Reading: Psalms 42-44
Click on the link for the reading to read the Psalms for this week. As we read, let us not do so in haste. Take time to read each Psalm at least three times: once to understand the content, once as a poem or song to feel the meaning, and once as a prayer to appropriate the Psalm into your life. There will often be a hymn attached at the bottom of the page that helps bring meaning to one of the Psalms for the week.
PSALM 42-43: Hope in God
Psalms 42 and 43 together form a prayer about the need of human life for the life that the living God bestows, revives, and preserves. There are three parts, each concluding with the same refrain (42:5, 42:11, 43:5). The first two parts describe the trouble that is the setting for the prayer, and the third is a petition for help. The two psalms profess the faith of the people of God, the church. For Christians who live in a world that constantly raises the question, “Where is your God?” these psalms disclose the real nature of our souls’ disquiet as a thirst for God. They turn us toward the worship of praise, sacraments and preaching in and through which our Lord wills to be present for the congregation.
To hope in God means that we know and articulate hope and despair simultaneously. That we cannot escape this inevitable reality is demonstrated by Jesus who echoes the refrain of Psalms 42-43 in his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt 26:38; John 12:27). Even Jesus, who fully embodied dependence upon God, could not escape disquietude of soul. Neither shall we. The good news, however, is that neither shall we be able to escape the steadfast love and faithfulness of God, which are manifested in God’s desire to lead us back to God’s own self (see 42:8, 43:3). This is the source of our hope and, indeed, the hope of the world.
PSALM 44: Like Sheep for Slaughter
Psalm 44 is the prayer of a scattered people. Verses 1-8 have the character of a profession of faith that is motivated by historical recollection. Verses 9-16 is a bitter complaint. Verses 17-22 explains the complaint: the people are innocent. Finally, verses 23-26 presents the people’s petition.
For the psalmists, every experience of life is somehow an experience of God. For Israel, the experience of exile and the ongoing afflictions of the post-exilic era necessitated a reconsideration of suffering. Israel came to understand its mission to the world in terms of a suffering that is somehow redemptive. This understanding of suffering and vocation helps understand the life and death of Jesus Christ. Jesus could even pronounce his followers blessed when they experienced the kind of rejection and derision described in Psalm 44:13-16 (Matt 5:10-11). Paul quoted Psalm 44:22 when discussing the “sufferings of this present time” (Rom 8:18) that are experienced by “God’s elect (Rom 8:33). Suffering is not a sign of separation from God or from God’s love; rather, it marks those who have been chosen to follow Jesus Christ (Mark 8:34-35).
This is the Psalm in hymn form. Read or sing it through with melody to give the Psalm another dimension.
Here is a video clip of Psalm 42 with a slightly different version of the song.
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