The book of Psalms is actually made up of four books. Psalm 41 ends Book One, which is made up almost entirely of David’s psalms. The final psalms of each book are similar in that they offer a doxology of praise to God. As such they are called “seam” psalms because they piece the four books together as one. In this psalm David is suffering illness, such as we saw in Psalm 38, but sin isn’t the primary cause. Here, David is more worried that those that hate him and his love for Yahweh will feel triumphant if he dies.
1 – 3
David characterizes the person of loves Yahweh as one who “cares” for the poor—those who are suffering economically. This doesn’t mean that by doing acts of charity God will “owe” you and bless you. It is simply the natural result of someone who loves God. God says over and over in His Word that we should look out for those who are victims and without strength.
There are seven promises given in these three verses—things that God will do for those who exhibit His character:
Save in time of adversity. “Adversity” is simply the word “bad”. When bad things happen to people who love God, the Lord gives them “slipperiness.” That’s what “save” means here. In short, God will not allow anything to happen to you that is not in His will and will not further His kingdom. It does not mean you won’t experience adversity, but God is the one in ultimate control.
Keep and preserve. Keep means “to put a hedge around.” You are under God’s protection and preservation even in the midst of trouble. “Preserve” literally means “to live.” God will keep you alive without fail until the moment He wants to take you to be with Him.
“Not deliver him” no matter what bad things the world, the flesh, and the devil mean to do to you, God will not allow any of them to prosper. The enemy’s javelins become God’s spear.
“Sustain” means to support. Though the Hebrew of verse 3 is a little difficult, you could say that when we are ill, God becomes our nurse and nurses us back to full health.
With these promises you can march out in full confidence that nothing that is thrown up against you in this life can stop you from loving and serving God!
4 – 9
David seems to have this constant problem, that those that dislike him want him either disgraced for killed. If there was a sin involved in this situation, it appears to have been confessed or wasn’t a real sin (because in verse 12 he speaks of his integrity). When the enemy lacks a real case against us, he just lies, which is what he is good at. They really thought David was going to die and they couldn’t wait.
Verse 9 is quoted by Jesus in John 13:18 to speak of Judas betraying him at the Last Supper.
10 – 12
David asks God to lift him up from his sickbed and thus show his enemies that they have not triumphed. All David wants is to be in God’s presence—to not be separated from His God. And that should be our desire too—that no matter what befalls us, we will triumph because Jesus triumphed and promised we would be with Him forever.
Verse 13 is a doxology to the entire first book. It’s responsive—the psalmist calls for praise the people say: “amen and amen” or “let it be so—let God be praised forever!”
Have you ever felt depressed? If so, then you will find good company in Psalm 42. This psalm represents the beginning of Book 2. It is attributed to the sons of Korah. The sons of Korah comprised Israel’s worship team of singers (Numbers 26:11). Essentially it is about a person who is desperately longing for God’s presence and rescue but is overwhelmed with feelings of depression.
1 – 4
Water is a big theme in this psalm—from the streams that quench thirst, to tears that wet the face, to floods that overwhelm the soul. This man is feeling separated from God and he can feel it so much in his soul that is like a thirsty animal, searching for water. It pictures a prolonged drought where even the animals are dying. He has this kind of spiritual drought in his life—longing for God’s presence.
As he suffers he finds himself crying day and night—all the while those around him who don’t love God are decrying Yahweh for not answering his prayers. As this is happening he has memories of walking up to the Tabernacle—times when those around him were praising God instead of deriding Him.
5 – 8
The psalmist can’t figure out why he is so depressed. He doesn’t understand the turmoil and tells his soul to put his hope in God—that there will be a return to those times of thanksgiving. He goes on to describe himself as “deeply depressed.” He remembers other times of worshiping God in Israel. The Jordan is the Jordan River, of course. Mt. Hermon was east of Jerusalem. Mt. Mizar was probably a minor peak in the Hermon range.
Now the theme of water returns—describing the depression, which he sees as a conspiracy of the waves that cascade over him and are dragging him down to the bottom. Depression is like that—you can’t breathe, can’t see your way out—and are sinking fast.
Even in the midst, he knows that he must continue to look to God’s faithful love both in daylight and at night. Sometimes all we can in the midst of depression is keep crying to God.
9 – 11
The psalmist then recognizes that in the midst of this drowning in the sea, God is a solid rock that he can cling to. I picture a raging white water river—with the psalmist clinging to a rock as the torrents seek to take him away. He can’t understand why the depression won’t lift and his enemies are blasting him with their words.
So in verse 11 he repeats again—why am I so depressed? He tells himself to trust in God that times of praise will happen again.
There are a couple of things I want to point out from this psalm.
1)Depression can happen, even to the believer. Sometimes we Christians think that we must always have on a happy face and a “praise God” on our lips and don’t have a right to be down because Jesus has already won the victory. Jesus himself was depressed in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-39). He said “My soul is swallowed up in sorrow to the point of death.” Do not blame yourself if you find yourself depressed.
2)Like the psalmist—begin to meditate on the depression and how different it is from times when you were doing well. This isn’t to make you feel more down but there is this kind of meta-awareness that can be helpful to move us from just being victimized by the feelings to identifying their source and work towards resolving them.
3)Ultimately it is God who needs to be our hope. We can trust in the promises of God for our salvation that no matter what is happening around us, it will be okay—God is in control, God does have a plan, God does love you—and he will see you through even this.
It’s likely that Psalm 42 and 43 are connected and were one time the same psalm, mostly because of the ending phrase in this psalm that is repeated twice in Psalm 42. Another reason for the connection is that Psalm 43 has no title, which is very unusual. If they are connected, then it seems the occasion for the psalm was that the author had been removed from Israel and was being held in hostile territory and is begging God to rescue him and bring him back.
1 – 2
The psalmist cries out for vindication and rescue. He wants someone to defend him against a people who have rejected God. But he’s worried because it seems God is not available and has even rejected him. In the days when this psalm was written, an attacked on the nation of Israel was an attack on God because Israel was to birth the Messiah—the real rescuer of us all. Today, we have an advocate in the person of Jesus Christ who stands up before God and declares us innocent because He took the wrath of God for us.
3 – 4
The psalmist needs God to move so he can return to Jerusalem and return to worship at the Temple. Don’t you love how he describes God as “my greatest joy”? How would you describe God? Someone you serve, someone you are afraid of, someone you are not that close to? Is He your greatest joy or is that reserved for other things here in this age?
So then he repeats the same phrase found in Psalm 42 verse 5 and 11.
No matter what befalls us, or what strange circumstances or hostile territory we find ourselves in, we too can hope in God that He will rescue us and bring us home!