Read: Psalm 43:1; 2 Kings 18:30 – 35
Psalm 43 continues the reflections of Psalm 42 regarding a sense of alienation from God, and suggests some additional causes of that sense of alienation. In Psalm 43:1 the first cause of the Psalmist’s anguish is opposition of “ungodly people.” The Hebrew translated “ungodly” is actually two words, “not” and “holy” or “pious.” The word translated “people” is “goy” – referring to the nations, specifically those nations that are not Israel, namely the gentiles. The psalmist longed for God to act as his judge and defend his case against the impious peoples who surrounded him and threatened him. These unholy, impious people had no reverence for God. They did not share and actively opposed the values and standards God revealed in His Law. The psalmist felt surrounded and outnumbered; it was “him against the gentiles.”
Think About It: Rabshakeh, spokesman for the Assyrian king Sennacherib, typified the gentile attitude towards Israel and its God. On the basis of 2 Kings 18:30 – 35, what was the gentile view of God? How is this view of God represented in the world today? Do I ever feel surrounded and outnumbered by godless, impious, and unholy people?
Prayer: Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause!
Read: Psalm 43:1; Nehemiah 6:1 – 14
A second cause of spiritual anguish mentioned in Psalm 43:1 was opposition of the deceitful and unjust man. The opposition of the ungodly multitudes is bad; the opposition of a lying and unjust enemy may be even worse, because the opposition is focused on beliefs and on the destruction of the person who holds those beliefs. Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem, and Shemaiah are examples of individuals who focused their opposition on one man – Nehemiah. They opposed Nehemiah (Nehemiah 6:1 – 14) because he successfully organized the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. Of these men, Shemaiah was the most hypocritical, because he was a Jew who pretended to piety while cooperating with the enemy.
Think About It: What were some of the deceitful tactics used by these personal enemies of Nehemiah? How did Nehemiah successfully counter their opposition? Have I ever had to deal with personal attacks because of my faith in God? How could Nehemiah’s example help me respond to personal attacks on my faith?
Prayer: O Lord, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
Read: Psalm 43:2; Psalm 28:7; Psalm 31:4; Psalm 88:14; Psalm 89:38
A third cause of spiritual anguish, mentioned in Psalm 43:2, was the feeling of being rejected by the very God in whom the psalmist sought refuge. The sense of abandonment described in Psalm 42 was thereby increased by the experience of disappointed expectation: “Where I expected to find refuge, I sensed rejection.”
Think About It: Psalms 18:1, 28:7, and 31:4 (among many other examples) expressed confidence in the Lord as the psalmist’s rescuer and his refuge. Psalm 74:1, Psalm 88:14, and Psalm 89:18 (in addition to Psalm 43:2) expressed frustration and despair at feeling cast away and rejected by God. Psalm 43 helped explain some of the circumstances surrounding the slide from feeling confident in God to feeling rejected by God. A question that more urgently needs an answer is how one goes from feeling rejected and ignored by God to again having confidence and hope in God. Fortunately, Psalm 43 also dealt with that question, as we will see. If I ever have to deal with the question of how to find the way from rejection back to confidence, how will I answer that question?
Prayer: Lord, whenever I am lost, please help me find my way back to You.
Read: Psalm 43:2; Exodus 17:14 – 16; Esther 3:5 – 6
A fourth cause of spiritual anguish mentioned in Psalm 43:2 is the oppression or distress caused by the enemy. The Hebrew word translated “enemy” comes from the word meaning simply “to hate,” as one hates the members of a rival tribe, therefore it involves the severe distress that comes in the face of implacable enmity. The Amalekites were the prime biblical example of haters of God and of Israel; their hatred was distilled down to a deadly concentration in the actions of one of their later descendants, Haman the Agagite, who conspired to murder all the Jews in Babylon.
Think About It: What are some contemporary examples of implacable hatred of one group of people towards another? Jesus taught us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). While loving people in the name of Jesus will win some to faith in Christ, it will by no means win them all, as is clear from 2 Thessalonians 1:4 – 10. What is the destiny of those who implacably hate God and who mercilessly persecute God’s people? What were the Thessalonians supposed to be doing in the light of God’s coming vengeance (2 Thessalonians 1:11- 12)?
Prayer: Lord, grant me grace to keep working for Your glory even in the face of implacable hatred.
Read: Psalm 43:3; Psalm 119:109, 130; Proverbs 6:23; 20:27; John 1:4, John 8:12; 2 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:5 – 7
Psalm 43, while it described additional causes for the “dark night of the soul” first described in Psalm 42, also blessedly revealed the way to relief from that anguish. That way to relief began with the psalmist’s plea to God in Psalm 43:3 for light and truth, and for that light and truth to lead him to God’s holy hill and to His dwelling. This picture must be understood figuratively. The writers of the psalm were sons of Korah; they were Temple singers, and knew the location of the Temple mount; their workplace was the Temple precincts. Psalm 43:3 doesn’t have much impact if it was a plea to be led to an already well-known physical location. Therefore the plea of Psalm 43:3 must be understood as a plea to be led to a spiritual place, into more regular and deeper contact with the Lord. If God would send His light and His truth, then the psalmist would be led to that place of deeper spiritual life and fellowship in God. Incidentally, the plea of Psalm 43:3 reminds that easy familiarity with the place of spiritual activity, whether it be the Temple or the local church, does not automatically mean a deep spiritual life and close fellowship with God.
Think About It: According to the Scripture readings for today, where has God revealed His light and His truth? Where will I find light and truth? How can I be sure I am walking in the light?
Prayer: Jesus, I want to walk with You in the light of Your word.
Read: Psalm 43:4; Psalm 32:1 – 2; Psalm 66:18; Isaiah 59:2; Jeremiah 5:25; John 9:31; Romans 4:7 – 8; 1 John 1:1 – 3, 7 – 10
The way to relief from the “dark night of the soul” continued to be revealed in Psalm 43 with reference to coming to the altar of God, the place where atonement was made for sin, where forgiveness was found, where the joy of forgiveness was experienced, and where the fellowship with God that was broken by sin was restored. In New Testament terms, Psalm 43:3 – 4 means that the light and truth of God’s revelation in His Word and in Jesus leads the sinner to the cross, where the atoning blood of Christ was shed for the forgiveness of sins, where forgiveness is experienced, and where the joy of salvation is restored in the heart of the repentant.
Think About It: Psalm 43 dealt with various external reasons for the “dark night of the soul” experience: being surrounded by impious people, being under attack from deceitful, hypocritical enemies, and experiencing the implacable hatred of persecutors. None of these things necessarily reflected personal sin, yet the psalmist found resolution in repentance at the altar of God. How might the testing of persecution and hatred have produced temptation to which the psalmist succumbed? What sins, related specifically to his external tormentors, might the psalmist have had to repent of before the altar? To what sins am I tempted when I am under attack, facing hatred, or dealing with liars and hypocrites?
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Thou Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner; restore to me the joy of my salvation, and renew a right spirit within me.
Read: Psalm 43:4, 5; Psalm 71:22; Matthew 1:21; Romans 8:24 – 25; 12:12
The way to relief from spiritual anguish concluded in Psalm 43:4 – 5 with reference to the action of praise and the attitude of hope. Praise arose spontaneously from the psalmist’s repentance and the experience of forgiveness at the altar. When fellowship with God was restored, the psalmist was strengthened once again to hope. The Hebrew word translated hope comes from a root meaning simply “to wait.” Hope waits expectantly. Hope in the context of Psalm 43 was not dependent upon immediate deliverance from the enmity of the godless, but rather upon the confidence that God is indeed salvation, and that He will bring about deliverance in His good time. The praise and rejoicing of Psalm 43:5 do not come because all the psalmist’s problems are resolved. His enemies still hate him, he is still surrounded by liars and hypocrites, he still faces highly personal animosity. The difference is that he has resolved his own issues at the altar, has experienced forgiveness, is now in fellowship with God, and has renewed hope – the knowledge that his destiny is in the strong hands of God who saves. The Hebrew word translated salvation in Psalm 43:5 is “Yeshua,” which transliterated into English is “Jesus,” “for He shall save His people from their sins.”
Think About It: Is my spiritual blessedness dependent upon external circumstances being exactly as I want them, or is it dependent upon my relationship with God? Am I willing to wait expectantly for God to bring deliverance in His good time?
Prayer: I hope in God; I praise Jesus, my Savior and my Lord.