This is the third in a series of notes on Psalms 42 and 43, which are a single song of lament. The song follows an alternating rhythm of descent and ascent. It descends as the Psalmist recounts his trials and articulates the turmoil in his downcast soul. It ascends in hope as he remembers God’s covenant love and faithfulness. In the last note I considered verses 1-3. Verse 3 concludes with a question, which marks the first low point in the song’s descending and ascending rhythm: “Where is your God?” In this note I want to consider verses 4-5, in which the song ascends in hope.
The ascent in hope begins when the Psalmist remembers leading God’s people in festal procession:
These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
a multitude keeping festival.
At first, he was panting and thirsting for God. Now he is pouring out his soul. His prayer has intensified. As he pours out his soul, he remembers leading God’s people in festal procession to the house of God. For a moment, the taunts of his enemies and the turmoil of his soul are silenced, as he remembers the glad shouts and songs of praise. God required his people to keep various festivals throughout the year, to remind them of his mighty acts of deliverance and provision in history. Like the Lord’s Supper, these festive commemorations confirmed their identity as his covenant people and assured them of his covenant love and faithfulness.
The memory of these feasts fixes the Psalmist’s thoughts on God. Having poured out his soul, he now speaks to his soul in verse 5:
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
for the salvation of his countenance.
The Psalmist has been listening to the turmoil of his soul and the taunts of his enemies, but the memory of singing God’s praises and keeping festival has silenced the turmoil and the taunts. He remembers what the feasts declared, that God is with us and he will deliver us.
The memory prompts him to preach: “Why are you downcast? Hope in God!” This is why we need to learn lament. When we lament, we not only pour out our souls and articulate our grief and sorrow, we also preach to our souls. Yes, lament gives voice to the turmoil within, but if all we do is listen to that turmoil, we will remain downcast. Lament calls us to preach to our souls, and preaching gives voice to God’s Word. It reiterates God’s promises and commands. Thus, the Psalmist preaches to himself: “Hope in God!”
Lamentation preaches. It turns our attention away from the turmoil within to our God and Saviour. The taunt of the enemy, “Where is your God?” is now an exhortation, “Where is your God!” Behold! Look to him! Hope in him! Remember his covenant love and faithfulness. As the Apostle Paul exhorts Timothy: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David.” Jesus is the offspring of David, a man, like you and me, but risen from the dead. Again, Paul writes to the believers in Corinth, “he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence” (2 Cor 4:14). Remembering Jesus, I preach to my soul: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him for the salvation of his countenance.”