Psalm 43 – From Depression to a Procession of Praise
“This psalm is either a part of the previous one or is closely connected with it.” (G. Campbell Morgan) In fact, in a number of ancient Hebrew manuscripts, Psalm 42 and Psalm 43 are joined together as one. They are probably separate psalms, linked by a common problem: spiritual depression.
“We believe the fact is that the style of the poetry was pleasant to the writer, and therefore in after life he wrote this supplemental hymn after the same manner. As an appendix it needed no title.” (Charles Spurgeon)
A. The psalmist cries out to God.
1. (1) God, where are You when the wicked surround me?
Vindicate me, O God,
And plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
a. Vindicate me, O God: The psalmist repeated a familiar theme in psalms – a cry for vindication. He felt unjustly accused and took his sense of injustice to the right place – to the throne of God, and he left his vindication up to God.
b. Deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man: The psalmist knew the difficulty of dealing with deceitful and unjust people, because they not only do wrong, but they also know how to cover it up with deceit. In such a tough situation, the psalmist did the right thing – he cried out to God.
i. “Deceitful and unjust; who covereth his wicked designs with fair and false pretences; which sort of men are hateful to thee, and to all good men.” (Poole)
2. (2) God, why do You seem so distant from me?
For You are the God of my strength;
Why do You cast me off?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
a. For You are the God of my strength: If the psalmist didn’t have a relationship with God, he wouldn’t have this problem. Yet he did love the Lord, and his trust was in the strength of God and not his own strength – so he wondered where God was at his critical moment of need.
b. Why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning: The repeated asking of why is familiar to the tested people of faith. The psalmist wondered why God did not do things according to his thinking, especially when the answer might seem obvious.
3. (3a) God, I need to be led by Your light and truth.
Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
a. Send out Your light and Your truth: The psalmist knew that his light and his truth were not enough – he needed the light and truth of God. It wasn’t within him, so if God didn’t send it, he would not have it.
i. “Thy light and thy truth, i.e. thy favour, or the light of thy countenance, and the truth of thy promises made to me.” (Poole)
b. Let them lead me: This was a prayer of submission. “Lord, I don’t want You to send out Your light and truth just so I may admire them. I want to submit myself to Your light and Your truth and have them lead me. I need a leader, so lead me.”
i. This began the psalmist’s procession of praise. He began in depression, but he will end up praising God. It all began with the light and truth of God leading the way.
ii. “We seek not light to sin by, nor truth to be exalted by it, but that they may become our practical guides to the nearest communion with God.” (Spurgeon)
B. The psalmist describes his response to God’s coming answer.
1. (3b) When You answer my prayer, I will come to Your house.
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.
a. Let them bring me: The them of this statement refers back to the light and truth of the same verse. The psalmist wanted God’s light and truth to lead him to a specific place – to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.
i. Here was the second step in the procession of praise. Led by the light and truth of God, the psalmist came to the tabernacle, to the tent of meeting with God. Any place God’s people gather together to meet Him can become a tabernacle.
b. Your holy hill to Your tabernacle: The psalmist wanted to go to the tent of meeting. He wanted to because:
· He knew the Lord was there is a special way.
· He knew that God’s people were there.
· He knew that it was a place where he could focus on God.
2. (4) When You answer my prayer, I will praise You.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God.
a. I will go to the altar of God: Full of faith, the psalmist anticipated God’s answer to his prayer and declared that he would sacrifice (go to the altar) when the answer came. This wouldn’t be a sacrifice of atonement for sin, but for gratitude and celebration of fellowship with God.
i. This was the third stop on the procession of praise: the altar. “The way to God is ever the way of the altar. The way to the altar is opened by the sending out of light and truth from God.” (Morgan) When we follow the light and truth of the Lord, it will lead us to His altar – the cross where Jesus was given as a sacrifice for our sins.
ii. When the writer to the Hebrews stated, We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat (Hebrews 13:10), he likely referred to God’s provision at the cross, the ultimate offering on the ultimate altar of God. We can go to the altar of God by going in faith to the cross of Jesus and thinking deeply upon His work and victory there.
iii. Under the New Covenant we no longer offer animal sacrifices, but we still bring the sacrifice of praise. Hebrews 13:15 tells us how: Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. Our words and songs of praise become a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God.
b. On the harp I will praise You: The psalmist would not only praise God with animal sacrifice, but also with music and song. He reached his destination on the procession of praise – led by the light and truth of the Lord, he came to the house of God, to the altar of God, and then it culminated in praise.
3. (5) When You answer my prayer, I will challenge my feelings.
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
a. Why are you cast down, O my soul: The psalmist had hope of God’s redemption, but it had not come yet. In the meantime, he would not surrender to his feelings of depression and discouragement. Instead, he challenged those feelings and brought them to God. He said to those cast down and disquieted feelings, “Hope in God. He will faithfully answer again, because He has before.”
i. We see that at the end of the psalm, none of the circumstances of the psalmist had changed – only his attitude, and what a difference that made. “Not yet has the answer come. The darkness and the mystery are still about him, but the shining way is seen; and again the soul is forbidden to despair and hope is encouraged in God.” (Morgan)
ii. For I shall yet praise Him: “The refrain returns to the conflict between faith and doubt, to the contrast between the present and the future, and to the hope that ‘I will yet praise him.’” (VanGemeren)
b. The help of my countenance: The psalmist knew his countenance needed help – and God was just the one to bring it. The peace and joy that comes from trusting and praising God will help our face.
i. The sense of the Hebrew word is more salvation than help. One might say that God saves the countenance of His people. “The poet can praise God as his ‘exceeding joy’ and – not merely his help, which is too weak a word – his ‘salvation.’ Outwardly nothing has changed: but he has won through.” (Kidner)
ii. “Is there a cure for depression? Yes. But it is not in us. It is in God. The cure is to seek God’s face, so ours will not be downcast, which is what the psalmist does.” (Boice)
iii. “Faith may have a long struggle with fear, but it will have the last word, and that word will be ‘the help of my countenance and my God.’” (Maclaren)
(c) 2019 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org