Psalms 42-43: Hope, Help, and Victory: Part I
The Trouble: Background

The series: Psalms 42-43: Trouble, hope, help, and victory helps unpack God’s truth for victory in God’s hard providences. One of the themes of Psalms 42-43 is hope, help, and victory in times of trouble. To correctly understand the Psalms in general and individual palms, it is important to understand it individually and in its redemptive-historical context. Book II of the Psalter consists of thirty-one psalms (Psalms 42-72). Psalms 42-49 are authored by the Sons of Korah which are followed by a single psalm of Asaph (Ps. 50). A second collection of Davidic psalms (Psalms 51-71) is followed by Psalm 72 which is authored by Solomon and closes book II. Beginning with book II, there has been a change in theme of the Psalter. There is a sense of communication, not simply to Israel, but to all nations of the world.

The Davidic kingdom and its glory were on the rise. There was still trouble and the realty of hope, help. and victory in times of trouble as expressed in Psalms 42-43 was of increasing importance. God had been preserving His name and glory through David. Constant ups and downs still occur in David’s effort to establish the kingdom of righteousness, prosperity, and peace as God’s agent but glory is more in evidence. The struggle is not over but David was to take a different approach to his enemies both within Israel and outside.

In Psalms 51-71, there is evidence of a desire to communicate more directly with them as evidenced by the use of the more general term Elohim for God in contrast to the term Yahweh which emphasizes God’s covenantal relationship to Israel. This different attitude toward the peoples and nations of the world pervades book II in contrast to book I. Yet conflict is still present.

Moreover, we know and perhaps Old Testament believers knew at least in some degree that the kingdom is not merely a physical one; it is not simply the Davidic king’s reign. It is God’s kingdom and His reign ultimately in Christ, the greater Messiah and David. It is a kingdom that involves an inner-man change which moves from the inside out. People within Israel and outside of it are to be included in due time.

After the introductory Psalms 42-44, many of the following Psalms in Book II highlight and celebrate the kingship of God and David’s victories. David’s victories are to point to the greater David – Jesus Christ. Before the organizer of the Psalter introduced this second round of Davidic Psalms, he opened book II with a collection of Psalms from the Sons of Korah (Psalms 42-49).

A word regarding the Sons of Korah is instructive. They were Levites descended through Kohath, Korah’s father (1 Chronicles 6:22-48; 9:17-32; 2 Chronicles 20:19). They were involved in the performance of temple music and worship. When Israel was wandering in the desert, Korah had led a rebellion of 250 community leaders against Moses and he failed. God punished him and the participating leaders and their families (Numbers 16; Jude 11). However, the Sons of Korah were spared. In gratitude they dedicated themselves to produce and to perform music in the worship of the Lord (Numbers 26:11). Obviously they wrote music as well.

Most agree that Psalms 42-43 should be considered together as one psalm, the work of one author. Sin is everywhere, within and around every person except Christ. These two psalms provide a realistic picture of the consequences of sin and the perpetual struggle with God’s enemies. God was in control so why was David on the run? Anguish, consternation, turmoil within the individual, and unrest outside of them was part of the fabric of the life of those who loved the Lord. This is vividly pictured by David and his people but it should also be true for every believer and the Church until Christ returns. Moreover and ultimately, Jesus had a realistic view of the people He was ministering as the Messiah. Faced with opposition on all sides (John 1:4-5, 9-11; 3:17-21), Jesus continuously counseled himself. The what and how of self-counsel is a major theme of these two Psalms.

Paul’s reminder to believers is as appropriate for the psalmist then as well as for Paul’s listeners and for the church today: don’t to be deceived. God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). In Psalm 42-43, the psalmist in response to and in the present situation, came to his senses as recorded in 42:5, 11; 43:5. He came to himself as did the Prodigal Son in Luke 15:17-18. He talked to and counseled himself as Daniel did in Daniel 1:8. The psalmist, as others would and had done, rooted themselves in non-negotiable truths. They camped out on the truth and held to it as their lamp and light (Psalm 119:105). As do all saints, they knew in their heart of hearts that this is God’s world. For them that settled the issue. Hope, thanksgiving, and praise followed.

These two Psalms (42-43) demand both an individual perspective and a redemptive-historical perspective. Hebrews 2:8-9 pictures Christ’s kingship and His control as seemingly non-existent. Kings and nations are set against the Triune God. Book I presents this perspective through the eyes of David seemingly always on the run, certainly a loser. Such it was for Christ. Yet Christ reigns even in the Old Testament. He is King and He will vindicate Himself, His people, individuals, and ultimately the cosmos but in His time.

Those last three words are crucial. God is on schedule and He wants, expects, and deserves to have His people on His schedule.
Such is case as Book II of the Psalter opens. Everything seems to be out of control or at least out of God’s control. However Book II closes with the Messianic King reigning (Psalm 72). Book II opens with defeat and closes with a Psalm authored by Solomon celebrating the triumphs of the messianic king’s rule which ultimately points to Christ (Psalm 72).

Christ, not David or Solomon, is the Savior and Deliverer of His people (Psalm 72:1, 4). Psalm 72 is a glorious psalm highlighting the Messiah’s universal and eternal rule with ramifications for the present life. The author of Psalms 42-43 did not have that vantage point. But they had God and more to the point, God had them. Job learned this same lesson and was satisfied. So, too, was the psalmist: the present author; David the psalmist of Israel (2 Samuel 23:1-2); and the Greatest Psalmist of the universe, Jesus Christ!

1. A major lesson from Psalm 42-43 is expressed in Ecclesiastes 5:1-3. How do you respond?
2. What is your grid for interpreting life, people, and God?
a. Do you judge the Messiah’s kingship based on the Word of God or feelings, experience, and or reasoning unrelated to Scripture?
b. Do you judge yourself and your circumstances based the Word of God or feelings, experience, and reasoning unrelated to biblical truth?
c. What have been the results?
3. How do you counsel yourself when you picture your circumstances as bigger than you?
a. Read the following: 1 Samuel 17; Daniel 1:8; Matthew 14:22-33; and Luke 18:15-17 to help you answer.
b. How does Psalm 42:5, 11; 43:1 help you answer? What principles do you derive?

Psalms 42-43: Trouble and Victory Through Godly Counsel: Part II

I continue the series: Psalms 42-43: Trouble, hope, help, and victory. Trouble is outlined and clearly expressed in Book I of the Psalter.  Psalms 42-43 follow on the heels of the major theme of Book I: distress – enemies, conflict, and confrontation. The author described himself as downcast – there was sadness in his soul – his whole person, inner and outer man (42:5, 11; 43:1). We are not told the specifics of the problem but we know that circumstances were dire.

The Davidic kingdom and its glory would be on the rise but that hadn’t happened yet. There was still conflict, confusion, and uncertainty. These terms describes the circumstances. As one consequence, the Sons of Korah were unable to lead God’s people in the liturgy of the temple and into the temple, the house of the Lord.

The author longed to be with God and desired the same for the nation (42:1-4). The people were denied the localized presence of God. Consequently, the Sons of Korah might have interpreted the circumstances as a sign of God’s displeasure with them and perhaps His rejection of them. As the psalmist counseled himself he was aware of hope, help, and victory I the midst of trouble. He had come to his senses

Please meditate on some of the concerns of the Sons of Korah: they were excluded from the established dwelling place, the presence of God, the joy of engaging in their priestly duties, and the joy of fellowship with God and others. The author was devastated not only for himself but for the nation. In response, there was much agitation within – inner-man turmoil – what were he and the nation to do (42:5, 6, 11; 43:5)? Being in God’s presence was dear to the Sons.

Their questions centered on the how. They asked: would the gift of being in the presence of God be regained and if so, how? Psalms 42-43 express these concerns in terms of hope, help, and victory in times of trouble. We don’t know if the nation of Israel asked the same questions. But return to Genesis 3. Adam and Eve, post-fall, they were unclean and defiled; they were exiled from God’s presence.

A question surfaced that others have called the gate-liturgy question. The first exodus was an exile – a descent away from God. From that moment, the dominating question of all history and mankind was: who will ascend the holy hill into the presence of God (Psalms 15; 24)? The question captures the plight and serious condition of mankind in all ages.

The son of Korah was rightly revisiting mankind’s condition. In response, he was downcast. The word translated downcast is used four times in the 16 verses of Psalms 42-43. It refers to being moved, a turning, an agitation, a stirring within, a churning movement (42:5-6, 11; 43:5; and also in Psalms 6 and 44:25). It is in the passive voice such that the author was actually down-casting himself! God, Satan, and circumstances were not doing it!

In his gospel, John makes use of this word in relation to Christ and the apostles (John 11:33, 38; 12:27, 13:21; 14:1, 27). It refers to a steady churning and spinning as a person perceives and evaluates himself in the situation – inner-man turmoil. Christ had inner-man churning. He did not sin. He told the apostles to stop troubling their own hearts (John 14:1-2)! Jesus and they apostles were not victims trapped in a morass of bad times and feelings because God was not in control or good! They were not at the beck and call of circumstances. Circumstances did not do it to them! This may seem to be heavy theology. Jesus did not think so!

We know that the author of the Psalms 42-43 was in the midst of hard tines – trouble. Some would say he was “stressed, even out,” “under pressure,” and not responsible. In response to God’s providence which is a response to God, the author was disturbed within. That in itself is not sinful. He longed to be in God’s presence (v.2-3). In order to get victory in the situation – that is a major goal of the believer – the believer must understand the source and motivation of his reaction and himself. He must also understand the truth being taught in Psalm 46: there is hope, help, and victory in the midst of trouble.

A number of questions surface:
• From what did this reaction originate?
• Did he consider himself a victim to God’s providence including perhaps the failures, past and present, of the Sons of Korah?
• How does the reality of the psalmist and God’s people excluded from the house of God influence the psalmist and for what reasons?
• How would victory come if there was still conflict with the enemies of God who were the king’s and the author’s enemies as well.
• What will happen to him, the people and nation, and the glory of God?
• Who was winning and what would it look like and when?

The psalmist had his plate full. What he does is impossible except for the child of God. In verse 4, we read: these things I remember. He names specific things but the key principle is this: he cognitively, actively, willfully, and purposefully changed his thinking and also His wanting and focused on the presence and power of God. In this way, he answered the question posed by enemies: where is your God (verse 3)?

This question was presented to Jesus in varying forms as He hung on the cross. Jesus knew full well where God was. That is one reason why He stayed on the cross! The greater and wonderful Counselor counseled himself. The Holy Spirit, another Counselor of the same kind, was still with Him and counseled Him as He does and will counsel believers – there was victory even before He died (John 15:26-27; 16:13)! Jesus knew the lesson of Psalms 42-43: in trouble, there is hope, help, and victory.

Focusing on the presence of God is one theme that runs throughout Scripture. It is the antidote for sinful fear and worry which is always sinful. Both describe a way of thinking and wanting focusing on self and control. The psalmist in Psalms 42-43 discovered or perhaps rediscovered that hope, help, and victory are realities in trouble – God’s hard providences. He came to realize and verbalized the truths that circumstances come from the hand of God, they have no power in and of themselves, and a response in and to them is a response to God. Heavy theology indeed!

In Psalm 42:5 and 43:5, he asks himself why he was so troubled and downcast. In verse 6, he makes the statement: his soul – his whole person – is downcast; he is troubled and churching within. He makes the same claim: I will remember as he did in verse 4 before he mentioned his inner-man condition. As I wrote above, this is statement is critical for victory. He knew why he was IN the trouble: God’s providence. He was asking himself: why he was responding in the way he was! He was getting it!

1. Are you getting as did the author? Why and why not?
2. Describe your situation (s).
a. What are you wanting and thinking?
b. How do they fit biblical truth? Be specific.
3. As did the psalmist in verses 4 and 6 of Psalm 42 what non-negotiable biblical truths have you called to mind and what have been the results? Be specific.
4. How have you counseled yourself?

Psalms 42-43: The Joy of Godly Counsel: Part III

This is the final segment as I conclude the mini-series: Psalm 46: Trouble, Help, Hope, and Victory The psalmist of Psalms 42-43 expressed the sentiment – many would say feelings – of Israel. I am not sure king David would say the same thing – he marched to a different drumbeat. But if you look at book I (Psalms 1-41), many of the psalms express inner- man turmoil and unrest (see especially Psalm 6, 13, and 22). However even those psalms require an inside-out look of the psalmist beginning with his inner man before a final decision is made (see my series on these individual Psalms).

In Psalm 42-43, the author has expressed his thinking and wanting in terms of inner–man trouble and turmoil. There was uncertainty in his life as well as all of Israel. Yet Psalms 42-43 offers hope, help, and victory in trouble. It came about after proper self-counsel. The psalmist  gives all believers in all ages a window into his heart and the mindset of Jesus. He calls on himself to remember: 42:4, 6: to think properly. He gave himself the subject matter for this thoughts and desires: God and His love, His steadfastness and trustworthiness (the Rock,) the beauty of the presence of God both individually as a worshipper and worker and corporately (42:8-9). He had a God to be with and to serve and he had people who needed to be with that God.

Circumstances “looked and felt bad” (42:7) and there were taunts from adversaries (42:10). The psalmist resembled Job who asked God why He had forsaken him (43:2). Unlike Job, the psalmist did not demand an answer from God even though he was trying to make sense out of his situation. And like Job, both were trying to make sense of God.

As long as he used human, sin-cursed reasoning, he never would! Job joyfully discovered that truth and was free (Job 38-41)! Our psalmist discovered that freedom as well and free. Psalms 42-43 express the truth that hope, help, and victory do come in the trouble. Self-counsel was key based on God’s truth.

The psalmist pleads for mercy and for deliverance from ungodly, oppressive enemies within and without Israel (43:1). He wanted relief so that the people could be in the house of the Lord – in His presence. God honored this request. Again it was in his time. The psalmist was expressing David’s thought and desire as expressed in Psalm 27:4-5 (Book I).

The author expressed both corporate (God’s covenant people) and individual hope despite the and in the midst of uncertainty. The author had sadness of soul because of the seemingly inability of the king to lead his people into the presence of God in the house of the Lord – temple. That the conflict continued is clear in verses 42:2, 9-10. The theme of being in God’s presence was an overriding concern and desire for David and the sons of Korah. He hoped that separation and exclusion from the established dwelling place of God would cease.

Before he went fully down the “downcast path,” the psalmist took action. He whoa-ed himself! He counseled himself and asked: why am I downcast and disturbed within? (42:5, 11; 43:5). He asked questions of himself. He turned inward in the correct manner. Some might say he was a nervous wreck, that he was under the circumstances, or that he was depressed, however that word is defined. These people would blame the circumstances directly and the God of those circumstances indirectly!

Are those conclusions accurate and true? Based on the psalmist’s response, the answer is no. The psalmist gave himself wise, simple, and profound counsel. He made a spiritual self-inventory, gathered data, reviewed truths about God and Israel, and concluded that there was only one antidote, one true answer for his inner-man turmoil. In verses 5, 11 of Psalm 42 and verse 5 of Psalm 43, he gives that answer.

Most, upon reading the verses, one would say hope. I say whoa! My reasoning is this: he already has hope and faith but it is misdirected. He says he will put hope in something and someone. Hope is a noun with content and an object: God and His control are both the content and the object of true hope. Hope has a doer: he is doing the hoping.

The psalmist’s hope is true because it is in God and it is expressed (Romans 8:24-25; See my book in press on hope). His hope was rooted in God’s presence and love. Circumstances do not alter the reality of God’s presence, purpose, plan, promises, power, provisions, and goodness.

We are not told the specifics of his acting out of true hope. We expect that he prayed, he went about his duties with a desire to please God, to write and sign I ways he hadn’t, to minister to others, too practice self counsel, and teach others the beauty and joy of counseling yourself.

Therefore, he stepped out in active faith and true hope. He called on God his Rock (42:9) and actively, cognitively, and purposefully put his trust/hope in God (42:11). In verse 1 of Psalm 43, he pleaded directly to God for vindication. The terminology reminds the reader of a courtroom. The author knew that God’s vindication of him was a vindication of God Himself, David the king, and Israel. God’s actions, not the psalmist’s inner-man turmoil produced in part by sinful thoughts and desires would bring a return to God’s presence for himself and Israel. Israel’s king would be exalted and God’s true King would be exalted.

There was confidence and energy expressed in his words. In verse 4 of Psalm 43, he gave himself marching orders or better progressive sanctification orders – he went to God. He desired fellowship with and worship of God and that desire motivated him to please God rather than live by feelings and experience.

He counseled himself to function based on a proper vertical reference in life such that circumstances, his experience and reasoning, and feelings did not dictate his response. Rather, he actively set his hope, not upon relief, but on his God (1 Peter 1:13). Evidence of his changed trajectory at that moment and as a lifestyle was given in Psalm 42:5, 11 and Psalm 43:5: he praised God as his Savior and his God.

Focusing on God’s relationship with him and the nation and on his personal relationship with the Lord of lord and King of kings enabled the author and the Sons of Korah to get victory in the problem. He quieted himself and served the Lord. This honored God, was best for him, and was best for the people. It is best for believers in all ages.

1. Inner-man turmoil and churning within is a common occurrence even in believers and is a response to what is outside of the person. .
a. What was God’s antidote as described in Psalms 42-43 and John 14:1-2?
b. How did the psalmist do this and compare it to Jesus’ command in John 14:1-2?
2. How often do you model the psalmist and whoa yourself and follow 1 Peter 1:13?
3. What does setting your hope on God look like specifically?
4. Define hope and its foundation and then write down specific promises of God.
5. Recall one of those promises daily and record how you were able to counsel yourself.