Sunday, May 14, 2006

Student Group: Psalm 42-43

Man, I'm just totally stoked once again by how truly amazing God is - this time, regarding his drawing our focus back to him when we find ourselves lost.

In Student group today we were looking at Psalms 42 and 43; structured as a song, with 4 verses and a chorus.

Psalm 42v1-5
The first 4 verses open with the writer describing his soul as thirsting for God(v2), and desiring to see the face of God(v2). In verse 3 he refers to his enemies as asking, continually, "where is your God?"
As he "pours out" his soul(v4), he reflects back on times where he lead his people "in processiong to the house of God"(v4). The whole of verses 1-4 show the author's desperation and longing for better times, but crucially to be closer to God(v2). As you come to the chorus though(v5-6a), we see him addressing his soul! Though it may seem peculiar, as you read it through he questions his being cast down(v5a) and his inner turmoil, telling himself to hope in God(v5b)! for he "shall again praise him, my help and my God." I'll come back to the 'addressing his soul' a bit later, but let's carry on for the time being.

Psalm 42v6b-11
Verse 6 sees the author recognise the his soul is downcast, but, he doesn't wallow in self-pity. No. He remembers God
(v6b)! He goes on to give a wonderfully powerful description of what's going on, "Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me"(v7). Notice that while referring to the waves and breakers, he calls them God's! In spite of all that's going on around him, he knows God's the one in control, going on to describe God's steadfast faithfulness to him(v8). Compared with the first section, he no longer longs to be back in Jerusalem to worship God in the temple; he now knows God is with him where he is.
Having affirmed God being with him, the author proceeds to ask God, "Why have you forgotten me?"
(v9), referring once more to his enemies taunting him(v10). The question is no more where he is, but the reason for God not answering his cries. We can all empathise with this to a degree, but see how he continues.
The chorus reads as before
(v5), but you can feel the author's increasing hope as he once again addresses his soul, commanding it to hope in God(v11b), "for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God."(v11b). He knows God will bring him back to that place of praise again, for God is his salvation.

Psalm 43v1-5
Psalm 43 opens with a cry from the author to "Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people...deliver me!"(v1) We can see his desire to have God's name praised here, above his situation; that his cries would be answered, and that God's power would be seen amongst his enemies. Despite his circumstances, he once again affirms God as his refuge. Even as he asks the questions of "why have you rejected me?" and "why do I go about mourning"(v2), you can feel his hope building althemore, such that he concludes this 3rd and final verse with an awe-inspiring desire, directed at God.
"Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!"(v3). Allowing his focus on God to raise his head above his circumstances, he shows his desire afresh be brought to God's "holy hill and to [his] dwelling", into his presence. He explains this wonderfully in verse 4 with, "Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you, O God, my God". This is the first time, excluding the choruses, where the author has referred to God as his God. He has been brought back to a focus of fully trusting on God, through him preaching to his soul a fresh revelation of God's faithfulness and hope.
You can almost taste the irony in his voice in the final chorus as he says "Why are you cast down...O my soul?", as he realises that the solid rock on which he stood is the same rock he is standing on now.

Addressing your soul:
The author picks up on this amazingly crucial point for us in our day-to-day lives. Times come when we, as the author does, find ourselves in situations that we can't explain and we find push us to the limit of our endurance. Situations, where we feel God is distant from us, and/or we can't hear him. The author stops, and addresses his soul. He brings the truths he knows about God to the front of his mind and questions his state of mind in light of God's faithfulness! To us, this might be the sheer awesomeness of God's power, his unending faithfulness, or the fact that we are saved by Jesus' blood once and for all!

The fact stands the same, though we often can't see it; God reigns sovreignly over and in our lives, he knows our hearts & minds, what leads us from him & how to lead us back to him. Don't be afraid of addressing your soul, it is a healthy and vital part of managing your focus on God! As I gather, Saint Francis of Assisi said, "Preach the good news to all people..." to this I would add, "including yourself".



weird is just your own personal brand of normal


Jonny:) said...

Dude is this Carey student group?

If so big up for going and supporting it!

Timmy C said...

It is indeed the one and only Carey student group, abley lead by Dan Williams! We're doing studies in the psalms this term. Am well enjoying it!! :D

Welshie said...

It was great. It was quite a poignant Psalm for me to study after the past couple of months. Ok I haven't been exiled like the author was but at times I've felt like it! I just found myself resounding with everything that was being said in that Psalm. And I could feel the transition in the writer's heart from genuinely questionning at the beginning, genuinely feeling downcast, to offering praise and saying but WHY should my soul ever be downcast when I can put my hope in God?! And to be reminded that it's ok to ask God those questions that are on our hearts. It's ok to turn to Him when we feel far from Him and ask Him where He is in our situation. In fact, it's more than ok, it's vital. It's vital because if we don't, we harden our hearts to Him instead of asking Him for the answers and the strength, patience and trust we need. It's natural that as humans our emotions go up and down and round and round and at times we feel rubbish. BUT, we don't need to feel guilty about that, or shut ourselves off from God until we feel better or we feel like we're worthy to offer Him praise. We're NOT worthy to be in His presence but THAT is the glorious truth of the gospel. And the gloriuos truth about God is that we can always praise Him because He IS our hope.

And then to go from there to the evening service and hear about being able to rejoice continually in the Lord (Philippians 4)...well, it all kinda fit quite nicely.

Funny that...