John T. Willis

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Encountering Depression--Psalms 42-43

Originally Psalms 42-43 was one psalm. For some reason, this was divided into two psalms. Several details prove that Psalms 42-43 is one psalm.
      A. Psalms 42 and 44-49 have in their superscriptions: "To the leader: A Maskil of the Korahites," but Psalm 43 has no superscription of any kind.
      B. The same recurring refrain or chorus appears in 42:5, 11; 43:5:
           Why are you cast down, O my soul,
                  and why are you disquieted within me?
            Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
                  my help and my God."
      C. There are striking similarities between 42:9 and and 43:2.
           1. "I say to God, my rock" in 42:9 has approximately the same meaning as "For you are the God in whom I have refuge."
           2. The question "Why have you forgotten me?" in 42:9 is virtually the same as "Why have you cast me off?"
           3. The question "Why must I walk about mournfully
                                        because the enemy oppresses me [because of the oppression of the enemy?]"
 is almost exactly the same in 42:9 and 43:2.
      D. 42:2 and 43:3 reflect the same strong desire to go to Jerusalem and worship God.

Psalm 43:4 indicates that the composer of Psalms 42-43 is a harp player. He was accustomed to lead ceremonial processions only holy days at the Jerusalem temple ("the house of God"--42:4; "your holy hill," "your dwelling"--43:3; "the altar of God"--43:4). But now he has been forced to leave Jerusalem and is hiding from his enemies, or is in captivity to his enemies in northern Palestine near the headwaters of the Jordan River, at the foothills of the peaks of Mount Hermon, near Mount Mizar (42:6). These enemies are not worshippers of the true God, because they keep ridiculing him about the absence of Yahweh. The psalmist has expressed his trust in Yahweh in these difficult circumstances, but Yahweh has done nothing in an obvious way to deliver him, and so his enemies kept heckling him saying, "Where is your God?" (42:3, 10). The composer is deeply depressed by these tauntings as though he had suffered a deadly wound in his body (42:9-10). His enemies are unjust and deceitful (43:1), and yet God had not delivered him. He concludes that Yahweh has forgotten him (42:9), that Yahweh has cast him off (43:2). He yearns for Yahweh to intervene and deliver him (43:1) and to allow him to return to Jerusalem and worship Yahweh at the temple (42:2; 43:3-4). The recurring refrains or choruses in 42:5, 11; 43:5 naturally divide this psalm into three paragraphs.

1. The psalmist is deeply depressed because he feels Yahweh is far away. 42:1-5.
     a. The psalmist compares himself with a deer fleeing from hunters who are determined to track him down and kill him. As he flees, he becomes extremely thirsty, not for water, but for Yahweh's presence and fellowship and protection. Human longing for God is as inborn as the thirst for water (see Psalms 63:1; 143:6). 42:1.
      b. The psalmist thirsts for the living God just as water slakes the parched tongue, Only Yahweh can satisfy his thirst. 42:2.
      c. In his present situation, the tears of the poet are his food day and night while his enemies heckle him, "Where is your God?" 42:3.
      d. The composer thinks back of his work in Jerusalem when he went with the throng of people and led them in procession to the Jerusalem temple with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, a multitude of people keeping festival, probably the Feast of Booths. 42:4.
      e. Struggling with his heart, the psalmist says to himself: Why are you cast down? Why are you depressed? Instead hope in Yahweh, because he will again praise him, his help and God. 42:5.

2. The psalmist is discouraged because troubles have rushed into his life like a flood inundating a city. 42:6-11.
     a. Since he is depressed, the psalmist remembers Yahweh while he is in the land of the Jordan and Mount Hermon, Mount Mizar. Now, deep calls to deep at the thunder of Yahweh's cataracts. Yahweh's waves and billows have gone over him, and he is about to drown. 42:6-7.
     b. Yet, during the day Yahweh commands his steadfast love, and during the night Yahweh's song is with the psalmist, a prayer to the God of his life. 42:8.
     c. Although the psalmist knows that Yahweh is his rock, he asks Yahweh, Why have you forgotten me?" Why am I constantly mourning because my enemies oppress me? His enemies are like a deadly wound to bring his life to an end, saying "Where is your God?" As in 42:5, he repeats his inner thoughts, Why am I depressed? Instead hope in Yahweh. 42:9-11.

3. The psalmist feels helpless because his enemies have falsely accused him, but he cannot prove that their accusations are false. 43:1-5.
     a. The psalmist's enemies are ungodly and deceitful. In the court, the accusations of his enemies appear to be convincing. 43:1.
     b. As in 42:9, the psalmist cries out again: Yahweh, why have you cast me off? Why do I have to mourn constantly because of his enemies' oppression? 43:2.
     c. Since the psalmist cannot guide his own path, he beseeches Yahweh to be his light and truth to guide him back to Jerusalem and resume his role as leading the throng of worshippers to the Jerusalem temple where he can give Yahweh thanksgiving for delivering him. 43:3-4.
     d. For the third time, the psalmist repeats his inner thoughts, Why am I depressed? Instead hope in Yahweh. 43:5.

The major problem today facing faculty members and students in universities is depression. Psalms 42-43 helps people to express the feelings of depression in order to embrace their inner feelings.

Share YOUR disturbing feelings and failures and doubts and shortcomings and successes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis 


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