April 01 2023
Today, Saturday April 1
“Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul”?
As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, "Where is your God?" When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.”
Yesterday we mentioned how the Book of Psalms was divided into five books. Today we begin our study in the second book which covers Psalm 42 to 72. Many commentators believe that the division into five books represents the first five books of the Bible, the Pentateuch. Psalms 1-41 could be compared to Genesis which begins with creation of man in a state of blessedness. But immediately we see his sin and his fall, and the need for a Savior. And the God Man, comes as the Good Shepherd to give His life for the sheep and redeem and restore him (Psalms 22-24). Psalms 42-72 relate to the book of Exodus with Israel in view. There they are in Egypt, a strange land, a place of bondage, longing to go back to the Promise Land, the place of blessing and God’s presence.
We should also note that Psalms 42 and 43 were no doubt originally one psalm. But nobody seems to know why they were separated. We believe this because of the repeated refrain, “Why are you cast down, O my soul…”, we see in Psalm 42:5, 11, and Psalm 43:5. From the title we know that these psalms were given to the sons of Korah, the chief musicians for worship in the tabernacle or temple in Jerusalem. Korah was a grandson of Kohath, who was killed for rebelling against the Lord and Moses in the wilderness journey (Num. 16). However, his sons escaped judgment (Num. 16:11) and became worship leaders in the sanctuary (1 Chron. 9:19; 26:1-19). They are also named in the titles to Psalms 44-49, 84 and 87-88.
There is much speculation as to who wrote these two Psalms. Spurgeon firmly believes that David is the writer and wrote it during the time of his exile during the rebellion of his son Absalom. John Phillips seems to think that King Hezekiah is the writer. But other Bible scholars indicate that the writer was evidently a Levite who had been exiled among Gentiles (43:1). The text of these two Psalms reveal that these Gentiles oppressed him and questioned his faith (42:3, 10; 43:2). We also learn from the text that this exiled Levite was a worship leader who had led groups of pilgrims to Jerusalem for the assigned festivals (Psalm 84:7; Ex. 23:14-17; 34:18-26; Deut. 16:1-17).
As you read these two Psalms you get the idea that it was time for such a journey, but he wasn't able to go, and this grieved his heart because he felt that the Lord had forgotten him (42:9; 43:2). In these two Psalms, he uses El or Elohim twenty times and Jehovah only once (42:8). You can feel that these Psalms are intensely personal, containing over fifty personal pronouns; and the writer fluctuated between faith and despair as he wrestled with the Lord.
The writer questions the Lord at least eleven times as he wonders why God doesn't do something for him. “Why… why… why… why”? Have you ever felt this way? “We live in a profoundly fallen world and we all are a profoundly fallen people”. As a result, we are a broken people and so often we feel estranged from God.
Our soul is “cast down”. We are disappointed, distressed, discouraged, and often depressed! We sense a great need within our hearts for God’s presence and blessings! As we study these two Psalms we will see the writer passing through at least three stages before he comes to victory and peace. He longed for God (Ps. 42:1-5). He remembered God (Ps. 42:6-11). And he finally put his trust in God (Ps. 43:1-5).
Today, may the Lord help us to do the same as we turn our hearts toward Him in His Word and worship.