Trinity A Prayer of Repentance https://youtu.be/5NQjfIOmGkk
Create in Me (Tom Kendzia)
Observe God addresses His covenant people from all nations (from the rising of the sun to where it sets (1)) who offer lawful animal sacrifices. But while they are acceptable, He doesn’t need them. Reminding them that He owns all of Creation (9-12), His real desire is for His people to worship Him with thanksgiving and sincere, trusting prayer: Sacrifice thank offerings to God, fulfill your vows to the Most High, and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me. (14b,15) His promise of deliverance moves His true people to worship and obedience.
He rebukes the wicked for their hypocrisy (16-20). They are far too willing to ally themselves with thieves and adulterers, and slander their own families. But God’s silence isn’t acquiescence or acquittal. His justice for hypocrites is swift, while those who honour Him will enjoy His salvation. (23).
Interpret This is the first of twelve Psalms attributed to Asaph (whose name means ‘gather’), the great singer and musician during David and Solomon’s reigns. (1 and 2 Chronicles).
God calls everyone on earth to witness His judgment. His justice (fire) and power (storm) (v. 3) begin with His people. He rebukes, not their sacrifices (which He commands), but empty ritual replaces real relationship.
Does He judge the wicked outside Israel? No; He rebukes the wicked among His own people, who in their disregard for His word seem to think He is altogether like them (11) that is, unholy. Misinterpreted as agreement, His silence is of no more concern to them than His holiness. But His silence is a patient waiting until they come round.
For those who abandon hypocrisy, who repent and return to Him in sacrificial praise, God in His love saves them.
Apply This Psalm carries tough words and tough love. Maybe it’s time to reorder minds and hearts towards what God asks of us -- a desire to know Him, a committed, humble heart, a thankful spirit. Going to church (aka, being ‘religious’), and committing ourselves to Jesus as first in our lives, are polar opposites in His sight.
After all, He gave His life for ours; that alone is reason for determined worship on Sunday and beyond. Worshipping Jesus worthily requires intentional obedience, repentance and faith. And He will not be silent; He will answer us as we call to Him in our need and praise Him for His goodness.
Is this reminding getting a bit repetitious? But we forget, easily and often. Look at Jesus’ disciples!
So we ask and ask again for His Spirit, His grace, His mercy, to turn again to true and sincere worship. Let’s remember we walk the narrow and not-easy path in companionship with Him and our faith family. Real relationship replaces empty ritual.
Ask Lord, would You show me those shadowy hypocrises that hide in my heart and invade my life? How can I truly worship and avoid mere ‘churchgoing’?
Pray Lord, I turn from things that sadden you -- what I have done or failed to do or say or think. I ask Your mercy and forgiveness, seventy times seven, and again take up my cross to follow You, by grace.
Sing Psalm 50 To the Upright - Songs in His Presence
Psalm 50 (NIV) read by David Suchet
INTRODUCTION: This Psalm contrasts the fate between the ultimate destiny of the wealthy who trust in themselves, and those whose trust is in the Lord.
OBSERVATION: The key verse in this Psalm comes near the beginning, verses 5 - 6, "Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me - those who trust in their wealth and boast of their great riches?"
The rest of the Psalm explains that although the rich have power and influence now, when they die, it will all come to nothing. They will suffer the same fate as those they now despise, because they trust in themselves (always a mistake in the Biblical narrative) and in their followers who approve their sayings (V.13).
This is the opposite of the fate of the wise, who get understanding. Wisdom and understanding are more to be valued than gold (Psalm119), and real wealth is in the fear of the Lord (Prov, 9.10). The "upright" ( v.14b) will prevail, God will redeem them from the realm of the dead. The upright are warned against envying the rich (v.16) who will never again see the light of life (v.19b).
This is summed up in the final verse, "People who have wealth but lack understanding are like the beasts that perish."
APPLICATION: Today, for those of us who have gained understanding, Verses 5-9 direct us to Jesus with the statement, "No one can redeem the life of another or give God a ransome for them - the ransome for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough - so that they should live on forever and not see decay." We know that God gave his only begotten Son, Jesus, as a ransome for all who believe in him, so that we can have eternal life. The pearl beyond price, the crown of life, is for those who believe in him. Thanks be to God.
PRAYER: Lord, it is so easy to envy those who have wealth and privilege. Their lives look so easy on the outside. Envy is such a waste of time and blinds us to the blessings of every day life, even as we struggle. Thank you for the reminder that to trust in you is more than enough, and that we have a glorious future ahead, even as death beckons, life with you awaits. Amen.
Song: "Living Hope" by Phil Wickham
Observe: Psalm 48 focuses on two things – the city of the great King (verses 1-8) and responding to the great King (verses 9-14). Within these two sections we can observe the great King and His city (verses 1-3), the troubled kings of the earth (verses 4-7), the established city of the Lord (verse 8), meditating on His mercies (verses 9-11) and the city representing God’s faithfulness (verses 12-14).
Interpretation and Application: God is to be praised in His city (Jerusalem) and what is interesting is that Jerusalem is also referred to as God’s holy mountain. We often think that Mount Sinai is His holy mountain, but that mountain was deemed so holy that no one could really go there unless sanctioned by God. If one were to approach the mountain, they would die. Psalm 48 indicates that Jerusalem as a holy mountain is open to all – the joy of the whole earth. We as believers have been grafted into Israel and therefore just as God established Zion forever (verse8), Christ promised to establish His church forever (Matthew 16:18) and thus we become part of God’s temple – His dwelling place (I Corinthians 3:16). Israel had heard stories in the past of how God had delivered His people, but now they experienced it for themselves. How true for us as believers! We have heard stories of others coming to Christ, but now when we experience it ourselves we can add our story to theirs. When the kings joined forces to invade God’s city, they must have been giddy with confidence in assuming that they could overtake it. However, once they got a look at it, they turned tail and fled in terror (verses 4-7). Oh, that those of us who know and love the Lord could radiate such an image of Christ that those who mock and confront us would turn in terror and seek Him! When we meditate on God’s unfailing love (verse 9) we should automatically praise His name to the ends of the earth and tell of Him to the next generation (verses 9-13). Verse 14 ties back to verse 1 – the Lord is great and greatly to be praised. He is our God and guide forever and ever, even unto death. We can trust and praise Him because He is faithful to deliver us. No matter what evil we encounter in this world, nothing can thwart God’s loving purposes for those of us who dwell in His city!
Prayer: Thank you Lord for your faithfulness and loving kindness. We praise and adore You and know that You will be our guide, even to the end. Help us to shine Your light from Your city into this dark world. In Your holy name, amen.
Song: Great is the Lord
“For the Lord Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.”
Psalm 47: 2
This Psalm was for the ‘Director of Music’ to use in acts of worship by God’s people. Although seemingly attributed to the ‘sons of Korah,’ we see the character of David in the writing of the Psalm. This has led to some commentators suggesting that the sons of Korah were those who sang the Psalm. This little introduction, when put together with the Psalm itself, encourages us to see the value, worth and wonder of musical worship and the blessing of gifted leaders and musicians. There is power in Praise.
The Psalm itself is simply about the complete and ultimate Sovereignty of God. He is the creator of all things, rules over all and so is fully deserved of utter praise and exaltation. The Psalm may have been written for a specific occasion such as the return of the Ark of the Covenant or for the celebration of a particular victory, but who is to say that it was not used on more than one occasion, just as we re-use songs in our worship. Whichever is the case the truths that emanate from this Psalm are many, for example: the joy of praise; the holy nature of worship; the wonder and awe that can be seen in the character of God; the privilege of corporate worship; and the correct focus in said worship and praise.
There are also clear prophetic overtones and parallels to God’s salvation plan in Christ. As ‘God ascended,’ (4) so has Christ ascended to His rightful place of majesty (Philippians 2: 9-11). As all nations are under God, so will they be subject to Him in fullness on the day of Christ’s return as God’s purposes are fulfilled in and through Christ (Ephesians 1: 7-10, 2: 6-10).
A number of lessons come from this Psalm for us to apply in our lives and our worship:
The Question of Application
Try praying this Psalm, adding at the end of each verse, an appropriate prayer based on the circumstances you see in the world and face in your life.
Blessed are you, God of all the earth; you have called us out of every people and nation to be a royal priesthood and citizens of your holy city. May our words of praise call the world to turn to the joy of fellowship with you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Rejoice, The Lord is King by William and Tina Slider
King of Kings sung by St. Aidan’s & Nikita Labdon
Psalm 46 is one of eleven Psalms noted to be of the Sons of Korah. The entire Psalm has a chiastic structure, meaning it begins and ends with God’s refuge and is centered around the power of His word over nature and humanity. The first paragraph begins with what looks like a response to what must have been chaos as observed by the author(s). They declare that since God is their refuge and strength, someone who is immediately at hand when troubles pile on troubles, nobody should be afraid – yes, even when the earth gives way, the mountains are swallowed up by the sea, and the very bedrock of the world seems to be cracking apart. God has got this.
They go on to describe the end of days and the temple herself, saying, again as a reminder, that the very presence of God in her midst is reason enough to cast out fear and hesitation. Even though nations fight and civilization collapses, God’s word is enough to melt away all evil and discord.
The final paragraph beckons the reader to behold the works of the Lord; namely, that He has done away with those who oppose Him, creating suffering and wickedness. He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire. Harkening back to Exodus 14, we hear that we must “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46 concludes with the confident assertion that the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.
In doing a little background research about this Psalm, I came across an examination of this text that is too good to pass up. It explained the significance and, in my opinion, the irony, found in this particular Psalm being written by the Sons of Korah. I’ve copied and pasted it here:
“Suppose for a moment that you were looking through the family history, and you found out that the earth had opened up and swallowed your great-grandfather. Quite a story, no? Looking further into it, you discover that the reason the earth swallowed up your great-grandfather was that it was a judgment from God for opposing Moses. And this story got written into the Bible, so that everyone would know what happens when you get in God’s way. That is the backstory of the sons of Korah.”
Though Korah himself met a rather ignominious end, his descendants went on to serve as gatekeepers to the tabernacle itself. This stuck out to me as hugely significant! I doubt anyone would soon forget the tale of your ancestor’s brutal demise at the hands of a rightly offended God; yet the Sons of Korah did not shrink back from their duties or abandon the Lord. Rather, they remained steadfast and faithful to God, even “though the earth gives way,” which is exactly how Korah died. They didn’t need to only imagine the earth splitting open, they had seen it for themselves.
I’m sure some might have become imbittered towards the Lord after such a thing, however these sons of Korah saw the actions of the Lord in Numbers 16 as proof of His justice and might. It was this harsh rebuke that actually increased their confidence in the sovereign power of God! To have the actual ground itself give way, to have the bottom of your life just drop out into nothing is no doubt a terrifying feeling whether it’s figurative or literal, but it will absolutely show you who you are and where you put your trust.
Trust is a massive theme throughout the Psalms; try and count how many of them have to do with imploring of the Lord to act and then praising Him for His steadfastness. See how many of them celebrate the Lord’s deliverance, closeness, and goodness; how many of them worship His power and establish His plans as infinitely better than our own. Again and again, you can see that the authors of the Psalms (especially David) wrestled with God and his own lack of trust, only to decide to trust God once more, choosing to dwell in His peace that seems so illogical given David’s many crazy circumstances.
Trust in this way is radical and unusual. It is the backbone of our prayers, too. Trust that God hears those who pray, rewards and reveals Himself to those who seek Him, is nearby in times of trouble, walks with us every day even though we can’t feel it, that He knows your needs better than you, that He has a plan, that He will provide for your needs, that He will use all things for good, and so much more. Trust is the thing that calms our hearts and stills our hands. Trust is an action and not merely a feeling. It is something to be practiced and grows when it is put to the limit. Trust is necessary to step out in faith beyond what you might want to do or be comfortable doing. Trust in God is never misplaced, either! He is the one and only thing upon whom you can depend with each and every thing swirling around in your heart and mind and spirit even right now as you read this.
Trust in God needs to be nurtured. Go into your room and close the door, praying the Lord’s prayer line by line, filling in the gaps with your own specific words of praise and petition and thanksgiving, taking as much time as you need.
The hardest thing about trusting God is knowing when to simply leave something in His hands and when to act. The two go together, but not all the time. This takes wisdom and practice, as well as trial and error. That’s OK! Check yourself, though, and be keen to sense when you try to take the reins out of a sense of panic or anxiety over God not living up to His end of the bargain.
When you can honestly and fairly evaluate yourself as having done all that you should, make the conscious decision to leave the result in God’s hands. It takes remaining in the Word and prayer to know what to do in each given situation. Everyone is different, but this rule is in place for all of us: BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD. When in doubt, pray it out, and know that before you even say a word, He knows your life, your needs, your sins, your secrets, and yet loves you! Don’t hide from Him, but run to Him and fall in His lap, trusting that He is sovereign. Even though the earth gives way and the mountains are swallowed up, our God is Lord and King forever. Amen!
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. You are mighty and supreme and the giver of life to us all. You are the God of all things, the saviour and sustainer of the world, yet you know us each by name and beckon each of us to join you at your table. Thank you so much for opening up the way to your kingdom through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, that we might run into your presence, hop into the arms of Him who sits on the throne, and let you carry us. Let our hearts begin to trust anew, that we might be an example of living worship to this dying world. Amen.
Song: Psalm 46 (Shane & Shane)
Text: Psalm 45
OBSERVE: This is a psalm that is known as a wedding song. We observe that it is to a tune of “Lilies” from the Sons of Korah. It begins with a what appears to be a love story of two individuals in preparation of a royal wedding, but then expands to speak about something much more. We observe the author making two declarations in this psalm concerning the reign of this great King: which include the eternity of his reign and the righteousness of his reign.
INTERPRET: Within this psalm we read about a royal wedding that is being celebrated. This wedding clearly points to the future wedding of the eternal and righteous King. Though the initial picture is of a royal marriage, the words also show the loving relationship that exists between Jesus Christ and His bride, the Church. The two declarations made in this psalm concerning the eternity and righteousness of His reign makes it clear that it is about the future Messiah.
All earthly kings have had to give up their crown at some point in time due to conspiracy or death; but the reign of the eternal King lasts forever. While earthly kingdoms pass away, His ever-increasing Kingdom shall endure forever. Jesus’ reign is not only an eternal Kingship but one that is built on righteousness.
APPLICATION: Let us be filled with a deep desire to set our eyes on Christ Jesus—the bridegroom, who is the Author and Perfecter of our faith. He is faithful and true and He promises to present us—His bride, to His Father as one washed clean of every impurity. Let us prepare for the great wedding feast by living repentant lives, praying without ceasing to be more faithful, more enduring, more loving, more forgiving and more holy.
On this Good Friday; let us remember all that our King has done for us on the cross, while also remembering that “It Is Finished”. He has defeated all of his enemies and all other kingdoms are now fading away. The Kingdom of God is eternal and righteousness has prevailed. Let us all sing the wedding song in anticipation of the great wedding feast.
Prayer: Eternal and Righteous King, we ask that you shape our minds so that we may focus on you and your Kingdom. Flood our hearts with your goodness so that all of our words and actions may help bring many more to the great wedding feast. Help us to be more like you in every way, our Lord and King. May Your kingdom reign in and through our lives forever. Amen.
SONG: Wedding Day (Holy)
April 13th – Les Kovacs Psalm 44
Observe: Psalm 44 is a lament about the times that God seems silent and far away.
The Psalmist starts by remembering the history of all the great and wonderous things God did for the His people in the past. They remember how God drove out the peoples that occupied the land He promised to give them and helped them establish a new home. They remember that it was not their own armies that secured the victories for the Israelites, but the Lord’s mighty sword. It was not in their own power they trusted, but in the power of the Lord.
Then, the Psalmist turns to their present circumstances and wonders why the Lord seems to have abandoned them. They no longer feel His protection from their enemies. They are vulnerable to the attacks and taunts of the nations. And they ask “Why?” Why has God abandoned them? What had they done wrong? In their view, they had not turned away form Him, they had not strayed from His path, they had not forgotten Him.
So, they call out to God to rouse Himself and save them once again, and not reject them forever. They call on Him to rise up and help them because of His great love for them.
Interpret: Scholars are not sure when this Psalm was written or who wrote it. It may have been written during the Babylonian exile, when they were far from their own land, and it is credited to the “Sons of Korah”.
These would certainly have been very difficult times for the people of Israel, surrounded by a pagan culture and oppressed at every turn. Furthermore, they saw themselves as unfortunate victims, being taken captive through no fault of them own, but rather through the abandonment by their God. Although they remember the stories of His great provenance to His chosen people as told to them by their ancestors and teachers, they couldn’t understand why He would allow their enemies to defeat them and carry them off as captives and slaves. In their own eyes they had done nothing wrong, certainly nothing that would warrant this ill-treatment from the Lord. In their own eyes they believed they had remained faithful to the Lord, had done all the things He required of them, and had not forgotten or turned away from His path. They conveniently seemed to have forgotten that it was in fact, their own sinfulness that had gotten them into this trouble. They had forgotten about their acceptance and worship of foreign gods and idols; about their injustice towards the less fortunate in their society; and about following their own will and wisdom instead of seeking God’s ways. Sadly, what we don’t see here is any evidence of repentance or regret for sin on the part of the people.
Then they call on God to rouse Himself to save them because of His great love for them, but somehow it feels a bit unfinished. In the end, there is no indication that God has or will deliver them, just a plea for Him to do so. But, at least the Psalmist knows to whom they should turn as their only real hope.
Application: Psalm 44 feels a bit like a psalm that any one of us could have written because we’ve all been there. A place where we remember the wonders that God has performed and the many blessings He has bestowed on us. A time when we remember how good and kind and merciful and gracious God has been to us. And yet there are times when He seems far away from us, when things are not going the way we planned or hoped, and we wonder what’s going on, “Why is this happening to me? How do I deal with this?” We can become depressed and anxious during these times, and we can well understand the feeling of “aloneness” the psalmist experiences as we struggle with our own feelings, and we long for the “good old days.”
The fact that this Psalm, with its description of dire circumstances and its expressions of concern and confusion over God keeping His word to His people, is even included in Scripture is an indication of just how universal these feelings are. We are not the only ones to ever have these feelings. They are a part of our human experience, and God is fully aware of it because He lived it. We live in a world of chaos and confusion and crisis. Even on our journey to become more like Christ, we encounter hurtful events that can cause us to doubt our faith. God knows all that, and accepts the strained questions we have when we don’t understand the painful times we go through. It is a valid part of growing in our faith.
It is easy to rejoice in the Lord when the going is smooth, and living is easy. But, when the harsh realities of life in a fallen world crush in on us, and our hearts groan with anguish, that is when we can experience the most meaningful growth in our faith. When we are forced to lean into God’s love and rely on His grace to get us through the darkness, that is when we can see Him most clearly. When we can rely on no one else, that is when we must rely on Him the most.
I recently had an exchange with a dear friend who has been dealing with a lot of pain lately. I said to her that there is a common expression that God never gives you more than you can handle, but I told her that I don't believe that. I think that sometimes He lets you deal with just a little more than you can handle, so that you have to lean into Him and so He can help you deal with it. When you find yourself in one of those times, lean into Him as hard as you can because that is where you will find your strength.
Prayer: Father God, this life is filled with uncertainty, and we often fail to trust you completely in all our circumstances. We ask your forgiveness for our unbelieving hearts. Help us to remember your great love for us, and your unfailing faithfulness, faithfulness even to death on the cross. This we pray in the merciful name of Jesus, Amen.
Song: Leaning on You, Jesus – Christy Nockles
Observe: This psalm is actually the third and last stanza of the psalm that begins in Psalm 42. The clue is the refrain in Ps. 42: 5 and 42:11, which is repeated once again at 43:5. So, Pss. 42 and 43 are to be read as a single psalm.
This is a lament, in the form of a prayer for healing and defense, and a prayer to be led once again to God’s temple (42:4 “in procession to the house of God,” 43:3, “your holy hill and your dwelling.”) The thrice repeated refrain is in the form of an inner dialogue: “Why, my soul, are you downcast, and why so disturbed within me?”
Interpret: A lament is a kind of pity party directed to God. Whether it is enemies, illness, or despair, God will listen. Ps. 43 begins with, “Vindicate me, O God.” The psalmist is pleading, “Declare me innocent! Rescue me! Where are you when I need you, God? Get me out of this place and away from these people, and bring me to Mount Zion and your altar. There I will praise you, God!”
The repeated refrain rounds out this third stanza with the psalmist speaking to the deep inner self: “Why are thou so heavy, O my soul? And why art thou so disquieted within me? O put thy trust in God…” (BCP, p. 384) Psalm 103 begins with “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name.” Such inner dialogues reveal the need to tell oneself to trust in the Lord, or to bless the Lord.
Application: A soloist walks on to a darkened stage into a single pool of light. Before this, the story has told of a faithful person, now far from home, and beset my outside enemies and inner fears. The soloist sings of happier times when worship with others was a joy and consolation. Looking up, the singer appeals to God to “send me your light and your faithful care, let them lead me…to your holy mountain…Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.” This last is sung with hope rekindled at the very thought of being safe and in the worshipping crowd once more. In the final refrain the singer repeats, “Why are you downcast, my soul…Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” Lights slowly go dark as the soloist walks off stage.
The lament is real, and the hope is real. Life can be hard. But God is greater than our troubles. Paul in Romans 8 says, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory that will be revealed to us.”
Pray: God of hope, when we are downcast, and far from where we are safe, be our light and our guide to the peace that you alone can give, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Song: As the Deer
Observe: The Psalm begins with an image of longing: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, Lord (1). The poet knows it is God he thirsts after, while mockers jeer, ‘Where is your God?’. As he pours out [his] soul (4) to his seemingly-absent Lord, he recalls going to the Temple to worship and praise, under His protection. Now, he is downcast, his emotions an internal storm.
The beautiful verse 8, By day the LORD directs his love, at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life, pulls him out of despondency – until it washes back in on him. He is pleading for hope: Why are you forgetting me? It looks like the enemy is winning, and he muses, Why are you cast down, O my soul? (11a) Why such sadness?
His dilemma has no apparent resolution, yet he can tell himself, Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.(11b).
Interpret: Psalms 42 and 43 are often considered a unit as we begin Book 2.
Reading carefully, we find an undercurrent of deep sadness in David’s longing as he addresses his soul. An undercurrent, too, is of exile – from the Temple? From God? He is discouraged and yes, depressed – my tears have been my food day and night (3); overwhelmed, as if drowning: All your breakers and your waters have gone over me (7). External oppression, internal emotional turmoil, mocking all around, discouragement, helplessness … God, where are You?
It’s a deep, honest prayer. Yet God’s sovereign love holds the psalmist all along. Those breakers and waves are from God, purposeful, and not from the enemy nor David’s fickle feelings.
The singer determines to hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him … (5,11). His hope, though, is not fully realized: I shall yet praise Him – just not at the moment (unusual, as laments generally end with praise). But praise will happen – in God’s perfect time. Patience and endurance are his Godly armour in this spiritual battle, hope his principal weapon.
Apply: The psalmist asks Why? It’s a legitimate question in events that confuse and discourage and often depress. God doesn’t forget, though it may feel like it. Feelings come and go and are unreliable. God is fully reliable, and ever-present -- perhaps testing, perhaps waiting, always loving.
With a solid underpinning of trust that He cares deeply for us who suffer, His Spirit assures us He is working out His plan for our lives.
So, we “self-talk” the Gospel and look beyond ourselves – a graced discipline of the will – and the Spirit whispers, if God is for us, who can be against? ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:31…35)
It’s not easy or pleasant, but God disciplines those He loves (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6) to transform us into His true image-bearers. Filled with hope in Him through our difficulties, despite our state of mind, we bring His compassion to those thirsty, discouraged and depressed.
Ask: Lord of my life, would you help me in dark times to remember You care? Would you transform my feelings of failure and fear into hope, praise, love, and trust, because aren’t You alone my Saviour and my God?
Pray: O God, grant that I may desire you, and desiring you, seek you, and seeking you, find you, and finding you, be satisfied in you forever. Francis Xavier
Sing Psalm 42: As the Deer Pants
Lord from Sorrows Deep I Call - Keith Getty
For Reflecting at Lent: Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended? - Fernando Ortega
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.