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Hope in God
Psalm 42
March 3, 2019

John Bunyan is one of the most well-known believers in Christ.  He wrote numerous books, including the still-in-print, Pilgrim’s Progress.  A bold pastor in a difficult time in the church, he was imprisoned for 12 years for preaching the gospel, yet he did not always exude confidence and fearlessness.  Prior to his salvation he said,

“A whole flood of blasphemies, both against God, Christ, and the Scriptures were poured upon my spirit, to my great confusion and astonishment.…My heart was at times exceeding hard. If I would have been given a thousand pounds for a tear, I could not shed one.…Oh, the desperateness of man’s heart. . . . I feared that this wicked sin of mine might be that sin unpardonable.…Oh, no one knows the terrors of those days but myself.” [Piper, When the Darkness Will Not Lift, 20.]

Call it discouragement, despondency, or depression, most people will experience it in some ways at some point in their lives — and for some it may become an almost debilitating battle.

Charles Spurgeon noted,

The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There may be here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust. [“The Minister’s Fainting Fits”]

Discouragement hasn’t disappeared in our modern age, either.  In his helpful biography, The Roots of Endurance, John Piper writes [79],

…one of the pervasive marks of our times is emotional fragility. It hangs in the air we breathe. We are easily hurt. We pout and mope easily. We blame easily. We break easily. Our marriages break easily. Our faith breaks easily. Our happiness breaks easily. And our commitment to the church breaks easily. We are easily disheartened, and it seems we have little capacity for surviving and thriving in the face of criticism and opposition.

Where does discouragement come from and is there any hope for the discouraged believer?  An unnamed psalmist opens his heart and soul to the discouragement of his own life in a way that provides both spiritual encouragement and spiritual direction for us.

Psalm 42 was given to a group of men called the Sons of Korah to lead in public worship.  It appears that they did not write the song, but were to use the song in leading the singing of the Israelite congregants as they gathered to worship.  We don’t know the author or his exact setting.  At minimum, he is afflicted with an illness that is keeping him from worship.  He may be living in the northern-most part of Israel and cannot get to the Temple for regular worship.  Or he (most likely) has been taken into captivity by an invading nation, like Assyria or Babylon, and is far removed from the land of Israel and from worship.  He is alone and is being mocked and persecuted for his faith.  The barrage of persecution has left him despondent and discouraged.  To whom will he turn?  That’s the question he answers in this song:

Even in the pressures of life, God is God and will save His people.

As we turn to this psalm, notice also that the heading tells us it is a Maskil.  The exact meaning of the term is uncertain but it seems to mean something like, “to be prudent, wise.”  Thus, it is a song that is written to give wisdom  and instruction.  Here is counsel about living wisely when life is hard, unfair, and uncertain.

  1. The Laments of Hopelessness (vv. 1-4)
  • “God is absent” (vv. 1-2)
  • “I am suffering” (v. 3)
  • “I have lost worship and ministry” (v. 4)
  1. God’s Provision of Hope (v. 5)
  • Be patient as God works
  • Continue in (or resume) praise
  • God is saving and will save
  • Speak to yourself
  1. More Laments of Hopelessness (vv. 6-10)
  • “Absence makes the heart grow despondent” (v. 6)
  • “My trials are overwhelming” (v. 7)
  • “Has God not heard?” (vv. 8-9)
  • “I am being persecuted” (v. 10)
  1. God’s Final Provision of Hope (v. 11)
  • Be patient as God works
  • God is my God
  • Speak to yourself

Download the rest of this sermon on Psalm 42.

The audio will be posted on the GBC website by tomorrow.