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"Vindicate me, O God!"

July 31, 2020

With this note and the next, I want to conclude our series of reflections on Psalms 42 and 43. These two psalms comprise a single song of lament, which follows an alternating rhythm of descent and ascent. The song descends as the Psalmist recounts his trials and articulates the turmoil in his downcast soul. The song ascends in hope as he remembers God’s covenant love and faithfulness.

Psalm 42 concludes on a high note and that’s where Psalm 43 begins. The Psalmist is growing in confidence and boldness in his prayer. Lamentation leads to bold petition, because it orients us towards God’s promises. Psalm 42 teaches us to pray honestly; Psalm 43 teaches us to pray boldly. Consider verse 1:

“Vindicate me, O God,
and defend my cause
against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!”

The Psalmist petitions God: vindicate me, defend my cause, and deliver me. Vindicate me! He’s appealing to God as judge. God sits as judge over all things. His law defines right and wrong, good and evil, and he judges all things according to his law. The Psalmist recasts his situation as a courtroom. His enemies are taunting him and accusing him. He’s the defendant and his case is now before God, the judge. He stands before God with his accusers and makes his plea, “Vindicate Me!” Make a decision! Decide my case! The Psalmist knows he’s innocent, so he’s saying to God: Make a decision in my favour. Make a divine judgment which declares my innocence and proves me to be right.

He then asks God to step down from the bench and serve as his defense attorney: “Defend my cause against an ungodly people.” Look at the prosecution over there. They’re ungodly. The word translated ungodly literally means “without steadfast love.” God commands steadfast love. His opponents have no steadfast love. The Psalmist pleads with God, the God of steadfast love, “defend my cause against an ungodly people.”

Finally, he abandons the courtroom scene and simply cries out: deliver me! There’s urgency in the prayer: Decide my case! Come down and defend my cause! Deliver me! Get me out of here! For you are the God in whom I take refuge.

We’re into verse 2 now. This is the Psalmist’s final descent, his final lament:

“For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”

Just as he addresses God as “my rock” in Psalm 42:9, he now addresses him as his refuge. God is our fortress and our strong tower. He is our place of safety and strength. The Psalmist is saying: I’ve come to you, my Rock and my Fortress: “Why have you rejected me?” I thought you were carrying me? Why have you cast me off? I seek refuge in You? Why are you excluding me? You’ve left me outside, where “I go about mourning because of the oppression of my enemies?”

These questions lead him to make one final request in verse 3, which I will consider in the next and final note on this lament song:

“Send out your light and your truth
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.”

This final request is answered in the gift of God’s Son, to whom the lament takes us. He is our Judge who vindicates us by his own righteousness. He is our Defender, who stands with us and pleads our cause. He is our Deliverer, who rescues us from our enemies. He is our Rock and our Refuge. He is the Hope for our downcast soul.

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