Summary: A New Year Sermon

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Scripture: Psalms 42 and 43, especially Psalm 42:5: 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.

Introduction: You’d like to begin 2004 saying, “This is the year that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it!” But perhaps depression, one of the great afflictions of our age, is dulling your spirits. In Psalms 42 and 43, we see how one man exchanged depression for joy to begin a new emotional era in his life.

1. My Condition. Three key words describe this man’s condition. First, downcast. Peterson translates this: “Why are you down in the dumps?” Other translations say, “Why are you so sad?” or “Why are you discouraged?” A second word is disquieted. The Hebrew term conveys the idea of an unpleasant sound, a commotion or clamor. It refers to unpleasant music in the soul. Peterson translates: “Why are you singing the blues, O my soul?” The third word is mourning (v. 9). The Hebrew is picturesque, meaning “to be ashen, dark and dingy.” The reference may be to one’s facial expression or to the garments of sackcloth worn by the grief-stricken. Can you identify?

2. My Circumstances. The writer was one of the sons of Korah, Israel’s renowned musicians and worship leaders. Yet he begins Psalm 42 telling us he feels separated from God. Evidently this man is exiled both spiritually and geographically. He has been taken from Jerusalem, away from his normal ministry in the temple courts (v. 4). Where is he? Verse 6 offers a clue: “I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, and from the heights of Hermon, from the Hill Mizar. Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls.” This man is in the far north, at the headwaters of the Jordan, in the foothills of Mount Hermon. The word Mizar means “little,” perhaps referring to a smaller hill in the Hermon range in the area known as Caesarea Philippi or Banias. Here the springs and creeks plunge from the mountains, crashing and roaring and forming the beginnings of the Jordan River. Second Kings 14:14 tells of a time when King Jehoahaz invaded the nation of Judah. He swept into the temple, looted its treasures, and took some of the temple workers hostage to the north. We don’t know if this is the historical setting of Psalms 42 and 43, but it fits. Perhaps one of those hostages wrote this psalm. Have you ever felt downcast and disquieted? Exiled? Far from where you want to be in life?

3. My Cure. This man is determined not to give in to despondency or self-pity. He’s going to fight with three lifelines.

A. Talking to God. Psalm 42 begins as a prayer; and as he prays, this man’s confidence grows and his courage returns, as we see at the end of Psalm 43.

B. Talking to Others. In Psalm 42:2, he is no longer praying; he is talking to you and me, to his readers, to whoever will listen. There are six billion people in the world, yet we long for someone to talk to. That’s why support groups, chat rooms, and bars are so popular. But you don’t need a bar or chat room. Find a Christian friend, open up, and share your heart. Ask others to pray with you. We’re never as strong as when kneeling side by side with a friend in need.

C. Talking to Myself. The psalmist also learned how to talk to himself. “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why so disquieted within me? Hope in God . . . !” He is addressing himself. We often listen to ourselves when we should talk to ourselves. We have negative little voices inside us, playing discouraging tapes in endless loops. We need to eject those tapes, take ourselves in hand, sit ourselves down, and give ourselves a talking to. We need to learn to preach to ourselves.

Conclusion: If you’ve been singing the blues, talk to God about it; talk to a good friend; and talk to yourself. Those three lifelines will be like a triangle of triumph and will enable you to say: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me? This is the year that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.”

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