Psalm 43 – This Time It’s Personal

Bible opened to Psalm 43 with Endangered Species dark chocolate on green plate and blue placemat

Today’s passage: Psalm 43

Today’s chocolateEndangered Species 88% cacao dark chocolate

As often happens to psalmists, the author finds himself surrounded by enemies. Asking God for deliverance and vindication, he identifies his foe as “an ungodly nation” and “the deceitful and unjust man” (1). At least it’s not his friends and countrymen. But even so, he takes it personally.

The psalmist then pleads to God for an explanation of his suffering. He asks:

For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? (2)

It’s not the suffering that gets him; it’s what it means. The psalmist counts on God for his strength, as God’s strength never fails. But now he seems overwhelmed by his enemies, so God must have withdrawn his strength from him. Why? The psalmist is no stranger to suffering, and he can endure it with the confidence that God is by his side–but when his nemeses have the upper hand, it feels like rejection.

So he prays for guidance. “O send out Your light and Your truth, let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling places” (3), he pleads to God. He doesn’t waste time trying to earn his way back into God’s good graces, or asking God what he needs to do to merit acceptance instead of rejection. God’s apparent absence doesn’t make sense, so he asks for truth and light: clarification, understanding, an answer to his question of “Why?” If he has left the places where God dwells, he will need God to lead him back.

The psalm concludes with four lines that you may recognize from Psalm 42. After praying to God, the psalmist turns inward and speaks to his own soul:

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God. (5)

He may feel rejected by God because of his enemies’ victories and his oppressive situation (and I’m not certain that he’s correct to assume God has rejected him). But in the midst of despair, he remains convinced that God is good, a worthy being in whom to place his hope and praise. If God has rejected him, then God is not unjust in rejecting him–and God may yet, in his mercy, lead him back and accept him.

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