The Source of All Hope: Psalm 43

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Psalm 43 (NIV)

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 Savior and my God.

CONSIDER THIS

Today there is much discussion in our country about refugees. Psalm 43 is a song for refugees, and for any who have been the recipients of injustice or who feel forgotten by God. There is mourning, and oppression of wicked people, and even the sense of God’s rejection. There is a cry for vindication, for justice, and most of all, for God to make sense of suffering, to bring rescue, and to restore hope. “Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me” (v. 3). What a tremendous prayer in the midst of hopelessness—that God’s light and truth would lead us to “the place where you dwell” (v. 3). For the psalmist, the place where God dwelt meant the place of his presence, and so this psalm is the plaintive cry to be in the presence of God. Then, he would go to the altar of God—to God, his exceeding joy. Then, he would again praise; and then, he could again hope.

Refugees are those without a place. This is why compassion for refugees is so central to biblical ethics. Jesus’ earliest memories as a child would have been as a refugee, when his parents were forced to flee to Egypt to escape the sword of Herod (Matt. 2:13–15). However, biblically speaking, we are all refugees in the sense that we all should have a sense of displacement, a longing for the only true place where we are at home: the presence of God.

In Christ, the presence of God has come to us, even in the midst of injustice and suffering. Christ is the altar of God, the meeting place of God’s presence, and the source of exceeding joy. When the psalmist ends his song with the same refrain found twice in the previous psalm, he has journeyed to a new place, because of having discovered boundless joy in the presence of God. While the refrain in Psalm 42 was more of an admonition to his soul of a hope not yet attained, this time it resounds with a different orchestration—a resounding certainty of the hope found at the altar in the presence of God.

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Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.

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