Monday, August 11, 2008

Psalms 42-43: HOPE!

LINK: Psalms 42-43

BACKGROUND

These two psalms were probably originally one psalm. Several early Hebrew manuscripts put the two together. United by a single theme (a lament), the two psalms echo with a refrain that is repeated three times. The author is unknown, but it seems he longs for the house of God, the temple. He can’t get there; perhaps he’s in forced exile and alone.

Psalm 42 begins the second book or division of Psalms. There are five books, which some scholars believe correspond to the five books of the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). So the first book of Psalms lays a foundation or beginning: the ultimate emptiness of ungodliness is contrasted with the fruitfulness of godliness. Book Two of the Psalms corresponds with the book of Exodus and deals with redemption. Its songs center on God’s help and rescue of His people in trouble. I plan on seeing what I think about the themes of the books of Psalms we continue reading.

REFLECTION

Emily Dickinson calls hope a “thing with feathers” and we do commonly think of hope as something with wings, something that lifts us up. But hope is called the anchor of the soul in Hebrews and that is also the image given of it in these two psalms. Hope is what gives us stability when our emotions are engulfing us, when torrents of despair threaten to drown us. Hope in God is what anchors us and keeps us from being swept away.

Matthew Henry says that these psalms are like an internal argument between sense (what we see, hear, touch, taste, and smell) and faith (which believes in what is unseen). I like that. I have those internal arguments sometimes myself. Do you? See if you can see the back and forth conversation between sense and faith .

There are times when circumstances lead us to a place of discouragement and we despair; we experience depression. Look at these psalms and what the author is experiencing. He is lonely and longs for the joy he’s known previously. He feels forgotten by God. Wave after wave of sorrow sweep over him. He’s depressed and to add to his anguish of soul, enemies (the voices of The Enemy) are asking him where his God is and why He doesn’t help.

I’ve been there.

For some reason it helps to know that someone else who loves God has been there: engulfed and overwhelmed with sorrow.

Where does this writer turn? He longs for God. Like a deer that is thirsty and tired and needs refreshment, this psalmist yearns for the lifegiving refreshment that God gives.

And three times in these psalms the same refrain is repeated:

The first time –

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
(42: 5, NKJV)

The next two times the refrain ends a bit differently –

Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
(42: 11; 43: 5 NKJV)

Looking at God’s face changes my face!

APPLICATION

When you are depressed due to circumstances in your life where do you look for answers?

Do you focus on the circumstances and become even more overwhelmed? Do you look within yourself for the answer? Do you seek escape of some kind?

Or do you actively turn away from looking around and from looking within, to look up, to look at God? It takes a conscious act of the will to do that. It’s not something that comes naturally or easily.

Look at the psalmist’s lament and imitate it.

Hope in God.
Someday you will praise Him again with joy!
Help (salvation) is in Him.

PRAYER

LORD, send me Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me. Let them bring me to You so that I may hope in You and once more experience fulness of joy to Your praise.
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