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.
Help is Coming!
As we continue our walk through the book of psalms—one song at a time—this week’s “Thirsty Thursday” brings us to Psalm 43. On the surface, this brief psalm doesn’t seem very impressive. It isn’t attributed to any particular writer, nor does it have any specific historical reference to lend context to a modern-day reader. Somewhat predictably, the psalmist asks for God’s vindication (vs. 1) and deliverance (vs. 2), expresses his longing for a restoration of his relationship with God (vs. 3-4), and ends with an echo of the same self-talking refrain from Psalm 42:
“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.” (vs. 5)
Some scholars believe that Psalm 43 was actually connected to Psalm 42 originally. In fact, many Hebrew manuscripts combine them into a single song. This could easily explain their common refrain and Psalm 43’s conspicuous lack of an ascription of authorship. For whatever reasons, the original song was divided and found its way into our Bibles as two separate psalms.
I love those kinds of details. I’m a bit of a Bible nerd!
And as if that observation wasn’t nerdy enough, these songs also represent a new “chapter” in the book of Psalms. The 150 Psalms that have been handed down to us are divided into five “books.” No one really knows why. But we speculate that the division reflects the Torah, the first five books of the Bible known also as “The Law.” One author makes the connection this way:
Psalms 1-41 – God Beside Us (Genesis)
Psalms 42-72 – God Before Us (Exodus)
Psalms 73-89 – God Around Us (Leviticus)
Psalms 90-106 – God Above Us (Numbers)
Psalms 107-150 – God Among Us (Deuteronomy)
If you’re willing to entertain that sort of connection, then Psalm 42-43 reflects some pretty powerful Exodus themes: from deliverance to discipleship…from desert to destination. The author’s soul is downcast and disturbed because he is longing for something more…he knows what he’s missing…he longs for God’s promise and God’s presence.
And frankly, that’s where we still find ourselves today. Just like the people of Israel in the desert…just like the writer of Psalm 42-43, we continually find ourselves looking back on what was and looking forward to what is still to come. Of course, we also know more than they did. We’ve been given Jesus—God in the flesh—the promised Messiah…the loving Savior…the resurrected King! We know a little of what it means to belong to Christ, and because we know we are always longing for more of Him.
Today is Ascension Day—the day we celebrate Christ the Son returning to heaven where he is seated at the right hand of God the Father. In Acts 1:1-10 we read the story of the ascension. Jesus gives his disciples some final instructions and a final promise: “Wait for the gift my Father promised…you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit…you will receive power…you will be my witnesses.” When he ascended, he left his disciples staring after him into the sky; he left them waiting. There they stood—between the joyful past of his presence and the uncertain future of his promise. Jesus wanted them to long for that Gift…to pray for it…to wait for it.
Is it any different for us? We can identify with the disciples’ problem, but we can also share the promise. Help is coming! The Gift is on his way!
“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.” (Psalm 43:3)
If you find yourself in that uncomfortable place of waiting—between the presence and the promise—why not do it well? Keep waiting…praying…and longing for more of God. You have been created for more! Like the deer panting for streams of water (Psalm 42:1), celebrate your spiritual thirst…indulge it! Fill your soul with the only life that can satisfy, and always stay thirsty for him.