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This Sunday School Study Guide is provided free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.  It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for sale, without permission from the copyright holders.  


Bailey Sadler Class

SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE - 2014

 

Study Theme: Storm Shelter: Psalms of God’s Embrace

What This Study Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

This week’s study is rooted in Psalms 42 & 43 to help us overcome feelings of despair we may experience when we let our circumstances get us down, especially at this time of the year.

 

 

Dec. 07

The Shelter of God’s Presence

 

Dec. 14

The Shelter of God’s Salvation

 

Dec. 21

The Shelter of God’s Forgiveness

X

Dec. 28

The Shelter of God’s Encouragement

 

Jan. 4

The Shelter of God’s Peace

 

Jan. 11

The Shelter of God’s Protection

 

LIFE IMPACT:

God encourages me when I feel overwhelmed.

FOCAL PASSAGE:

Psalm 42:1-3,6-8; 43:3-5

LESSON OUTLINE:

I.    

II.

III.  

Longing For God (Ps. 42:1-3)

Remembering God (Ps. 42:6-8)

Hoping For God (Ps. 43:3-5)

OVERVIEW OF BACKGROUND PASSAGE:  

  The title to Psalm 42 ascribes it to the “sons of Korah.”  This was a family of Levites, descendants of the clan of Kohath (1 Chron. 6:22), who served at the temple.  Among their duties was service as a kind of temple choir (vv. 33-38; 2 Chron. 20:19).  We should not take the title to mean that Psalm 42 was written by a committee.  Its ascription to the “sons of Korah” means that it belonged to a specific temple collection of songs and that a single member of the guild of Korah wrote it.  Beyond that  information, we do not know when or by whom the psalm was composed.  The sons of Korah had a long history of association with the sanctuary, and this psalm could have been written during the lifetime of David or much later.  Neither do we know the specific circumstances that prompted the psalmist to compose the song.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

INTRODUCTION:

We can often feel overwhelmed by our circumstances.  For many people, the festive days of the Christmas season are followed by the harsh reality that we are financially overextended.  For others, it is health or family issues.  In the Bible, we read the words of a psalmist who experienced a down time, but his words also give us encouragement by pointing to the God who is above our circumstances.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

I.

Longing For God (Ps. 42:1-3)

1 As a deer longs for streams of water, so I long for You, God.  2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I come and appear before God?  3 My tears have been my food day and night, while all day long people say to me, “Where is your God?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1.   Do you believe everybody gets “the blues” at one time or another?

2.   What are some things that might cause a person to get “the blues”?

3.   When are you most likely to get “the blues”?

4.   What is the image the psalmist used to describe his sense of despair?

5.   What does it feel like to continually long for something?

6.   How does it make you feel when you continually long for something and it never comes to fruition?

7.   How does this imagery convey the psalmist’s sense of despair (v. 1)?

8.   Based on verse 1b, for what did the psalmist long?

9.   Why do you think a person would long for God (v. 1b)?

10.   What is the literal meaning of the words rendered I thirst for God (v. 2)?

11.   What one word in verse 2, did the psalmist use to describe God?

12.   Why do you think he used this particular word?

13.   Why might the psalmist have written the words When I come and appear before God (v. 2b)?

14.   How did the psalmist describe the depths of his anguish (v. 3)?

15.   What do you think he meant by this description?

16.   Who spoke the words Where is your God?  Friend or foe (v. 3b)?

17.   Based on this passage, what do you think added to the sense of despair of the psalmist?

18.   How would you summarize this passage?

 

Lasting Lessons in Psalm 42:1-3:

1.  Returning or turning to God is an appropriate and enriching experience.

2.  To be whole and truly joyful, people need the Lord.

3.  Sometimes well-meaning persons, and even other believers, wonder why God has truned away from those who are suffering from depression.  Other times they think the suffering believer lacks faith.

4.  Hope for those experiencing depression comes from the living God.

5.  One can come to the Lord and before His presence for help at any time.

 

II.

Remembering God (Ps. 42:6-8)

6 I am deeply depressed; therefore I remember You from the land of Jordan and the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.  7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your billows have swept over me.  8 The Lord will send His faithful love by day; His song will be with me in the night—a prayer to the God of my life.

1.   Though in a great spiritual struggle, what did the psalmist determine to do (v. 6)?

2.   How might the words I am deeply depressed be more literally translated?

3.   What does the word remember mean (v. 6)?

4.   What did he remember about God (v. 6)?

5.   What geographical elements are mentioned in these verses (vv. 6-7)?

6.   Do you think they seem out of place in this psalm?

7.   How does the nautical language contribute to these verses?

8.   Based on this passage, what do you think might have added to his anguish?

9.   What encouraged him (v. 8)?

10.   Do you think the words of verse 8 are a way of saying that everything would be wonderful now?

11.   Or do you believe the words are an assertion of the psalmist’s confidence that God would eventually bring him through his present time of sorrow?

12.   When you feel overwhelmed, what truths about God help you keep on keeping on?

13.   Do you think when a believer feels overwhelmed with the events of their life that it has a negative impact on their relationship with God?  If so, why do you think this happens?

14.   What are some things that could cause a believer to become overwhelmed with a feeling of despair?

15.   What are some things you would encourage a believer to do when he/she feels overwhelmed with the events in his/her life?

 

Lasting Lessons in Psalm 42:6-8:

1.  We should be honest with God in our prayers and tell Him exactly how we feel.

2.  We need to determine to remember God and all He has done for us—whether we feel like it or not.

3.  When we are depressed, our faith in God can keep us from feeling that we will never come out from under the despair.

 

III.

Hoping For God (Ps. 43:3-5)

3 Send Your light and Your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling place.  4 Then I will come to the altar of God, to God, my greatest joy. I will praise You with the lyre, God, my God.  5 Why am I so depressed? Why this turmoil within me? Put your hope in God, for I will still praise Him, my Savior and my God.

1.        What did the psalmist ask of God in verse 3?

2.        What in verse 3 indicates that the psalmist was willing to follow God’s instructions?

3.        Do you think the psalmist was asking for a new revelation or new doctrine when he asked God to send His light and truth?

4.        What is a lyre (v. 4)?  (See Digging Deeper.)

5.        What did the psalmist commit to do when he made it back to the place of worship?

6.        What are the characteristics of a believer who sees God as his/her greatest joy?

7.        What rhetorical questions did the psalmist ask in verse 5?

8.        What do these questions tell us about the psalmist? 

9.        Based on verse 5, where was the focus of the psalmist? 

10.     What are some things that will help a believer to stay focused on God in the midst of turmoil and depression?

11.     How do you think staying focused on God will help a believer overcome turmoil and depression in his/her life?

12.     How would you like to respond when trouble comes your way?

13.     What are some things you think keep you from responding in a godly manner when trouble comes your way?

14.     What is it about God’s character do you think gave the psalmist courage to respond with confidence in the face of adversity?

15.     What does it mean to you to put your hope in God?

16.     How do you do that and keep it there?

 

Lasting Lessons in Psalm 43:3-5:

1.  Pain can be an effective teacher, and God does not always remove it right away.

2.  Persevering in worship while enduring depression, grief, and confusion can strengthen the soul.

3.  Even the godly sometimes experience joylessness.

 

CONCLUSION:

The writer of Psalms 42 and 43 was discouraged, overwhelmed by his circumstances to the point of being depressed.  At first, he just bemoaned his situation.  Later, he tried to fix it himself—but his fix didn’t work because he focused on the wrong thing.  Finally, he found the solution to his despair: he turned to God in hope.  Therein he found the encouragement he desired and needed?

How much like the psalmist are you?  When you feel discouraged, overwhelmed, or in despair because of the circumstances of your life, what do you do first?  Like the psalmist do you bemoan your situation and when that doesn’t help, you try to fix it yourself?  Then, when he fix doesn’t work, do you finally turn it all over to God?  So, where along the this line do you turn to God?  On a scale of 1 (After I have tried it all myself) to 10 (Above all else) how would you rate your reliance on God as the best solution when you find yourself in the midst of overwhelming circumstances?  Based on your rating, how much are your like the psalmist?  Would you like to improve your reliance on God?  If so, He is always standing at the ready!  So why not ask Him for help when you first begin to feel overwhelmed?  

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.

 

Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

FOCAL PASSAGE:  Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5

Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version: Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5:

42:1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.  2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?  3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?  4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.  5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.  6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me: therefore will I remember thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.  7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.  8 Yet the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.  9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?  10 As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God?  11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.


43:1 Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.  2 For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?  3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.  4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.  Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.  (KJV)

New International Version: Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5:

42:1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.  2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.  When can I go and meet with God?  3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”  4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.  5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God.  My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.  7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.  By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.  9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”  10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long,  “Where is your God?”  11 Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. 


43:1 Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; rescue me from deceitful and wicked men.  2 You are God my stronghold.  Why have you rejected me?  Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?  3 Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.  4 Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight.  I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.  5 Why are you downcast, O my soul?  Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.  (NIV)

New Living Translation: Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5:

42:1 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.  2 I thirst for God, the living God.  When can I go and stand before him?  3 Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?”  4 My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be: I walked among the crowds of worshipers, leading a great procession to the house of God, singing for joy and giving thanks amid the sound of a great celebration!  5 Why am I discouraged?      Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again—my Savior and  6 my God!  Now I am deeply discouraged, but I will remember you—even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan, from the land of Mount Mizar.  7 I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me. 8 But each day the LORD pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.  9 “O God my rock,” I cry, “Why have you forgotten me?  Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?”  10 Their taunts break my bones.  They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”  11 Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!  


43:1 Declare me innocent, O God!  Defend me against these ungodly people.  Rescue me from these unjust liars.  2 For you are God, my only safe haven.  Why have you tossed me aside?  Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?  3 Send out your light and your truth; let them guide me.  Let them lead me to your holy mountain, to the place where you live.  4 There I will go to the altar of God, to God—the source of all my joy.  I will praise you with my harp, O God, my God!  5 Why am I discouraged?  Why is my heart so sad?  I will put my hope in God!  I will praise him again—my Savior and my God!   (NLT)

 

Lesson Outline — “The Shelter of God’s Encouragement” — Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5

I.

II.

III.

Longing For God (Ps. 42:1-3)

Remembering God (Ps. 42:6-8)

Hoping For God (Ps. 43:3-5)

 

COMMENTARY:

(NOTE:  Commentary for the focal passage comes from three sources: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament,Believer's Bible Commentary,” andThe Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5:

Psalms 42--43: Hoping in the Lord’s Salvation

The literary unity of Psalms 42 and 43 is such that they should be treated as one psalm. Even though the MT and LXX keep them separate, there are internal arguments for their unity: (1) the absence of a superscription above Psalm 43; (2) the repetition of a refrain (42:5, 11; 43:5); (3) development of thought from remembrance (42:4, 6) to a specific hope of restoration (43:3); and (4) the lament form. On the variety of expressions of hope in lament psalms, see the excellent article by Yair Hoffman, “The Transition from Despair to Hope in the Individual Psalms of Lament,” Tarbiz 55 (1985/86): 161-72 (Heb.). Each psalm is an individual lament. Even though the life-situation remains controversial, it is evident that the psalmist was isolated from the temple worship. He may have been a refugee, but it is more likely that he had been exiled to Aram, Assyria, or Babylon and was in the hands of taunting captors (vv. 3, 10). The structure is built around questions and a threefold refrain (42:5, 11; 43:5). The psalmist questions God (42:2b, 9; 43:2) and himself (42:5, 11; 43:5), as his enemies taunt him, “Where is your God?” (42:3, 10). The refrain responds to the questions and exhorts the psalmist and the reader to faith and hope. The expository structure is as follows: A. Lament (42:1-4) B. Hope (v. 5) A’. Lament (vv. 6-7) B’. Hope (v. 8) A’’. Lament (vv. 9-10) B’’. Hope (v. 11) A’’’. Lament (43:1-4) B’’’. Hope (v. 5) The apparent to-and-fro movement takes us from a remembrance of the past through a reflection on the present sufferings to an anticipation of God’s vindication and presence.

I. Lament (42:1-4) 42:1-3 The longing of the psalmist for God’s presence is clear from simile and the references to God. First, the simile of the “deer” (“hart”) expresses the intense yearning for a taste of God’s presence. The deer looks until it finds water and quenches its thirst with great joy. So the psalmist longs for God’s presence with his whole being (nepesh “soul”). As usual “soul” does not denote the spiritual aspect of man exclusively. He intensely longs for (“pants for.... thirsts,” vv. 1-2; cf. 63:1) fellowship with God and will not be content until he may return to Jerusalem and praise God with great joy (43:4). So strong is his physical longing for God that we may agree with C.S. Lewis, who described the psalmists’ craving for God as an “appetite for God” (Reflections on the Psalms, p. 51). Second, in the references to God, the psalmist’s longing for God increases in intensity. He addresses him as “God” (v. 1), then as “the living God,” and finally expresses his profound hope to see “the face of God” (MT; NIV, “meet with God,” v. 2). It may well be that the phrase “living God” (v. 2; 84:2; Deut 5:26; Hos 1:10) is associated with the imagery of God as “living water” (cf. Jer 2:13; 17:13), the fountain of life (Ps 36:8-9). In v. 8 the psalmist speaks of him as “the God of my life,” water and life being closely associated. In view of his need of God, the psalmist asks when he can return and experience once again the presence of God. He wants to “meet with God” in the temple on Mount Zion (v. 2; 84:7). The question is partly rhetorical and functions as one question in a chain of questions (vv. 8-9; 43:1). The rhetorical aspect of the question lies in the problem of how a man who desires God’s presence can experience alienation from God. The question finds its resolution in the development of these psalms. The psalmist is hemmed in by his own question, by his longing for God’s presence (v. 2), and by his enemies who tauntingly ask, “Where is your God?” (v. 3; 10:11; 12:4; 59:7; 64:5; 71:11; 73:11; 94:7; 115:2; Mic 7:10). Living in isolation from the land, he could not experience God’s presence in the magnificent structure of the temple. Down deep in his heart he asked the same question, “Where is my God?” For this reason he mourns continually. The depth of his sorrow is hyperbolically expressed by “tears” as his “food” (v. 3; cf. 80:5; 102:3-11; Job 3:24). The taunts of the enemies serve to bring him closer to despondency. For the present it seems as if God does not have the power to deliver. With these questions he lives continually (“all day long,” vv. 3, 10). Not knowing where else to turn, he looks back in remembrance, digs deeply into his own soul, and then looks to God for the final answer to his despairing feeling.

42:4 Adverse conditions create an optimum context for reflection. The psalmist cannot do much more than to “remember.” He remembers “these things.” What things did he remember? He meditated on the pilgrimages to the temple, the festive celebrations, and God’s triumphs in the history of salvation. During the three annual pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Firstfruits, and Tabernacles; cf. Exod 23:17; 34:18-26; Lev 23:4-44; Deut 16:1-17), the pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem and presented their offerings and sacrifices with great rejoicing. It is true that many people were apostates, as the prophets bear out. However, the godly minority (the remnant) focused their hope on a purification of the people, a catharsis of the temple worship, and a new age. The period of exile was the transition between the old age and the new age. The transition period proved immensely difficult for the godly (cf. Ps 137; Lam 1-5). The pouring out of the soul is an expression of the intensity of one’s emotions (cf. 62:8; 142:4-7; 1 Sam 1:15; Job 30:16; Lam 2:19).

II. Hope (42:5-6a) 42:5-6a The psalmist analyzes his feelings and asks questions of himself (vv. 5, 11; 43:5). The threefold refrain reflects the emotional state of many of God’s people during the Exile and, for that matter, any crisis situation. The inner feelings express themselves in questions, despair, and hope in God. The questions are overtaking him. Yet, while hemmed in by the questions in his desperate situation, he still could engage himself in dialogue. There was no voice from God. In the loneliness of alienation, his faith was tried and triumphed! Faith and doubt are twins; and when doubt seemed to triumph, true faith calmed its questions. Faith answered. Faith despairs and despair hopes! Hope leads the psalmist away from despair. His hope is in “God,... my Savior and my God.” Hope, in essence, is waiting for God to act (cf. 38:15; 39:7). Hope is focused on the glorious acts of salvation and victory of which the Law, Historical Writings, and Prophets speak. Hope longs for the “praise” of God for the acts of salvation. Hope says, “You are my God,” in anticipation of the fulfillment of the promises, even when help is far off.

III. Lament (42:6b-7) 42:6b-7 Yet, in spite of the psalmist’s reflections and expression of the triumph of hope, the experience of alienation is still there. He is still “downcast” (v. 6). Therefore he returns in his memories to the Promised Land, symbolized here by “the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon” (v. 6). The upper Jordan Valley, the Hermon Range with its peaks reaching nine thousand feet above sea level, and the unknown Mount Mizar point our attention to the region of the sources of the Jordan River. The psalmist returns to the water imagery with which the psalm began. But this time the memories of water are overshadowed by a deep sense of despair. The waterfalls with its rocks, breakers, and waves, and its awesome noise of the rushing and falling waters metaphorically portray his condition. Instead of enjoying the “living water” of the “living God,” he is continually faced with an expression of God’s judgment. He has no control over his present circumstances and undergoes the present troubles, not knowing where he will end up. Has doubt triumphed?

IV. Hope (42:8) 42:8 In his self-doubt the psalmist remembers the covenant love of the Lord. By day and night he experienced the evidences of God’s care, protection, and blessing. He sang praises to him and prayed to him morning and evening (cf. 92:2). That was a time of fellowship with a God who was always present. The very experience of communion with God made Yahweh “real” to him as “the God of my life” (cf. 66:9). In contrast to the past experience, his “love” (hesed) seems to be lost; and the psalmist’s praise of God’s love has changed into continual mourning for God’s absence (cf. v. 3). God’s continual love is a comfort for the soul continually beset by questions and mourning (cf. v. 3).

V. Lament (42:9-10) 42:9-10 In his moments of doubt and reflection on God’s absence, the psalmist raises questions to God. He asks these questions in faith, because he remembers who his God is: “God my Rock” (v. 9). Regardless of how despairing the situation, the Lord is still “the Rock” of Israel. He is the place of refuge (18:2). He asks twice pointedly “why” God has forgotten him (v. 9; cf. 13:1; 22:1; 77:9; 88:14). In the present situation, the psalmist has no other recourse than mourning in the agony of his own perplexity (cf. 35:14; 38:6). He has been abandoned to godless men, who taunt him continually with the same mocking question, “Where is your God?” (v. 10). He is like a dying man, and his God, the Rock, is silent. His whole being (“my bones”; cf. 6:2) is distressed by his foes and by God’s silence.

VI. Hope (42:11) 42:11 These reflections bring the psalmist again to a point of despair, self-examination, and an affirmation of hope in the future saving acts of God (cf. comment and note on v. 5).


VII. Lament (43:1-4) 43:1-2 Thus far the psalmist has called God “the living God” (42:2), “the saving acts” (NIV, “my Savior,” 42:5), “my God” (42:6, 11), “the LORD” (Yahweh, 42:8), “the God of my life” (42:8), and “God my Rock” (42:9). Moreover, he has expressed hope in seeing God’s presence (42:2) and the acts of love (42:8) and salvation evidencing his presence (42:5-6, 11). In this last couplet he intensifies his prayer for redemption and for the enjoyment of fellowship with the Lord. He has demonstrated his love (hesed 42:8) in the past, but the psalmist is not satisfied until he is fully restored to his God. In his distress he calls the Lord “God my stronghold” (v. 2; or “refuge,” cf. 27:1; 28:8; 31:3; 37:39). Not only is he the Rock of refuge, but also he is the Deliverer of his people in need. This God is powerful to “vindicate” (v. 1, sh-p-t; cf. 7:8; 26:1; 35:24) him in the sense that Yahweh alone can defend him, prosecute the enemy, and execute his verdict (r-y-b “plead my cause,” v. 1; 35:1, 23: “contend for”) against the enemies. The psalmist has gone around as in “mourning” (42:9; 43:2) because of the absence of God and because of the antagonism of the ungodly. The questions (v. 2) are similar to those of the previous strophe (42:9). But the second question is more forceful. The change from “forgotten” (42:9) to “rejected” (cf. 44:9, 23) must be observed. As long as God is silent, anguish becomes unbearable (cf. Lam 5:22).

43:3-4 In the darkness of the adversities, there is no other way than to ask the covenant God to remain faithful to his promises. In despondency and astonishment, his questions and doubt, the palmist asks God for his “light” and “truth” (v. 3). The light of God is the experience of the fullness of his redemption (36:9; Isa 58:8, 10; 60:1, 3). The “truth” (‘emeth) of God is the expression of his covenantal fidelity (40:10; 57:3). If only God will send these two personified expressions of his love to “guide” him back, then he will experience restoration. This verse leads to the answer of the original petition: “When can I go and meet with God?” (42:2). Possibly the psalmist reflects on the wilderness experience with the pillar of cloud and smoke guiding Israel through the barren wasteland. Then too the Lord was faithful to his people and brought them to the Promised Land. The psalmist’s concern is not with land or possessions but for a return to Jerusalem, “your holy mountain” (v. 3; cf. 2:6; 3:4; 15:1; 48:2; 99:9). The anticipation to return to “the altar of God” (v. 4) and the temple relates back to his remembrance of the pilgrimage festivals (v. 3; 42:4). It is the place of God’s “dwelling” (NIV, “the place where you dwell”; see appendix to Ps 132: The Ark of the Covenant and the Temple: Symbols of Yahweh’s Presence and Rule). Redemption will result in great joy. This requires another designation for God. The God who is “my stronghold” (v. 2) becomes known as “God, my joy and my delight” (v. 4). Hope breaks through in this look to the restoration to come. He can imagine himself already playing the lyre (cf. 33:2; see appendix to Ps 150: Musical Instruments) as an expression of the joy of his redemption.

VIII. Hope (43:5)

43:5 The refrain returns to the conflict between faith and doubt, to the contrast between the present and the future, and to the hope that “I will yet praise him.”

SOURCE: The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers

 

Believer's Bible Commentary – Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5:

Psalm 42: Thirsting for God

Some people hear the voice of David in this Psalm as he wandered in exile during the rebellion of his own son, Absalom.

Others recognize the voice of the Messiah during the time of His rejection and suffering.

Still others detect the plaintive sob of the Jewish remnant during the future Tribulation Period.

Then there are those who like to apply it to the believer as he looks back on the days of his first love and longs for the renewal of that kind of fellowship with the Lord.

Fortunately, it is not necessary to isolate one view, since all of them are legitimate applications. This is typical of the versatility of the Psalms.

42:1.  Our inner longing for fellowship with God can be compared to the vehement craving of the deer as it wanders through the parched countryside, its sides throbbing and its breathing quickened as it longs for the brooks. Gamaliel Bradford transferred the picture to himself when he said:

My one unchanged ambition

Wheresoe'er my feet have trod

Is a keen, enormous, haunting,

Never-sated thirst for God.

42:2.  Our thirst is for God alone; no one else will do. And it is for the living God—not for a dead idol. It is a desire that will only be fully satisfied by a personal appearance before the Lord and the privilege of gazing on His face.

Show me Thy face, one transient gleam of loveliness divine,

And I shall never think or dream of other love than thine;

All lesser lights shall darken quite, all lower glories dim,

The beautiful of earth will ne'er seem beautiful again.Author unknown

42:3.  Who can describe the bitterness of separation from the Lord? It is like a continual diet of tears, a life of unalleviated misery. As if that were not enough, there is the added grief of the enemies' taunts, "Where is your God?" This is what Shimei meant when he said to David, "So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!" (2 Sam. 16:8). And this is what the chief priests meant when they said of the crucified Messiah, "He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him..." (Matt. 27:43).

42:4.  Then, of course, there is the memory of better days. It is the remembrance of how wonderful it was to walk in unbroken fellowship with God that makes the absence of this fellowship so intolerable. Knox wonderfully captures the mood in his translation of verse 4:

Memories come back to me yet, melting the heart; how once I would join with the throng, leading the way to God's house, amid cries of joy and thanksgiving, and all the bustle of holiday.

42:5.  The thought of the happy past leads to spiritual depression and activates a ping-pong struggle between pessimism and faith. The soul becomes downcast and disquieted, but faith challenges the tension of this burdened state of mind.

Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.

If this were just a pious optimism that "everything will turn out all right," it would be an utterly worthless sentiment. What makes this hope 100% valid is that it is based on the promise of God's Word that His people will see His face (Ps. 17:15; Rev. 22:4).

42:6.  The depression recurs in cycles. But faith strikes back with the confident assertion that it will remember God from the land of the Jordan and of Hermon and from the Hill Mizar. Perhaps these three places symbolize three spiritual experiences; we do not know. What does seem clear is that they represent the land of exile, far removed from the house of God in Jerusalem. And the thought seems to be that even when we cannot visit the house of God, we can still remember the God of the house!

42:7.  When we come to the seventh verse, our spiritual instincts tell us that in a very special way we are at Calvary, hearing the cries of the Lord Jesus as the waves and billows of God's judgment rolled over Him. The cataracts of divine wrath cascaded down upon Him with resounding thunder as He bore our sins in His own body on the cross.

View that closing scene of anguish:

All God's waves and billows roll

Over Him, there left to languish

On the Cross, to save my soul.

Matchless love! how vast! how free!

Jesus gave Himself for me.J. J. Hopkins

42:8.  Yet, as George Müller said, "Trials are food for faith to feed on." So we hear the confident believer affirm:

The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me—a prayer to the God of my life.

This is the answer to the day-and-night sequence in verse 3. There the psalmist had said, "My tears have been my food day and night...." But now the day is filled with God's steadfast love and the night is filled with song and prayer. So by day and by night God's goodness is proven.

42:9, 10.  Once again discouragement returns, this time because of the relentless oppression of the enemy. It seems that God has forgotten His child. The forlorn believer wanders about like a mourner. He says, "With cries that pierce me to the heart, my enemies revile me" (Gelineau). From all outward appearances it would seem that God has forsaken His child. So the enemies taunt him continually with the question, "Where is your God?"

42:11.  But faith always has the last word. Don't be discouraged. Don't be unsettled. Hope in God; you will be delivered from your enemies and from your depression as well. And you'll praise Him once again as your Savior and your God. As someone has said:

The remedy—challenge depression, look up, hope. The Christian life is alertness, upward striving, activity, the running of a race. It is never downcast eyes, folded hands and the acceptance of defeat.


Psalm 43: Send Out Your Light and Your Truth

This is a twin to the preceding Psalm. The connection is so great that the NEB links them together as if they were one composition.

43:1, 2.  Here we have the continued prayer of an exile who wants to worship in Zion but is opposed by an apostate nation and an unjust man. This may picture the oppression of the godly Jewish remnant during the Tribulation Period by the unbelieving nation of Israel and the Antichrist.

First comes the plea for vindication and for help. The psalmist asks God to defend the cause of His people against their unbelieving brethren and the man of sin. It is one of faith's agonies to take refuge in God and yet feel cast off by Him; it is one of faith's puzzles to be on the winning side and yet suffer under the heel of the enemy.

43:3. Then follows a positive and specific prayer for the return to Zion. The beauty of the language is incomparable:

Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!

Let them lead me;

Let them bring me to Your holy hill

And to Your tabernacle.

The psalmist wanted an escort consisting of the light of God's presence and the truth of God's promise. With these to lead him and with goodness and mercy following him (Ps. 23:6), he was assured of a glad return to God's holy hill.

43:4.  Notice the progression in verses 3 and 4:

To Your holy hill;

To Your tabernacle;

To the altar of God;

To God my exceeding joy.

The true worshiper is satisfied with neither a geographical location nor a building nor an altar. He must get through to God Himself!

43:5.  Brightened by the prospect of appearing before God, the writer once again remonstrates with himself for being disheartened and troubled. Have faith in God, he urges, and He will surely bring you to your desired end.

Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend

Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end!Katharina von Schlegel

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.

 

The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Psalm 42:1-11; 43:1-5:

Psalm 42

42:1-5. The “soul” (HED #5497) is feminine in Hebrew and is here compared to the female deer, for “pants” is the feminine form of the verb, although its noun is masculine. It is better therefore to translate “hind” than “hart.” The soul is the seat of emotions and desires. It pants and thirsts, is cast down and disquieted. It is poured out; it can be bidden to hope. Thus, tremulous, timid and mobile, it is beautifully compared to a hind. The true object of its longings is always God, however little it knows for what it is thirsting. But they are happy in their very yearnings who are conscious of the true direction of these and can say that it is God for Whom they thirst.

This man’s longing was intensified by his unwilling exile from the sanctuary, a special privation to a door keeper of the Temple. His situation and mood closely resemble those in another Korahite Psalm (Ps. 84), in which, as here, the soul “faints for the courts of the Lord,” and as here the panting hind, so there the glancing swallows flitting about the eaves are woven into the song. Unnamed foes taunt the psalmist with the question, “Where is thy God?” There is no necessity to conclude that these were heathens, although the taunt is usually put into heathen lips (Pss. 79:10; 52:2), but it would be quite as natural from co-religionists, flouting their fervor and personal grasp of God and taking their sorrows as tokens of God’s abandonment of them. That is the world’s way with the calamities of a devout man, whose humble cry, “my God,” it resents as presumption or hypocrisy.

Verse 5 has the refrain in a form slightly different from that of the other two instances of its occurrence (v. 11 and 43:5). But the text is probably faulty. The shifting of the initial word of v. 6 to the end of v. 5 and the substitution of “my” for “his” bring the three refrains into line and avoid the harsh expression “help of his countenance.” Since no reason for the variation is discernible and the proposed slight change of text improves construction and restores uniformity, it is probably to be adopted. If it is, the second part of the Psalm is also conformed to the other two in regard to its not beginning with the divine name.

42:6-8. With wise resolve, he finds in dejection a reason for nestling closer to God. In reference to the description of the psalmist’s locality, the preposition “from” (HED #4623) is chosen (rather than “in”) with a subtle purpose. It suggests that the psalmist’s faith will bridge over the interval between himself and the sanctuary: “I can send my thoughts to Thee from the distant frontier.” The region intended seems to be the northeastern corner of Palestine, near the lower slopes of Hermon. The plural Hermons is probably used in reference to the group of crests. Mizar is probably the name of a hill otherwise unknown and specifies the singer’s locality more minutely, although not helpfully to us. Many ingenious attempts have been made to explain the name either as symbolic or as a common noun and not a proper name.

The twofold emotions of v. 6 recur in vv. 7f, where there is first renewed despondency and then reaction into hope. The imagery of floods lifting up their voices, cataracts sounding as they fall and breaking waves rolling over the half-drowned psalmist has been supposed to be suggested by the scenery in which he was. But the rushing noise of Jordan in its rocky bed seems scarcely enough to deserve being described as “flood calling to flood,” and “breakers and rollers” is an exaggeration if applied to any commotion possible on such a stream. The imagery is so usual that it needs no assumption of having been occasioned by the poet’s locality. The dry and thirsty land there and the rush of waters here mean the same thing, so flexible is nature in a poet’s hands.

42:9-11. Then follows a gleam of hope, like a rainbow spanning the waterfall. With the alternation of mood already noticed as characteristic, the singer looks forward, even from the midst of overwhelming seas of trouble, to a future day when God will give his angel, mercy or steadfast love, charge concerning him and draw him out of many waters. That day of extrication will surely be followed by a night of music and of thankful prayer (for supplication is not the only element in prayer) to Him Who by his deliverance has shown himself to be the God of the rescued man’s life. The epithet answers to that of the former part, “the living God,” from which it differs by but one additional letter. He Who has life in himself is the Giver and Rescuer of our lives, and to Him they are to be rendered in thankful sacrifice. Once more the contending currents meet in vv. 9f, in the former of which confidence and hope utter themselves in the resolve to appeal to God and in the name given to Him as “my Rock”; while another surge of despondency breaks, in the question in which the soul interrogates God, as the better self had interrogated her, and contrasts almost reproachfully God’s apparent forgetfulness, manifested by his delay in deliverance, with her remembrance of Him. It is not a question asked for enlightenment’s sake, but is an exclamation of impatience, if not of rebuke. Verse 10 repeats the enemies’ taunt, which is there represented as being like crushing blows which broke the bones. And then once more, above this conflict of emotion soars the clear note of the refrain, summoning to self-command, calmness and unfaltering hope.


Psalm 43:1-5

43:1-2.  But the victory is not quite won, and therefore Ps. 43 follows. It is sufficiently distinct in tone to explain its separation from the preceding, inasmuch as it is prayer throughout, and the note of joy is dominant, even while an undertone of sadness links it with the previous parts. The unity is vouched by the considerations already noticed, by the incompleteness of Ps. 42 without such triumphant close and of Ps. 43 without such despondent beginning. The prayer of vv. 1f blends the two elements, which were at war in the second part, and for the moment, the darker is the more prominent. The situation is described as in the preceding parts. Perhaps there was one “man” of special mischief prominent among them, but it is not safe to treat that expression as anything but a collective. Verse 2 looks back to 42:9, the former clause in each verse being practically equivalent, and the second in Ps. 43 being a quotation of the second in v. 9, with a variation in the form of the verb to suggest more vividly the picture of weary, slow, dragging gait, fit for a man clad in mourning garb.

43:3-5.  But the gloomier mood has shot its last bolt. Grief which finds no fresh words is beginning to dry up. The stage of mechanical repetition of complaints is not far from that of cessation of them. So the higher mood conquers at last and breaks into a burst of joyous petition, which passes swiftly into realization of the future joys whose coming shines thus far off. Hope and trust hold the field. The certainty of return to the Temple overbears the pain of absence from it, and the vivid realization of the gladness of worshiping again at the altar takes the place of the vivid remembrance of former festival.

The actual return to the Temple is desired because thereby new praise will be occasioned. Not mere bodily presence there, but joyful outpouring of triumph and gladness is the object of the psalmist’s longing. He began with yearning after the living God. In his sorrow, he could still think of Him at intervals as the help of his countenance and call Him “my God.” He ends with naming Him “the gladness of my joy.” Whoever begins as he did will finish where he climbed. The refrain is repeated for a third time and is followed by no relapse into sadness. The effort of faith should be persistent, even if old bitternesses begin again and “break the low beginnings of content”; for, even if the wild waters burst through the dam once and again, they do not utterly wash it away, and there remains a foundation on which it may be built up anew. Each swing of the gymnast lifts him higher until he is on a level with a firm platform on which he can spring and stand secure. Faith may have a long struggle with fear, but it will have the last word, and that word will be “the help of my countenance and my God.”

SOURCE: The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Acts.  Database © 2009 WORDsearch Corp.; World Library Press, Inc.

 

DIGGING DEEPER:

Deep calls to deep—The Hebrew word for deep, teham (tuh-HOME), appears for the first time in the second verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:2.  The Spirit of God brooded over the deep prior to the first work of creation, the making of light.  There, the deep is a kind of abyss, a void.  Often, deep represents the depths of the ocean or subterranean waters (Deut. 33:13; Ps. 135:6; Isa. 51:10).  The deep is a region into which no living person may go (Job 38:16), and it frequently represents death.  It was the soured of Noah’s flood (Gen. 7:11), and in it the Egyptians perished at the crossing of the sea (Ex. 15:5).  Jonah’s prayer included the words, “the watery depths (teham) overcame me” (Jonah 2:5).  Psalm 71:20 is similar: “You will bring me up again, even from the depths (tehom) of the earth.”  When we read the words deep calls to deep in the roar of Your waterfalls in Psalm 42:7, we may get the impression that it is simply describing something majestic, like the thunderous noise of Niagara Falls.  But this is almost certainly not the case.  The psalmist was profoundly distressed, and deep here implies danger and death.  The word calls here means “to summons” or “to invite.”  A loose paraphrase might be, “One calamity invites another as you send a flood of trouble crashing down on me.”  The psalmist was finding himself in deep water over and over again.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Deep calleth unto deep: In the expression deep calleth unto deep in 42:7, deep can mean an abyss filled with a surging mass of water.  To call is “to cry out.”  The image is that of the thunderous roar of waters cascading over a waterfall into a basin below.  The roar is the voice of the waters crying out for even more water to fall.  The resulting turbulence of the overflowing basin is a picture of chaos or of overwhelming circumstances. 

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Depressed—The HCSB translation Why am I so depressed” in Psalm 43:5 paraphrases the text.  A more literal translation would be, “O my soul, why do you dissolve away?”  A more traditional translation, as found in the NRSV, is “Why are you cast down, O my soul?”  This line is something of a refrain in these two psalms (see 42:5,11; 43:5).  The HCSB rendition loses the sense of internal dialogue between a man and his soul, but it captures the reality of what he is experiencing.  Specifically, we can list four implications of the question that the psalmist repeatedly addresses to his soul.

Depression: The psalmist was beset by lingering sorrow over which he had no control.  He could not shake off the gloom that clung to him.

Confusion: The psalmist felt alienated from his own soul, his inner life, and could not comprehend why his thoughts and feelings seemed to be in rebellion against his higher ideals.  Strangely, he had to try to encourage his own soul, and he spoke to it as if to another person.  He held fast to his faith in God, and yet he continued to experience depression, as thought he had lost faith.  This, too, bewildered him. 

Apathy: In Hebrew thinking, the soul animates the person.  When the psalmist said that his oul was “dissolving away,” he implied that he had lost energy and initiative.  His words suggest that he knew he should have gotten up and become busy dealing with the problems around him, but he couldn’t do it.  In spite of what he knew to be right, he just didn’t seem to care.

Despair: The psalmist had not lost all hope, but he continued to experience feelings of hopelessness.  He was looking for answers, wanting to know how to regain the optimism that comes from knowing that God was watching over him.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

Cast down: To cast down (43:5) is “to bring down, to be humiliated, to be brought into despair.”  In Psalms 42 and 43 it represents the emotional, mental, and spiritual state of the psalmist.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

 

SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.

Lyre: A stringed musical instrument consisting of a resonating body with two arms and a crossbar to which the strings extending from the resonator are attached.

SOURCE: Lyre - Merriam-Webster Online: www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lyre

 

ADDITIONAL BACKGROUND READING:

 

DEER as Imagery in the Old Testament

By Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall is professor of religion and occupies the Ida Elizabeth & J. W. Hollums Chair or Bible, Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee, Oklahoma.

G

OD’S CREATIVE POWER and redemptive purposes are twin realities of the world we and all of God’s creatures inhabit.  Inspired by a world so powerfully and purposely crafted, the biblical writers found in creation numerous examples to explain and explore their trust in the world’s Creator and Redeemer.  Animals, in particular the undomesticated creatures that fill God’s world with wildness and wonder, display in the Scriptures a certain strength and wisdom.  In addition, they serve as vivid and visual reminders of the radical dependence of all of God’s creatures on the Creator’s sustaining power and loving care.

Psalm 104, the great hymn in praise of the Creator, provides a profound context for the Bible’s use of animal imagery.  This psalm offers praise to Yahweh for having made a world filled with creatures innumerable, great and small, living in wondrous freedom from human control and in complete dependence on God’s provisions (Ps. 104:24-30).  From the remarkable image of God’s open hand feeding these creatures (v. 28) to the equally remarkable statement of God’s ongoing creative care (v. 30), a context for the biblical use of animal imagery emerges.  In the psalmist’s vision, the fulsomeness of an earth populated with a variety of creatures becomes a wonderful tapestry of rich images all bearing witness to divine power, wisdom, and grace.  No wonder then that deer, plentiful in the land of ancient Israel, are employed in the Psalms and elsewhere as a particular example of what all God’s creatures exemplify.

DEER IN ANCIENT ISRAEL

Deer bones found in Iron Age excavations at Dan (in northern Israel) indicate that deer made up about 4 percent of the meat supply, with sheep and goats accounting for about 7 percent and cattle accounting for about 89 percent.1 This is not surprising given that deer were considered clean animals and therefore acceptable food for the Israelites (see Deut. 12:15,22).  Deer probably roamed throughout the land of promise in fairly large herds during the Old Testament era.  Considered by many scholars to be a variety of the Iranian fallow deer, slightly larger than the European variety, the fallow deer would have thrived in ancient Israel before the deforestation of later periods.2 Though certainly a part of the food supply and a common feature of the forests of ancient Israel, deer were never domesticated.3 The deer’s freedom from human control and ability to thrive in the land seems the best explanation for its use as an image of agility and grace and of dependence on the Creator’s care.

AGILITY AND GRACE

Both King David and the prophet Habakkuk used the deer as an image of agility and grace.  Praising God as his rock and his fortress, David expressed thanks that God “makes my feet like hinds’ feet, and sets me on my high places” (2 Sam. 22:34, NASB).4 In the context of this hymn, David celebrated his God-given ability to traverse with grace and agility the peaks and valleys of his life as God’s appointed leader.  Like the deer he must have often seen in the hill country of Israel, by God’s grace and power David ascended victoriously to safety and security out of the reach of his enemies.

In like fashion, Habakkuk, struggling as he did to live by faith in times of great national travail (Hab. 1:2-4), could survey his situation and celebrate the ability to overcome with the grace and agility of a deer.  At the end of an extraordinary vision of the outworking of God’s wrath and mercy, Habakkuk with great confidence and hope, echoed David’s amazement that God “has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places” (Hab. 3:19, NASB).  Again the deer provided a vivid image of God offering strength so persons could transcend life’s struggles.

DEPENDENCE ON GOD

As untamed animals that thrived in the land, deer also demonstrated another facet of the freedom God’s creatures enjoy—their complete dependence on God’s gracious provisions.  This seems to be the background for the psalmist’s cry, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God” (Psalm 42:1, NASB).

The psalmist thus indicated that his spiritual thirst could be satisfied only by the sustaining presence of God.  He mirrors this thirst in the panting of the graceful and sturdy deer that is desperate for the life-giving refreshment of a cool running stream.  The panting of this graceful creature is a poignant symbol of the need for sustenance from a source outside oneself.  Further, by comparing his plight to the plight of a creature like the deer, desperate for something as basic to life as water, the psalmist was able to confess his inability to live without God, his one and only hope for what he needed.

OUR CREATURELINESS

When I was a third grader, my rather stern teacher made me memorize the proverb, “Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise” (Prov. 6:6; KJV).  That assignment seems a bit contrived for third grade boys who are usually as busy as a beehive.  The proverb may also seem a little odd for those who rarely contemplate the life all around us.  The biblical writers, however, discerned God’s redemptive purpose and creative power and readily confessed their own creatureliness.  Their confessions have left us with simple, yet profound images of God’s abundant gifts and ample provisions.  In today’s society, which prizes self-determination and success, the biblical imagery of the deer calls us to remember that the abundant blessings we enjoy come ultimately not from our own efforts, but from the hand of God.                                                                                                                                                             Bi

1.  Edwin Firmage, “Zoology (Animal Profiles)” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. in chief David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 6:1142.

2.  Ibid.  See also Randall W. Younker, “Deer” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, ed. in Chief David Noel Freedman (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 335-36.

3.  Firmage, 1142.

4.  “Hind” translates the feminine form of the Hebrew term ayyal and would indicate a doe.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 35, No. 2; Winter 2008.

 

LOVING KINDNESS

A Word Study

By Francis X. Kimmitt

(Francis X. Kimmitt is associate dean, Leavell College and associate professor of Old Testament and Hebrew, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary College of Undergraduate Studies, New Orleans, Louisiana.)

L

OVING-KINDNESS. Webster's International Dictionary of The English Language (2d ed., unabridged), defines it as “tender regard, mercy, favor.” The Oxford English Dictionary (1933 ed.) defined loving-kindness as “kindness arising from a deep personal love, as the active love of God for his creatures.”

Can anyone definition give you a sense of the fullness of this word? Probably not! So too is the sense of the Hebrew word from which we have the translation "loving-kindness.” The Hebrew word is chesed (pronounced "kesed"). The biblical writers used the noun form of the word 246 times.1 To truly understand God's character in the Old Testament, one must understand the word that many biblical writers used to portray the “loving” side of the Lord.

Chesed in the Old Testament

The Old Testament uses chesed on two levels: (1) between human beings and (2) between God and people. Chesed entails faithfulness, loyalty, love, and kindness in human relationships. One example is Jacob's deathbed speech to Joseph, “When the time for Israel to die drew near, he called his son Joseph and said to him, 'Please, if I have found favor in your sight, place now your hand under my thigh and deal with me in kindness [chesed] and faithfulness. Please do not bury me in Egypt’” (Gen. 47:29).2 Another is Boaz’s expression of love and respect to Ruth, “Then he said, 'May you be blessed of the Lord, my daughter. You have shown your last kindness [chesed] to be better than the first by not going after young men, whether poor or rich’” (Ruth 3: 10). The sense of chesed in relationships between humans (marriage, family relationships, friendships, kings and subjects) is that men and women show chesed to one another by treating each other with kindness, loyalty, and love because that is the basis of the relationship, and it promotes the good health of these relationships.3

Interesting to compare is what chased is not in the biblical human-human relationships. In no setting does chesed refer to an emotion or a sentiment. Neither does it ever have a sexual connotation in human relationships. Chesed is not self-seeking and is not motivated by anything except desiring the best for another person. We hear echoes of the concept of chased in Paul's words in I Corinthians 13:4-7, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteous- ness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”

The various uses of chesed on the second level - the divine-human relationship - suggest that chased flows out of the covenant Yahweh established with His people Israel. We can see several aspects of the covenant relationship as we examine different uses of chased. God set up specific requirements for His children when He made His covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai (Ex. 19:5-6). The First Commandment, to worship/serve the Lord God alone because He is the only God, expressed clearly Israel's primary requirement. The Lord promised to be their God always and care for them and protect them if they would be His people (compare Ex. 6:7). Therefore, when chased describes the Lord's relationship with His people, it typically reflects the covenant relationship's perspective that the Lord established and to which He bound Himself: “unfailing love," “steadfast love," "covenant love.”4

Humans fail to live up to the expectations of the relationship. In Hosea 6:6, the Lord told disobedient Israel that He desired mercy [chesed] rather than sacrifice. The indictment, as Hosea explained in 4:1, is that "the Lord has a case against the inhabitants of the land, Because there is no faithfulness or kindness [chased] Or knowledge of God in the land.”

Even as the children of Israel often failed to fulfill the requirements of the covenant, the Lord continued to express His "faithfulness," "covenant love," "loyalty," "mercy," "loving-kindness" - His chesed - toward those disobedient and rebellious children. Some biblical scholars have suggested that God's chased was not love or mercy, but merely loyalty to His contractual obligations as a result of the covenant that He made with the patriarchs.5 However, this view fails to recognize that the Lord made His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob because of His love for them and their descendants, not merely to honor a contract.6 God chose to make the covenant with Abraham and his descendants. In so doing, He bound Himself to the stipulations of His covenant; in essence, the Lord promised to show chased to His chosen people, not because of any inherent goodness in them, but because of His own “covenant love," "mercy," “faithfulness," "loyalty” - His chased.

How does the Lord demonstrate His chesed toward Israel in the Old Testament texts? We can see several characteristics of chased. (1) God's chesed delivers His people from catastrophes and from their oppressors. In Genesis 19:19, Lot gave thanks to the three men for their loving-kindness (chased) in saving his fife when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The Lord's chesed is one of the common reasons the psalms offer praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. (2) The Lord's chased nourishes human life. The psalmist cried out for God to sustain him so that he might honor the Lord with his life (compare Ps. 119:88). (3) God's chesed often limits His wrath - His righteous response to human sin. In the midst of his indictment against Judah for their sins, the prophet Micah praised the Lord for His mercy on Judah (Mic. 7:18). (4) The chased of the Lord endures forever. The wonderful antiphonal response of Psalm 136 (NASB: "For His loving kindness [chesed] is everlasting"; NIV. “His love  [chesed] endures forever") is a demonstration of praise and hip for God's eternal faithfulness.  (5) God's often a primary motivation for His children’s prayer and petition. Moses used the words in his petition after the people’s faithless response to the report of the 12 spies (see Num. 14:17-19). (6) Finally, the Lord's chesed is bountiful. The Lord's words of Exodus 34:6-7, which Moses quoted back to Him in his petition for the forgiveness of Israel (Num. 14:18), are central to this concept of God's abundant chesed.7

Chesed In Lamentations 3

How then should we understand chased in Lamentations 3:19? The poet who penned the book is describing in vivid emotional terms the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C. by the invading Babylonians. We hear his heart cry as he described his feelings about this horrible event in the life of his people. In the midst of his agony, the poet was able to lift up his eyes and see his God. The Lord had not changed His character, nor had He ceased to be the covenant God of His people Israel.

This very aspect of the Lord's nature was the source of the poet's Lord's chesed will never cease.  The parallelism of the poetry reinforces the hope. God's chased is displayed in His compassion. His faithfulness is great. Every day IS a new day, filled with hope and promise precisely because of the Lord's "faithfulness," “covenant love," "mercy," "loyalty," "loving-kindness."

The message is as relevant today as it was to a hurting people more than 2,500 years ago:

“Great is Thy faithfulness, 0 God, my Father, There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever wilt be.  Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided; Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!"8

1. Chesed appears in 27 of the 39 Old Testament books. It is not in the Books of Leviticus, 2 Kings, Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi, Ecclesiastes, or Song of Songs. More than one-half of all the occurrences of the word are found in the Book of Psalms (127 times). From Abraham Even-Shoshan, A New Concordance of the Bible (Jerusalem: Kiryat Sefer Ltd., 1989), 386-387.

2. Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations in this article are taken from the New American Standard Bible.

3. Compare Jesus' statement in Matthew 7:12 “Therefore, however you want people to treat you, so treat them, for this is the Law and the Prophets."

4. D. A. Baer and R. P. Gordon, "h[sd' in New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, vol. 2, ed. Willem VanGemeren (Grand Rapids: Zondeman Publishing House, 1997), 211-118.

5. See R. Laird Harris, "h[sd," in Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, ed. R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., and B. K. Waltke (Chicago: Moody Press, 1980), 305-7 for a brief overview of the arguments for and against chesed as loyalty to covenant obligations.

6. Compare Hosea 11:1 "When Israel as a youth I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son" (NASB). The Lord's motivation for His chesed was not the mere honoring of the terms of a contract but the love of a Father for His son.

7. Baer and Gordon, 213-217.

8. "Great Is Thy Faithfulness" by Thomas 0. Chisholm Ó 1923. Renewal 1951 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 2004.

 

FROM HERMON to JORDAN

David M. Wallace

David Wallace is minister of education & administration, Erlanger Baptist Church, Erlanger, Kentucky.

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HE MAGNIFICENT BEAUTY of snow-capped Mount Hermon and the land of Jordan were not enough to keep the writer of Psalm 42 from being homesick for Jerusalem and the festivals of celebration at the temple.  The beauty of the region served only to remind the writer that he could not return home to worship God.

The Jordan Valley is one of the most fascinating areas anywhere on earth.  The valley sits on a geographical fault caused by the east to west contraction of the earth’s limestone crust centuries ago.  The valley extends from Mount Hermon south to the Red Sea, a distance of about 300 miles.  The width of the valley ranges from 3-10 miles and descends to a depth of approximately 1,300 feet below sea level at the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth.  The climate in the valley has remained the same for centuries.

Within the valley the Jordan River flows from the foothills of Mount Hermon to the Dead Sea, a distance of only 80 air miles.  But the river’s winding course gives it a total length of almost 200 miles.  It is the largest and most important river in Israel.  No other river has such biblical significance.  Jordan means “the stream that descends rapidly.”

Towering over the northern end of the Jordan Valley is Mount Hermon, 9,232 feet above sea level.  Snow- capped much of the year, Mount Hermon with its three summits provides a majestic view from many places in Israel.  Bordering the northern boundary of ancient Israel, and just 30 miles southwest of Damascus, Mount Hermon is the highest mountain in the region.  It is 28 miles in length and 15 miles wide.

Mount Hermon receives 60 inches of precipitation annually in the form of snow, rain, and dew.  Above the snow line there is no vegetation.  Below the snow line grow trees and vineyards; leopards, wolves, and bears live in its forests.  The Bible mentions the dew on Mount Hermon in Psalm 133:3, lions and leopards living on the mountain in Song of Solomon 4:8, and fir trees growing there in Ezekiel 27:5.

Mount Hermon means “devoted mountain.”  It was here that a sanctuary to Baal was built.  The Old Testament mentions Hermon elsewhere by various names, such as Sirion (Deut. 3:9, NIV), Senir (Deut. 3:9, NIV), and Siyon (Deut. 4:48, NIV).

Significant for several reasons, Hermon was known as the northern border of the Amorite kingdom (Deut. 3:8), the northernmost limit to Joshua’s battles (Josh. 11:17), and probably the site of Jesus’ transfiguration (Matt. 17:1).

The location of Mount Mizar is unknown, although it was probably in the Galilee region and well within site of Mount Hermon, perhaps in the territory of Dan.  Only mentioned in Psalm 42:6 in all the Bible, the Hebrew word Mizar means “littleness” or “smallness.”  Perhaps the writer was comparing the greatness of Mount Hermon with the smallness of Mount Mizar and saying nothing great or small compares to worshiping in the temple (Ps. 42:4).

In the foothills of Mount Hermon are found the four primary sources of the river Jordan.  The eastern source is at Banias, where a cold steam bursts forth out of a limestone cave in a cliff on the southwest slope of Hermon some 1,000 feet above sea level.

In Roman times the name Banias was changed to Caesarea Philippi.  It was here that Jesus asked His disciples, “who do people say the Son of Man is?”  Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”  (Matt. 16:13-20, NIV).  The Banias River runs about six miles southward, where it joins with the Leddan River.

The central, and largest, source of the Jordan River is the Leddan River.  Its source is at ancient Dan, some two miles west of Banias.  The district of Dan was the northern border of Old Testament Israel (Judg. 20:1).  With 24 inches of annual rainfall, people lived prosperously in the lush region.  Water gushes out directly from the rocks in a stream about 12 feet wide and three feet deep to form the Leddan River.  From there it flows approximately 4 miles, where if joins with the Banias River.

The northwest source is a short stream named Bareighit.  Its source is close to the Leontes River.  The Bareighit joins with the Hasbani River near its end.

The fourth source of the Jordan is its northern source, the Hasbani River.  The Hasbani flows from the western slope of Mount Hermon for about 24 miles.  While it is the longest of Jordan’s tributaries, it carries the least volume of water.  The Hasbani River joins with the Banias and Leddan Rivers about one mile south of their junction.

With the junction of these four sources, the river Jordan begins its journey flowing southward toward the Dead Sea.  Until this century, after seven miles the Jordan entered Late Huleh.  Lake Huleh was a small, shallow lake four miles long and three miles wide in the shape of an upside down triangle.

In the 1950’s the state of Israel drained over 11,000 acres of shallow swampland that was Lake Huleh and created the Huleh Nature Reserve.  The reserve consists of about 600 acres of land with fruitful fields, plantations, and fish ponds.  The reserve is also home to wild plants, birds, and animals.

In biblical times the Jordan River flowed through marshland with high grass, papyrus, bulrushes, and reeds into Lake Huleh, then called the Waters of Merom.  The papyrus plant was used for centuries for both writing material and boat construction.  Lions, jackals, water buffalo, turtles, rare fish, and wading birds all made Lake Huleh their home.  The area has served as a migrating station for birds for centuries.

Emerging from Lake Huleh, the Jordan River begins a steep descent through the hills of Galilee.  Falling 35 feet per mile for 20 miles to about 700 feet below sea level; the river then flows into the Sea of Galilee.  The journey to the Sea of Galilee finds the Jordan flowing and cascading down through a gorge of black basalt rock. In this area the Jordan changes color from the clear to a muddy stream.  It flows into a plain, then into a small delta, and on into the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is actually a lake.  Harp shaped, it is about 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, totaling 64 square miles.  This freshwater lake reaches 150 feet deep.

The scenery is quite diverse.  The mountains surrounding the lake dominate the landscape, with Mount Herman easily in view some 40 miles north.  The beautiful blue waters of the lake contrast sharply with the volcanic hills rising up at points around the lake.  One result of these ancient volcanoes are hot mineral springs on both sides of the lake.  For centuries people have come to seek relief in the hot mineral waters bubbling up beside the lake.

Tourist today find the Sea of Galilee to be a beautiful area.  But in New Testament times the area had a high population with a fishing industry, the 10 cities of the Decapolis nearby, and several towns along the lakeshore.  Jesus Himself lived in Capernaum (Matt. 4:13).  Some of the places mentioned in the New Testament that sat beside the lake include Chorazin, Capernaum, Bethsaida, Tabgha, Magdala, and Gadara.  Numerous events recorded in the Gospels and many of the miracles of Jesus occurred on and beside the lake.

The Jordan River runs over 65 miles from the Sea of Galilee to the Dead Sea.  The river drops about 600 feet by the time it empties into the Dead Sea.  Its average width is about 90 feet.  Temperatures in this region of the Jordan Valley reach 100-118 degrees in summer with high humidity, making it a difficult area in which to live.  The river may be crossed at several points just south of where the Jordan leaves the Sea of Galilee.

The Yarmuk River enters the Jordan five miles downstream doubling the volume of water.  Nine more streams enter the Jordan before the Jabbok River enters.  The deltas of these streams were fertile areas for farming.  Many towns grew up at these junctions as well.

During biblical times important communities were located on both sides of the Jordan.  Zaretan, Adam, Succoth, and Jericho, Gilgal, and Bethshan on the west.  Archaeological evidence indicates over 70 places along the Jordan River where people lived and worked.

In Old Testament days Lot chose this land for himself (Gen. 13:11); Jacob wrestled at the ford of the Jabbok (Gen. 32:22-26); Israel crossed over “on dry ground” (Josh. 3:15-17); and Elijah and Elisha’s miracles occurred near here.

Much of the gospel story began at the Jordan River.  Here John the Baptist preached and Jesus was baptized.  And some of Jesus’ public ministry occurred on the east side of the Jordan.

From the heights of beautiful Mount Hermon to the depths of the Jordan River Valley, God intervened in the lives of people through the ages.  May we say with the psalmist in Psalm 42:11: “Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God” (NKJV).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Bi

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

1.    Adams, J. McKee. Biblical Backgrounds, Revised by Joseph A. Callaway. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1965.

2.    Baly, Denis. The Geography of the Bible. New York: Harper & Row, 1974.

3.    Bucke, Emory Stevens, ed. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. 2 & 3. Nashville, Abingdon Press 1962.

4.    Butler, Trent, ed. Holman Bible Dictionary. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 1991.

5.    Davis, John D. Davis Dictionary of the Bible. 4th Revised Edition, Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972.

6.    Douglas, J. D., ed. The New Bible Dictionary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975.

7.    Durham, John. The Broadman Bible Commentary, Vol. 4. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971.

8.    Gewurtzman, B.  Upper Galilee & the Golan. Israel: Palphot Ltd., 1985.

9.    Guthrie, D., ed. The New Bible Commentary, Revised. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975.

10.   Knight, George A. F.  Psalms,  Vol. 1. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1982.

11.   Mann, Sylvia. This is Israel.  Israel: Palphot Ltd., 1985.

12.   May, Herbert & Bruce Metzger. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, RSV.  New York: Oxford University Press, 1971.

13.   McEachern, Alton H. Layman’s Bible Book Commentary, Vol. 8. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1981.

14.   Mills, Watson E., ed. Mercer Dictionary of the Bible. Macon: Mercer University Press, 1990.

15.   Pfeiffer, Charles F. & Howard F. Vos, ed. The Wycliffe Historical Geography of Bible Lands.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1967.

16.   Vilnay, Zen. The Guide to Israel. Jerusalem: “Daf-Chen” Press, Ltd., 1985.

17.   Vos, Howard F. Beginnings in Biblical Geography.  Chicago: Moody Press, 1973.

18.   Weiser, Artur. The Psalms. London, S. C. M. Press, Ltd., 1962; 9th printing, Philadelphia, Westminster Press, 1976.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN Spring 1999.

 

BIBLE CHARACTER TRIVIA

 

What Is The Answer To & Where In The Bible Is This Week’s Trivia Question Found? (12/28/14) Two-part question: Wealth created by (1) what?  is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek (2) what?  (KJV) Answer next week: (1) what; (2) what; Bible verse?

The answer to last week’s trivia question:  (12/21/14)   Three-part question: (1)Who was confined to bed for eight years (2) suffering from what disease, (3) when did he dwell? Answer: (1) Aeneas, (2) palsy, (3) Lydda; Acts 9:32-33.