Psalm 43, when we are laid low, how do we speak God to our hearts? So you look through the reading of God’s Word. Would you join me in prayer?
Father, you know that we are dull of heart, prone to sin, prone to carelessness. So we ask that you would open our eyes to the truth of Your Gospel, that you would unplug our ears, that we would hear Your word. And Father, that it please you to transform us by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Gracious God, your Son tells us that we do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from Your mouth. So please make us hungry this day for Your heavenly food, that it would nourish us in the ways of eternal life.
And this we ask through Jesus Christ, the bread of Heaven. Amen. Beginning in verse one vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people. From the deceitful and unjust man, deliver me, for you are the God in whom I take refuge. Why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light in your truth. Let them lead me, let them bring me to Your holy hill, into your dwelling. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the liar. O God, my God, why are you downcast?
O my soul, why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God, the Word of the Lord. If you please be seated.
U. From time to time, I get asked the question about application to sermons, and there are indeed some who give multiple applications. They’re simply like, here are six things of how to apply the text, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. Yet I believe a better way of application is the type where you say, here is how this text changes your beliefs, your thinking. Our actions flow from our beliefs.
So if you change the heart, you change the beliefs. You can then change the actions. When Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, he didn’t afterwards lift off five things you can do to love your neighbor. He simply said, Go and do likewise. He leaves us with the hard work of the heart, the Holy Spirit, bringing that into the occasions that it presents itself to us and we have to struggle and wrestle with our hearts.
We’ve all heard that proverb, feed a man a fish and he eats for a day, but steal his fishing gear and you can eat fish every day for yourself. Something like that. It’s the same idea getting a bigger picture of God, getting a greater understanding of who Jesus is, that is, taking the fishing gear so that you can feed your soul every day. And today’s psalm is no different. It encourages us to take the beliefs, the promises of God and apply them to our downcast hearts in whatever way they might be downcast.
The psalmist feels a great distance from the Lord. He feels rejected by God, and yet he comes to God as his refuge. We all have felt this tension at times in our own lives. I feel alone and cast out and yet I draw near to God in my anguish. But a large part of my anguish is because it doesn’t seem like he’s helping me.
But the Lord is our refuge, a very present help in times of trouble. And when we are distressed, we are to tell our hearts about our very great God. Psalm 43 probably is an extension of Psalm 42. They’re very similar. They may have been one psalm at once and earlier they were split in two and you’ll see similar refrains through them.
But the psalmist here in 43, it is the plea, the prayer portion, and he is able to takes his sorrow to the Lord in worship. He first talks to the Lord and then he talks to his heart about his God. Well, looking at speaking your heart to the Lord, he begins saying vindicate me, O God. Defend my cause against an ungodly people from the deceitful and unjust man. Deliver me.
Some translations say will judge me, O God. It’s the same idea. He’s asking God to vindicate him. It’s courtroom language, as one commentator puts it. He’s asking God to be both judge and defense attorney against the ungodly.
He wants his good name restored to be justified. What is the cause of this distress? We really don’t know. We don’t know what is prompting this. He speaks of the oppression of an enemy of some kind.
But this great distress, it gives rise to what he expresses in verse two the problem of his soul. For you are the God in whom I take refuge. Why have you rejected me? It’s the rejection that he feels why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of my enemy? And here we get to the very heart of this plea.
He takes refuge in God even while he feels abandoned and left alone. It parallels Psalm 42. In Psalm 42 he says in verse nine I say to God, my rock, why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? And notice, though, that a psalmist, he knows deep down that God is his rock, God is his refuge.
It’s because of that that he can make this very strong plea why have you rejected me? Why have you forgotten me? This is not hope and hope. It’s not faith in faith. His hope and his faith are in his God.
The Lord is the object of his faith. The Lord is the reason for his hope. So he can take the conflicting ideas of this rejection that he feels along with the knowledge that God is his refuge and he joins those together. And that is the struggle of our faith, joining those two truths together. We’ve all been there at one point or another into the basement and sometimes in the penthouse and the floors in between.
Martin Luther he wrote to his friend and fellow reformer Philip Mulankton from Wartburg Castle on July 13 of 1521. And he was there hiding for his life. And at the same time he was working on the translation of the New Testament into German. And I’ve read this before, but it is good to hear once more. This is what he wrote to his dear friend I sit here at ease, hardened, unfeeling, alas, praying little, grieving little for the church of God, burning rather in the fierce fires of my untamed flesh.
It comes to this I should be a fire in the spirit. In reality, I’m a fire in the flesh with lust, laziness, idleness sleepiness. It’s perhaps because you have all ceased praying for me that God has turned away from me. For the last eight days I have written nothing, nor prayed nor studied. Partly from self indulgence, partly from another vexation.
I really cannot stand it any longer. Pray for me, I beg you. For in my seclusion here I am, submerged in my sins. That’s Martin Luther, the great reformer separated from the people of God, wallowing in despair. And this is the great reformer who also gave us the beautiful hymn a Mighty Fortress.
A mighty fortress is our God a bulwark never failing our helper he amid the flood mortal ills prevailing and though this world with devil spills should threaten to undo us we will not fear for God has will to triumph through us. But goods and kindred go this mortal life also the body they may kill. God’s truth abides still. His kingdom is forever.
We’ve all lived those two places the glorious praise and proclamation of our God, our salvation and the wallowing in despondency and despair. For Luther, God was his rock, his refuge, the one to whom he could pour out his heart in utter anguish and in the Lord find his strength and his joy.
The psalmist moves forward then to verse three. After this plea, he says send out your light in your truth. Let them lead me, let them bring me to your holy hill, to your dwelling. For the psalmist darkness has settled in on him like a heavy winter fog and he no longer feels God’s assurance of mercy and kindness. One writer says trapped in the dark chaos of despair, his sole hope lies in God leading him out of the darkness by sending his light.
Notice how he personifies light and truth. He says, let them lead me, let them bring me. He’s asking the Lord to go before him. In Psalm 23, a well known psalm to us all the Lord is my shepherd. In verse six there, it says surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.
And together, from the Psalms, we see that there is that we’re a God sandwich, that we’re between his light and his truth. Lead us. His goodness and his mercy follow us. We have the rear guard, the front guard. God is taking us forward and we are there, safe and secure within Him.
This is what makes our hope so secure. In the words of one commentator, he said light seems to shine into our life when we ourselves know the favor of God. It is his favor that the psalmist is asking for once more to feel God’s presence in corporate worship. That’s why he’s speaking of going to his holy hill, his dwelling place. He’s speaking of the sanctuary so that he can chase away the feeling that he has of rejection.
We need the light of his presence. We need his words of truth. His presence soothes our emotion. His truth. It clears our minds of doubt.
Then verse four. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy and I will praise you with the liar, oh, God, my God. And he’s anticipating this future hope. I will praise you. I appreciate how Robert Davison, he phrases this.
He says this is where life can be rebuilt on the foundation of access through worship rebuilt on the foundation of access through worship to the one that he addresses as my God. All faith finds its natural expression in worship. When he speaks of going to the altar, he speaks of going into the congregation of the people of God. Part of the solution, the resolution for his loneliness is gathering with God’s people in joyful worship. The promises of God drag him forward, his heavy heart along the way, so that he can see the light of the sanctuary in front of Him, to fill his heart once more with joy.
Now, when I speak of joyful worship, I do not mean that happy clappy, saccharine, sentimental worship with the big plastic smile that never comes close to any real heart issues. That’s one of the struggles of our culture, that there’s this running towards an upbeatness of positivity that belies. A heavy heart doesn’t have any room for that. We try to push all that out with a manufactured emotion. No deep, dark thoughts, no fears.
But we all struggle with these things. It’s a part of our life. God knows that. And so we can bring these things exactly to Him. My good friend, Pastor How Irvine several years ago, he spoke to me, the poignancy in singing I will praise Him Still after his son Andy died in the Stillwater River.
He said, this takes on a whole new meaning.
A whole new meaning for that song. These lyrics. When the morning falls on the farthest hill I will sing his name I will praise Him still when dark trials come and my heart is filled with the weight of doubt I will praise Him still that song we can take wherever we are at with the circumstances in front of us because God has made us to approach him with all of our hearts. One of the largest categories of the Psalms is lament, passionate expressions of grief and sorrow that allow our hearts to offload their pain with a purpose. In the Bible, lament provides, as it were, high banks that we can release our emotions through.
They’re like giant storm drains. They channel the force and the torrents of our hearts to a constructive end. What makes a flood so devastating is that when it breaks through the levee or it overruns the banks, then it spreads out in just a directionless mass of water that destroys everything in its way until it finally dissipates in defetted ponds of stagnant water. Songs and prayers lament. It gives words to our grief.
It names our sorrows. The Book of Lamentation is the most constructed literary work in the Bible. Five poems woven together of acrostic style poetry written in a meter of a traditional dirge. And these crafted laments give shape and form our grief in his agony. The psalmist knows that the answer to his isolation, alienation despair is communion with God in the shared faith of fellow worshippers.
It comes as we bring our petitions, our prayers to the Lord. We pour out our sorrows to him. And once we have done this, this God talk, we take our sorrows into the Lord and it gives way to speaking the Lord to our heart.
And that’s what we see here in verse five. Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. He’s speaking back to himself.
Martin Lloyd Jones, that great Welsh preacher, he put it this way said, the whole art of Christian living is to know how to talk to yourself. How do you talk to yourself? And Lloyd Jones emphasized that we must talk to ourselves. Rather than allow our circumstances to talk to us, we preach to ourselves the promises, the truths, the beliefs of our God. In his work, Spiritual Depression, it comes off a series of sermons.
He writes this have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. They are talking to you. They bring back the problems of yesterday. Somebody is talking.
Who’s talking to you? Yourself is talking to you. Now, this man’s treatment in the Psalms was this instead of allowing the self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. Why are you cast down, O my soul? His soul has been depressed, crushing him.
So he stands up and he says, listen, self, for a moment I will speak to you. And what he speaks to himself is the truth of God. For most of us, our problem is not that we don’t know the truth, but that we don’t feel its force. By declaring to ourselves, we allow this truth to take center stage once more, to put back the focus where it should be. I remember being in downtown St.
Louis, along the waterfront, and there’s these iron channels in the concrete. And what they’re there for is that you place these big, huge sheets of steel, steel plates they lock in whenever there’s a danger of the Mississippi flooding. And these high steel walls then will keep the flood in check. When we speak God’s truth to our hearts, it is putting up high steel walls to channel the Casading cataracts of pain and anguish.
It puts them between truths and allows them to flow as mighty as they want to flow to a constructive end for God’s. People lament must always give way to prayer, to hope. One writer has expressed it. He said there is no help to be found in the weak ally of memory. Aid must come directly from God.
Think about how often, when we’re feeling down, we can play a sad song over and over again, listen to a sad song. There’s a sort of a solace and comfort we can get in those types of things, but the reality is it will only consolidate and strengthen our loneliness. We simply melt into self pitying, despair. That kind of self talk will not bring us to life. We must turn from the memories and the burdens within our own minds and boldly speak of our God speaking a plea of deliverance.
Because God must intervene, his light and his truth must bridge the chasm of our own darkness. One writer has said that this refrain, this chorus, is a liturgy, not an autobiography. What he means then is that together you and I are declaring our common hope in him as the people of God, not just simply going over the details. We want to try to forget it’s a liturgy, because together we say, why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
That’s the good news that the psalmist brings us to. And the good news of the psalmist is even better for you and I, the light and the truth of God that he personifies here has now become incarnate, the incarnate word who dwells with us. This Jesus said I am the light of the world. I am the way, the truth and the life. He’s the incarnation of all of our hope.
He’s the incarnation of God with us, the psalmist, he calls for vindication, but that vindication ultimately is only going to be found in our justification by the righteousness of Christ, given to us by faith alone. He is looking forward to the final work of Christ when we will be fully rescued. And even here in the New Testament, we hear the echoes of the psalm in Jesus. Matthew 26 jesus said, my soul is very sorrowful, even to death. John Twelve now my soul is troubled.
What shall I say, Father? Save me from this hour, but for this purpose I have come to this hour. And then we hear Jesus speak to his Father in agony on our behalf. In the 9th hour he cried out in a loud voice, eloy, eloy lema sabaktanai, which means My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? The Son spoke forth words of abandonment, of rejection, so that you and I would be rescued, that we would be included, that God would be our rock, our refuge.
And that is what we have in Christ. In the midst of all the things that go around us, the problems, the struggles that we face, we have the light of truth going ahead of us, the vanguard, even while we have the goodness and mercy of God following us. It doesn’t feel like that in the midst of those struggles, in the midst of life is falling apart. It doesn’t feel like God’s in front of me, God’s behind me, and he’s moving me ahead. But that’s what the truth is.
And it is in those moments that we can speak the truth to our heart, that the force of them can reorient our own feelings, our own desires to folks that bring them back. It doesn’t matter where they come from or what they are, that this truth is what we apply to those circumstances. Allowing the word of truth, allowing the sun to go ahead of us, the author and the perfecter of our faith, that we’re surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses who have already gone ahead of us, cheering us along the way. We’re not alone. And to emphasize that God puts us in a community of faith of his people, that we can then come together jointly praising and worshipping Him, that is a tremendous gift to us.
Because again, there’s always someone up here, there’s always someone down there, and there’s these transitions that take place, and yet it doesn’t make any difference where you are. Our corporate voices together blend and mesh with all of the joys, with all of the garbage, and it goes up to God in worship, declaring that he is great and greatly to be praised. Our rock, our fortress. He has not forgotten us, he has not abandoned us, he has not left us to our own devices. He is ever present with us.
And certainly we don’t have to look any farther than the person and work of Jesus.
The light and truth of the Father has gone in front of you. His goodness and mercy follow behind, and he is leading the way. Pray with me, Father. We do confess that in moments when our hearts are overwhelmed. That is hard to see.
It’s hard to know. And so, Lord, we thank you for your truth. We thank you that you have not left us. You have not forsaken us. And Father, we pray that your spirit in us would continue just to boldly speak these truths to our hearts.
Father, that he would continue to declare your presence to us in the person and work of our Savior, Jesus. Father, we thank you for it. That we have been justified, that we have been forgiven, that we have been received through our Savior Jesus. Father, please continue. Give us an ever expanding horizon th of the Lord of glory before us.
We bless you. We thank you. We give you all praise, glory and honor. And this we do through Christ, our risen Savior. Amen.
We please stand together as we sing. My hope is built on.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription