How often do we feel that we have been unjustly accused and unfairly treated in our nation today? Often, we feel that life is simply not fair as we are pitted against an opposing force that is bigger and stronger. We feel completely overwhelmed. We begin to feel a sense of hopelessness. We begin to wonder if there is even any reason to fight. Is the struggle worth the pain and energy required to maintain the daily battle… especially when the deck is stacked against us.
As if the situation was not bad enough, having to struggle against these ungodly forces, they constantly use deceit to cover up the their wrongdoings. In fact, they tell lies that make them look like the upstanding, moral individual while portraying you as the heartless villain.
The psalmist understood this feeling so well that he cried out …
Prayer to God in Time of Trouble (Psalm 43)
1 Vindicate me, O God,
And plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
2 For You are the God of my strength;
Why do You cast me off?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
3 Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
Let them lead me;
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
And to Your tabernacle.
4 Then I will go to the altar of God,
To God my exceeding joy;
And on the harp I will praise You,
O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
The psalmist felt like it was him against the world. When we read verse 2, the psalmist acknowledges that God is his source of strength. He obviously has a relationship with God and has experienced times when God carried him through difficult times. But this isn’t one of those times.
The psalmist feels like God has cast him off… leaving him to stand up to the entire world on his own and in his own strength. He knows in his heart that this is never the case, but his mind is trying to rationalize the despair that he is feeling right now. How could his enemies be getting away with such violent attacks and blatant lies if God were there protecting him. How could such ungodly acts be perpetrated against him as he goes about doing God’s business.
How often we find that our spirit can begin to spiral downward into despair when we become focused on our enemies and the challenges that we face in our lives. We encounter one challenge that requires our time and attention. When we finish with that challenge, we look up to find that another issue has came up that requires our attention. Before we can put that issue to rest… we find out that someone has made some statements regarding us that are not true. We need to go set the record straight regarding their statements. While we are in the process of trying to control the damage from those statements we encounter two more attacks (either directly or that a family member is dealing with). Our entire focus is now on the battles in our lives. We feel isolated and alone. We begin to feel that even God has turned his back on us and left us to struggle alone against the world.
But we know God… he doesn’t leave His children to fight on their own. He is always there by our side. Jesus is by His side interceding on our behalf. We know in our hearts that God loves us. He gave His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins so that we could have eternal life together. What we know about God does not reconcile with how we are interpreting the current situation. This leads the psalmist to ask the question…. “Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
At this point, the psalmist turns his attention away from his enemies and back to his God. He realizes that his attention has been entirely on his circumstances and his enemies. The life of a Christian has been dedicated to serving God. You can’t serve God if your attention has been placed on your circumstances and your enemies. You must have you attention focused on God in order to serve Him. The psalmist realizes that he has placed his attention on his circumstances and his enemies. He asks himself the rhetorical question… “Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
In response to his own question (in an ah-ha moment)… the psalmist turns to God and begins to pray… “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me.” The psalmist seeks to replace the darkness and lies of his enemies with the light and truth of his God. David Guzik comments… “This began the psalmist’s procession of praise. He began in depression, but he will end up praising God. It all began with the light and truth of God leading the way.”
This is a turning point in the spirit of the psalmist. His downward spiral into despair is arrested and he begins his ascent as he continues to pray… “Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle.” The psalmist desires the relationship that he realized was missing while his attention was misplaced. His desire to be brought to the tabernacle, or the tent of meeting, is indicative of his desire to be in the presence of God and in the presence of God’s people. His attention has turned away from his enemies and his focus has been placed on God. His countenance is being lifted up and he craves the fellowship of God and other believers. This fellowship will be like nourishment for his spirit and his soul. It’s like being plugged into a power source with endless supply.
As the psalmist focuses his attention on God he begins to sense God’s presence once again. This presence of God fills his heart with joy. This joy is not a “comical” type of joy… where you are giddy with happiness. This type of joy is a deep, heart-felt joy that comes from knowing that God’s presence in your life is not a result of Him owing something to you; but instead, God’s presence in your life is a result of His love for you and a genuine yearning for a personal relationship for you. When we realize that the God that created us, the same God that created the universe, desires a personal relationship from us… it fills us with joy. God calls us “friend” and wants to spend time with us, in fact spend eternity with us, with no strings attached or anything expected in return.
This type of joy fills our heart and begins to overflow in the form of praise. This is exactly what happened to the psalmist. As he adjusted his focus off of his enemies and his circumstances and onto his loving and faithful God, he became overwhelmed with joy. As he is filled with joy, the joy begins to overflow in the form of praise… “Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; And on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God.”
Hebrews 13:15 tells us… “Therefore by Him [Jesus] let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.” The praise becomes an offering to God… a form of sacrifice that is pleasing to God.
The circumstances have not changed for the psalmist. His enemies have not been defeated. Yet, the psalmist is filled with joy and praising God. We are reminded of Paul and Silas worshiping God from jail. Acts 16… “23 And when they had laid many stripes on them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. 24 Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them.” Despite their circumstances, Paul and Silas were praising God.
While the circumstances have not changed, the countenance of the psalmist has changed… based solely on where he has chosen to place his focus and, in fact, where he has chosen to place his faith. In verse 5, the psalmist is essentially counseling himself. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.
The psalmist challenges his own feelings and subjects them to the light and truth of God. He instructs his “cast down” and “disquieted” feelings to “Hope in God”. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 10…. “4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” In battle, we must be able to take our feelings and our thoughts captive and submit them to the light and truth of God. We are strong when we filter our feelings and thoughts through the light and truth of God. Left unchecked and unfiltered, our feeling and thoughts can become our worst enemy… yes, even worse than the enemies that would us physical harm.
Maclaren commented: “Faith may have a long struggle with fear, but it will have the last word, and that word will be ‘the help of my countenance and my God.’”
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
(2 Corinthians 10:4-6)
May you filter every thought through the word of God, allowing your countenance to be lifted and your joy to overflow in His presence.