Psalms 42 and 43 should be read and studied together. For this reason Im posting both of them in one thread.
It is not absolutely certain who composed these psalms. Psalm 42 was written with some reference to the “sons of Korah;” that is, to those who presided over the music of the sanctuary. In other words, it was prepared especially to be used by them in the sanctuary, in contrast to psalms which had a more general reference, or which were composed for no such specific design. If it was written by the sons of Korah, that is, by any one of their number, it was intended by the author, undoubtedly, to illustrate the feelings of a man of God in deep trials; and the language and the allusions were possibly drawn from the history of David, as furnishing the best historical instance for such an illustration of feeling.
Psalm 43 is without a title. It bears, however, a very strong resemblance, in its general spirit and in its structure, to Psa_42:1-11, and was likely composed by the same author, and in reference to the same occasion. The resemblance between the two psalms is so striking that many have supposed that they are parts of the same psalm, and as this one terminates with the same language Psa_43:5 as that which occurs at the close of the two parts of Psa_42, verses 5 and 11.
Psa 42:5 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.
Psa 42:11 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.
Psa 43:5 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.
It has been conjectured by many that Psalm 43 is the third part or strophe of one psalm combined with Psalm 42. The structure of both is the same, though they are separated in most of the Hebrew manuscripts, in the Septuagint and Latin Vulgate. Hebrew manuscripts show that they are in fact two distinct psalms. Either they were originally one psalm broken into two psalms long ago or this psalm was composed by the same author, as a kind of supplement to the former psalm, or as expressing, in a slightly different form, the emotions which passed through his mind on that same occasion. Together they can be viewed in three parts. Psalm 42:1-5 is longing for God. Psalm 42:6-11 as remembering God and Psalm 43:1-5 as trusting God.
Whether or not one sees psalms 42 and 43 as two parts of the same psalm or two separate psalms, together they form a coherent song. The psalm or psalms fall into three parts (psalm 42:1-5, psalm 42:6-11 and psalm 43:1-5), each closing with the same refrain. Longings and tears, remembrances of festal hours passed in the sanctuary melt the singer’s soul, while taunting enemies hiss continual sarcasms at him as forsaken by his God. But his truer self silences these lamentations, and cheers the feebler "soul" with clear notes of trust and hope, blown in the refrain, like some trumpet clang rallying dispirited fugitives to the fight. The stimulus serves for a moment; but once more courage fails, and once more, at yet greater length and with yet sadder tones, plaints and longings are wailed forth. Once more, too, the higher self repeats its half-rebuke, half-encouragement. So ends the first of the psalms; but obviously it is no real ending, for the victory over fear is not won, and longing has not become blessed. So once more the wave of emotion rolls over the psalmist, but with a new aspect which makes all the difference. He prays now; he had only remembered and complained and said that he would pray before. Therefore now he triumphs, and though he still is keenly conscious of his enemies, they appear but for a moment, and though he still feels that he is far from the sanctuary, his heart goes out in hopeful visions of the gladness of his return thither, and he already tastes the rapture of the joy that will then flood his heart. Therefore the refrain comes for a third time; and this time the longing, trembling soul continues at the height to which the better self has lifted it, and silently acknowledges that it need not have been cast down. Thus the whole song is a picture of a soul climbing, not without backward slips, from the depths to the heights, or, in another aspect, of the transformation of longing into certainty of fruition, which is itself fruition after a kind.
Psa_42:1-11 consists of two parts, marked by the refrain in Psa_42:5 and Psa_42:11. If you include Psa_43:1-5 together with this psalm, the two would be divided into three parts, marked by the same refrain, in Psa_42:5, Psa_42:11; Psa_43:5. Of each of these parts the general structure is similar, containing
(a) an expression of trouble, sorrow, despondency; and then
(b) a solemn appeal of the author to his own soul, asking why he should be cast down, and exhorting himself to put his trust in God.
Psalm 42 records the feelings of one who had been driven away from the place where he had been accustomed to worship God, and his recollections of those sad days when he endeavored to comfort himself in his despondency by looking to God, and by dwelling on his promises. The idea of the whole is that we should not be overwhelmed or cast down in trouble; that we should confide in God; that we should be cheerful, not desponding; that we should go to God, whatever may happen.
I. In the first part Psa_42:1-5 there is
1) An expression of his desire to hold communion with God - the panting of his soul after God, Psa_42:1-2.
2) his tears under the reproaches of his enemies, while they said, “Where is thy God?” Psa_42:3.
3) his remembrance of the former days when he had gone with the multitude to the house of God; and the expression of a firm belief, implied in the language used, that he would go again to the house of God, and with them would keep “holyday,” Psa_42:4.
4) Self-remonstrance for his despondency, and an exhortation to himself to arouse and to trust in God, with the confident assurance that he would yet be permitted to praise Him, Psa_42:5.
II. The second part contains a series of similar reflections, Psa_42:6-11.
1) a description of his desponding feelings under these circumstances; under the troubles which had rolled over him like waters, Psa_42:6-7.
2) an assurance that God would yet manifest His loving-kindness to him; and, on the ground of that, an earnest appeal to God as his God, Psa_42:8-9.
3) a further statement of his troubles, as derived from the reproaches of his enemies, as if a sword penetrated even to his bones, Psa_42:10.
4) Self-remonstrance again for his despondency, and an exhortation to himself to trust in God (in the same language with which the former part of the psalm closes), Psa_42:11.
Psalm 42 contains a prescription for a downcast soul, consisting of three ingredients.
I. The first is inquiry: "Why art thou cast down?" Religious despondency must have a cause; and if we can discover it in any case, the old proverb holds good that a knowledge of the disease is half its cure.
II. The second ingredient is remembrance: (1) the Psalmist’s remembrance of his own experience and (2) his remembrance of God’s gracious dealings with others.
III. The third ingredient is hope: "Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him." (1) The hope is to be in God. (2) The downcast soul must hope in God, and not in change of circumstance. (3) Hope is a different thing from faith, while the operations of the two are nevertheless closely allied.
Psalm 43 contains
1) an earnest appeal to God to assist the suffering author, and to protect him from the efforts of an ungodly nation, and from the designs of the deceitful and unjust man, Psa_43:1;
2) an appeal to God as his strength, with the language of anxious inquiry why he had cast him off, and had suffered him to go mourning because of the oppression of his enemy, Psa_43:2;
3) an earnest prayer that God would interpose, and would send out his light and his truth, and would permit him to go again to his holy hill, to the tabernacles, and to the altar, Psa_43:3-4; and
4), as in Psa_42:5, Psa_42:11, self-reproach that he is thus dejected and dispirited, and an appeal to his own soul to arouse itself, and to put its trust in God. It is a psalm, like psalm 42, of great practical value to those who, in affliction, are sad and desponding.