Hope in God

Psalm 43

Despair by any label is intensely difficult to overcome. Defined as: “the feeling that everything is wrong and nothing will turn out well”; “loss of hope”. What is most needed is most lacking – hope in the future, that it will turn out better. On top of that, each defeat simply reinforces hopelessness. All is not lost, though, Giant Despair can indeed be defeated.

“So Mr. Great-heart, old Honest, and the four young men, went to go up to Doubting-castle, to look for Giant Despair. … Now Giant Despair, because he was a giant, thought no man could overcome him: and again, thought he, Since heretofore I have made a conquest of angels, shall Great-heart make me afraid? These six men made up to him, and beset him behind and before. …They fought for their lives, and Giant Despair was brought down to the ground, but was very loath to die. He struggled hard, and had, as they say, as many lives as a cat; but Great-heart was his death, for he left him not till he had severed his head from his shoulders. Then they fell to demolishing Doubting castle, and that you know might with ease be done, since Giant Despair was dead.” Pilgrim’s Progress, Part 2

Psalm 42-43 picture for us a very real struggle against despair: three rounds in the fight, each one begins by taking self and feelings in hand, redirecting focus. Each time, relapse is less overpowering, descent is not to such great depths. Past – 42:1-5; Present – 42:6-11; Future – 43:1-5. What I’ve lost, what I’m dealing with, what I look forward to.

In 42:6-7, complains to God because of his condition; says in 42:9 – I will pray to God, but in form of questions that show displeasure with how God is treating him. Finally direct his pleas to God, seeking help from God on God’s terms, conversing with him rather than only self. Gets back to that at end, but with different “tone” – that of confidence his prayer has been answered.

When the psalmist stops speaking to himself (Ps 42) and addresses his words to God (Ps 43), the beginning of his deliverance is in sight. When one turns from the memories and burdens within the mind and boldly addresses to God a plea for deliverance, the first step is taken on the path that leads ultimately to a restoration of the life of praise and to mental and spiritual health. Word Biblical Commentary

A. what I look forward to v.1-4 (future)

vindication – show to be right

reminiscent of Job, situation is unjust, unwarranted from psalmist’s perspective; doesn’t deserve his treatment

enemies have accused: your fault, brought on yourself – have seriously offended your God, or worse, trusted in non-existent God

cry out to God – you be my advocate, you be both judge and defense attorney; make the case for me, deliver from crafty deceitful accusers

requires complete trust in God – that his taking the case will result in good outcome

because of his nature, God must do what is right; means trust is warranted

exact opposite of New Age lie: look within you for resources you need, realize your own godhood

psalmist looked within, came up empty, realized source of hope and help must come from outside

whether God chooses to deliver from circumstances or not, he is only one who can deliver from despair

often he changes us first, then changes our situation

restoration

expressed in terms of a conflict: “something is at variance with itself” R. Nixon

had conception of what life as child of God should be like, present experience not even close

if God is defender and protector of his people, how come enemies are scoring so many hits

if God is father to his children, how come it feels so lonely; especially noticeable after time of close fellowship

having known what it’s like to enjoy the Father’s smile, darkness most profound and oppressive when it is absent

strongly implied in “why’s” is desire for change – return to the way it was when things were good

practical outworking of desire / thirst for God expressed in 42:1-2

satisfying thirst requires closeness, sense of God’s nearness and approval, of being within his Fatherly embrace

babies do not thrive when denied human touch (think orphans in China, Russia, etc); true in similar sense on spiritual level

one of reasons why close fellowship of believers in context of local church is vitally important

God present in and among his people nourishes that sense of nearness, especially when drinking from fountain of his Word

illumination

light and truth are inseparable if they are to be useful, if we are to live rightly

we need God’s light to see God’s truth; need God’s truth to know God’s way

request for light is request for understanding, enablement – to comprehend truth and know how to apply to personal circumstances

in darkness of affliction and despair it is often difficult or impossible to discern right course of action beyond crying out to God for help

in situation of recovery from despair, light also implies return to favor

the light of his countenance: remember Aaronic blessing – “the Lord make his face shine upon thee” Num. 6:24-26

darkness of despair and affliction replaced / superseded by approval and renewed fellowship

indication that Father has taken up the cause of his child – has turned light on, directed it toward right path

God’s light and truth have a destination

plea not simply for static illumination – light up place where I am; desire for dynamic illumination – light up the way

Heb. 12:18-24 not Mount Sinai, instead to Mount Zion – city of living God, innumerable company of angels, general assembly and church of the firstborn, spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator, to the blood of sprinkling

“Those whom God leads, he leads to his holy hill, and to his tabernacles; those therefore who pretend to be led by the Spirit, and yet turn their backs upon instituted ordinances, certainly deceive themselves.” Matthew Henry

exultation

Dorothy, Wizard of Oz, might believe “there’s no place like home”; should not suffice for one thirsting for God

there’s no place like God’s presence; that is home for the believer

God alone can satisfy hunger and thirst, God alone is ultimate source of joy

joy that comes from God, experienced when all is well between Father and child, like no other

true believer experiences joy in God himself, not in his “goodies” as good as they may be

joy overflows in sung praise – when God’s people exult in God in his presence and sing his praise, nothing compares

when God fills us with joy, should pour it out at his feet in praise with all our heart and mind and skill

it’s personal expressions of love and praise – O God, my God – to God nearby

B. conclusion v.5

numerous causes of discouragement/despair/depression

natural constitution (melancholy) – seem to struggle constantly against negativity; first response to anything pessimistic; must make great effort to see good, to have hopeful outlook for future; are that way “by nature”

personal circumstances – situation that is result of financial or material “disaster”, persistent health challenge, series of losses (perhaps friends and/or family), significant uncertainty about the future, combination of these

state of the world – apparent increase of violence and injustice and evil in the world, setbacks experienced in the church (decline in numbers, departure from biblical truth)

giving ear to Satan – started with something small, blown out of proportion by Satan or his agents, things lead to things to depression and despair

one solution

hope in God

not like hope in Red Sox or Celtics or Patriots; this hope is active expectant waiting – doing what we know to be right while waiting on God to act, fully expecting he will

remember his faithfulness

hope not wishful thinking; based on past history, both personal and recorded

biblical record there for our encouragement – God was faithful then, will continue to be so now, for us

trust his promises

2 Cor. 1:20 “For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.”

expect him to act

it’s what enables us to pray in faith, confident that prayer will be answered

C. example & application

Christian & Hopeful leave Doubting Castle – Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan

Take courage, the best of saints don’t conquer doubt and despair on the first try; requires repeated effort, convincing ourselves that our hope is in God and is justified. No matter who or what else let us down, God never will; he will give us more than ample cause to praise him because he is our God.

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