Why So Downcast?

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

42:1As the deer pants for streams of water,

so my soul pants for you, O God.

2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.

When can I go and meet with God?

3My tears have been my food day and night,

while men say to me all day long,

"Where is your God?"

4These things I remember as I pour out my soul:

how I used to go with the multitude,

Leading the procession to the house of God,

with shouts of joy and thanksgiving

among the festive throng.

5Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise H im,

my Savior and 6my God.

My soul is downcast within me;

therefore I will remember you

From the land of the Jordan,

the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

7Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls;

all Your waves and breakers

have swept over me.

8By day the Lord directs His love,

at night His song is with me—

a prayer to the God of my life.

 

9I say to God my Rock,

"Why have you forgotten me?

Why must I go about mourning,

oppressed by the enemy?"

10My bones suffer mortal agony

as my foes taunt me,

Saying to me all day long,

"Where is your God?"

11Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise him,

my Savior and my God.

43:1Vindicate me, O God,

and plead my cause against an ungodly nation;

rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.

2You are God my stronghold.

Why have you rejected me?

Why must I go about mourning,

oppressed by the enemy?

3Send forth your light and your truth,

let them guide me;

Let them bring me to your holy mountain,

to the place where you dwell.

4Then will I go to the altar of God,

to God, my joy and my delight.

I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.

5Why are you downcast, O my soul?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your hope in God,

for I will yet praise Him,

my Savior and my God.

We will look at these two psalms together, because Psalm 43 is a continuation of Psalm 42. In fact, these two psalms may have been, at one time, just one psalm. These two psalms depict David’s distress at being away from fellowship with the true worshippers of God during his banishment from Jerusalem. "This is the song of an exile, and moreover, of an exile among enemies who have no sympathy with his religious convictions" [Morgan, 82]. "It is the cry of a man far removed from the outward ordinances and worship of God, sighing for the long-loved house of his God" [Spurgeon, 270].

The inscription calls the psalm "A maskil of the Sons of Korah." The "Sons of Korah" were a Levitical family of musicians and singers. Though this psalm is not explicitly attributed to David, most commentators believe that David wrote these psalms for the "Sons of Korah" to perform in the worship of God. David seems to be the author because the style and themes of the psalms are similar to many psalms explicitly attributed to David. Also, these psalms depict a worshiper of God in banishment, as David was on two occasions. Commentators are divided on whether the psalms depict the banishment when David was fleeing from Saul, or when he was fleeing from Absalom.

David begins by expressing the depth of his longing to worship God: "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul pants for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" (vss. 1–2). David compares his desire to worship God with the thirst of a deer for water. Thirst is the second strongest bodily desire (behind the need for air). For David, the need for the worship of God for his soul is as essential as the need for water for his body. Can we say the same thing? Such a desire does not come instantaneously, for the asking. It must be cultivated, just as our love for God must be cultivated. Meditate on the goodness of God. Commune with Him through prayer. Worship Him at every opportunity. Pray that the Holy Spirit would increase your love for God.

We take for granted the fact that we can worship God anytime, anyplace. We can do this because we have the gift of the Holy Spirit within us. In David’s time, the Holy Spirit dwelt in the tabernacle in Jerusalem, and so, the worship of God was physically centered at the tabernacle. And so, though David, in his banishment, could pray to God, and sing praises, he did not feel that he was able to worship God, because he was physically separated from the Holy Spirit’s presence. Let us not forget how great a gift by Jesus the gift of the Holy Spirit was for His people: to be able to worship the Lord anytime and anyplace, at will.

In his sorrow, David was not consoled very well by those around him: "My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’" (vs. 3). Rather than consoling David in his longing for God, those around him were trying to engender doubt about the goodness of God, by asking David in his time of trouble, "Where is your God?" This is the way of the world. Those of the world jump at the chance to denigrate the true and living God, and to stumble His worshipers.

David ignores the mocking questions of those around him, and brings to mind the joy of worship: "These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng" (vs. 4). Though we can worship in spirit and truth anytime and anywhere, yet it is a grand thing, even for us, to worship together with God’s people. There is nothing that touches the heart of a believer more than hundreds of voices raised in worship to our beloved Lord, to be in the midst of "shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng."

This remembrance rallies David’s mind, but the consolation has not yet reached his soul. And so, David rebukes his soul: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God" (vs. 5). "His faith reasons with his fears, his hope argues with his sorrows" [Spurgeon, 272]. David tries to convince his soul to look to the hope of the future: "Put your hope in God." David trusts that the Lord will bring him to a place of joy: "…for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." "The only means of remedying discouragements and unquietness of mind, is to set faith on work to go to God and take hold of Him, and to cast anchor within the veil, hoping for, and expecting, relief from Him" [Dickson, 237].

Unfortunately for David, his rebuke of his soul does not immediately take effect: "My soul is downcast within me" (vs. 6). So, as a further remedy, David remembers the work of God in his life: "Therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar" (vs. 6). At first, David sees the trials that God has sent: "Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your waves and breakers have swept over me" (vs. 7). But, then, David feels acutely the loving presence of his Lord, even in the midst of these troubles: "By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life" (vs. 8).

And yet, the next moment, David doubts once again: "I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’" (vs. 9). Again, in David’s mind, he realizes that God is his "Rock", the steady, unchanging foundation of his life. And yet, his soul cries out: "Why have you forgotten me?" His enemies contribute to his lapse of faith, instilling doubt: "My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’" (vs. 10).

Psalm 42 ends with David, once again, rebuking his soul, trying to pull it out of desperation: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God" (vs. 11).

Psalm 43 picks up where Psalm 42 left off. David pleads his case before God, expressing his righteousness in the situation: "Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men" (vs. 1). This is an appeal to God’s righteousness. David is, in effect, saying to God: "You are a just God. I am right in this situation. So protect me!" To appeal to attributes of God’s nature is a very effective prayer technique .

David continues to appeal to God’s nature: "You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?" Then again, as in Psalm 42, David expresses his goal, that is, to return to his worship of God at the tabernacle: "Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God" (vss. 3–4).

David ends the psalm, as he did in Psalm 42, with an appeal from his mind to his soul, trying to revive his soul and pull it out of dejection: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God" (vs. 5). We can learn from this that even the strongest of believers is subject to long periods of affliction and dejection.

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