Psalms 42 and 43

Psalm 42

An Activity

This is an amusing illustration of what’s important in our Christian faith. You will need a swivel chair, a lot of props and a little rehearsal time. The cast is Christian (Xian) and two Helpers. The helpers sound like game show hosts. Each time a helper speaks, they swivel Xian to face them, so that Xian gets spun round and round.

A swivel chair is in the middle with the helpers on either side. Each has a pile of props in a box.

H1:         Hello Christian, and welcome to the faith! Come, sit down.

Xian:      (sits in swivel chair) Thank you. This is my first time here. What do I need to be a proper Christian?

H2:         (swivels Xian to face) Weeeell, I’m glad you asked that. Of course, you’re going to need God – the Lord Almighty; the creator and saviour; the comforter, friend and guide; the mystery of the holy trinity; the omnipresent, omnipotent triune majesty; the pararcletos, dominus dominatium, pater noster, qui es in caelis …

Xian:      (interrupting) But, but … How am I going to learn all this about God?

H1:         (swivels Xian 180⁰) Weeeell, I’m glad you asked that. Here’s a guide book that gives you everything you need to know (gives Xian a big Bible, preferable a huge lectern Bible)

Xian:      Great, thanks. So that’s all I need to be a proper Christian?

H2:         Hmmn. It would help if you wear the right clothes (gives Xian a suit and tie / dress and hat)

H1:         And go to the right meetings (gives Xian a notice sheet)

H2:         And say all the right things (gives Xian a big dictionary)

H1:         And listen to the right music (gives Xian a load of CDs)

H2:         And sing the right songs (gives Xian a guitar and load of music books)

H1:         And join the tea rota (gives Xian a tea pot and tea towel)

H2:         And the Sunday school team (gives Xian paper and scissors and coloured pens)

H1:         And the Saturday Morning Men’s Prayer Breakfast Outreach Team (gives Xian a frying pan and bacon and bread rolls)

Swivel Xian to face the front. By this time Xian should be almost invisible under a pile of ‘stuff’

H2:         (to H1) Do you think we should throw in a prayer book, just to be sure? (places a book on top of the pile)

H1:         (to H2) Yes, and a tambourine, to cover all eventualities. (balances a tambourine on the top)

H1+H2: Now that’s a proper Christian! (shake hands and leave)

Xian:      (after a pause) Help!

 A Reflection

“Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” We all have times like this, times when we’re in a dark, cold place. Perhaps you are there right now. God seems a million miles away and all around are people pulling you down.

Although it might not seem so, this is actually a good place to be from time to time. I would suggest that it does us good to visit the desert once in a while. In the desert we learn to strip away all the junk and focus on what is needed to survive. In the sad places of life we learn what is really important.

When life is going well, it is easy to get caught up in the pleasant little luxuries (and there’s nothing wrong with them – they are blessings from God), but a life of unending ease can blind us to the source of those blessings and the fact that they are not ours by right (see Prov. 30:8-9). If we get to a place where our souls are panting for God we can learn to trust him who by day directs his love and at night is with me in song.

One of my favourite aspects of this song (psalms 42 and 43 are one song) is how the writer alternates between what his heart feels and what his mind knows. He is in a dark place and he does not hide that. He does not pretend everything is alright when it is not. And that’s a good thing. It is fine to be honest with God and tell him that the world is a dry and dusty place at the moment.

But the psalmist he does not dwell in that place. He does not unpack his bags and permanently move in. Constantly he reminds himself of times when he used to rejoice and looks forward to those times again. He recognises the present reality for what it is, but acknowledges that this is not how it will be for always. Why? Because of the steadfastness of God, who alone is the rock of our salvation.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.

 Our Response

Imagine yourself on a rock in the middle of a stormy ocean. Hear the waters crash around you, see the towering waves, smell the salty gale. Then feel, beneath your feet and behind your back, a mighty, unshakable rock. Hide yourself in a clef of the rock and be safe.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge
a strong tower against the foe.

Ps 61:2-3

A Prayer

Loving Father, Gentle Saviour, Guiding Spirit,

You hold me when I am downcast.
You dance with me when I am uplifted.
You restore my soul to the joy of your salvation.
You are forever to be praised.


Bible Text

Psalm 42 New International Version

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

As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
‘Where is your God?’
These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my 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.
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me –
a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
‘Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?’
My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
‘Where is your God?’

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.


Psalm 43

Vindicate me, my God,
and plead my cause
against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
O God, my God.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.

New International Version – UK (NIVUK)

Holy Bible, New International Version® Anglicized, NIV® Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.®Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


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