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
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.