Psalm 42 and 43 … Consider the Help of His Presence

Originally posted: 10/17/2020

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence,

(From NIV Study Bible: “In many Hebrew manuscripts, Psalm 42 and 43 constitute one psalm… A prayer for deliverance from being ‘oppressed by the enemy’ (42:9; 43:2) and for restoration to the presence of God at his temple. That these two Psalms form a single prayer… is evident in its structure… and the development of common themes.”)

The psalmist, in this pitiful place of affliction and distress, essentially finds himself in a wrestling match: desperation, despair, anguish, heartache, misery and sorrow against… hope. And at first glance, it definitely seems as though hope is outnumbered.

The writer is desperate, dying of thirst, yearning to once again be in communion with his only hope, fervent in his desire to come before the living God.

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?

Why the desperation? Circumstances have drastically changed under the oppression of the enemy. The psalmist tearfully recalls the days when life was good; when he even led in worship in the house of his God; when the congregation was filled with joy and thanksgiving in His Presence. But now, he is besought with tears. Has God deserted him, as the enemy so boldly alleges?

My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival,

And in light of his current surroundings, with the enemies’ insinuations of abandonment and desertion swirling about, despair is threatening to overcome his hope.

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?…  

But then, in a daring, courageous, resolute and bold move of hope, he reverses the hold of the enemy as he reminds himself Who actually has the upper hand, assured he will again be in the place of praise, confident in the Help of His Presence.

…Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence,

And that is what faith does. Faith restores hope to believe the best. But apart from faith, we have no hope and no access to His Presence. For since the fall of Adam and Eve, sin has created a barrier between man and Holy God.

Your eyes are too pure to approve evil,
And You can not look on wickedness with favor…
(Habakkuk 1:3).

But in His great mercy, He made the way that we could come boldly into His Presence, through faith in Jesus Christ.

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence, (Ephesians 3:12 NLT).

And as we come to Christ in faith, we are assured of the Help of His Presence.

Consider the Help of His Presence

  • The Help of His Presence commands His lovingkindness.
    • The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
      And His song will be with me in the night,
      A prayer to the God of my life.
      • By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins, (2 John 1:9-10).
  • The Help of His Presence sends out His light to lead us.
    • O send out Your light…, let them lead me… (43:3).
      • Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life,” (John 8:12).
  • The Help of His Presence sends out His truth to lead us.
    • …O send out… Your truth, let them lead me… (43:3).
      • Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me,” (John 14:26).
  • The Help of His Presence brings us to Himself.
    • …Let them bring me to Your holy hill
      And to Your dwelling places,
      • “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light,” (Matthew 11:28-30).
  • The Help of His Presence results in praise.
    • Then I will go to the altar of God,
      To God my exceeding joy;
      And upon the lyre I shall praise You, O God, my God,
      • Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name, (Hebrews 13:15).

How do we respond to the Help of His Presence?

As we continue through these Psalms, the wrestling match ensues. And at times, it seems as though despair will be the victor.

O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember You from the land of the Jordan
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the sound of Your waterfalls;
All Your breakers and Your waves have rolled over me,

I will say to God my rock, “Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Vindicate me, O God, and plead my case against an ungodly nation;
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
For You are the God of my strength; why have You rejected me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

And despair left unchecked will dash all hope, leaving the defeated wrestler in a hopeless state of depression and despondency.

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God,

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God,

Twice the psalmist replays his despair, but then immediately reminds himself to hope in his God. In the NASB, the psalmist refers to God as, “The help of my countenance and my God,” (42:11; 43:5).

Curious about this word, countenance, in this context, I took a look at some other translations.

Several other versions translate this phrase as, “my Savior (salvation) and my God.”

Still uncertain, I visited Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance:

Besides the pronoun, “my,” two Hebrew words make up this expression, “the help of my countenance,” or “my Savior.”

“6440. פָּנֶה pāneh,  פָּנִים pāniym: A masculine plural noun meaning a face. Although the literal meaning of face is possible… most of the time this word occurs in a figurative, idiomatic phrase. Face can be a substitute for the entire person…or it can be a reflection of the person’s mood or attitude…”

“3444. יְשׁוּעָה yešûʿāh: A feminine noun meaning salvation, deliverance, help, victory, prosperity. The primary meaning is to rescue from distress or danger…”

And finally, I went to the English dictionary:

Countenance: “appearance, especially the look or expression of the face; bearing (the manner in which one conducts or carries oneself; the act of enduring or capacity to endure); behavior.”

It seems the psalmist is claiming God’s deliverance and victory over his attitude that will then bear itself out in his behavior.

So perhaps, in English we might say, He is my God, Who grants His deliverance, salvation, help, victory and prosperity over my attitude, which absolutely affects my entire person… It is the Help of His Presence that will manifest as the Help of our countenance.

The following quote by Charles R. Swindoll is worthy of our contemplation in this area. (Note: in context, when Mr. Swindoll refers to facts, he is not speaking of the facts of our faith, but of the facts of our circumstances.)

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Today, let us stop wrestling with despair as we fix our minds on truth; for He has promised that we will live in the Help of His Presence, even to the end of the age.

“and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:20).

And He sent the Helper, to remind us of the truth and peace that we have through the Help of His Presence.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful,” (John 14:26).

Today, let us rely on the Help of His Presence in us, that we would do the one thing we can do, choose to play well on that one string, our attitude.

for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure, (Philippians 2:13).

And as we fix our thoughts on His truth, He will be faithful to be the Help of our countenance.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things, (Philippians 4:8).

Let us put all our hope in the Help of His Presence. Let us trust Him to command His lovingkindness, to lead us in His light and truth to bring us to Himself, so that everything about our attitudes and the way we live would bring praise to Him as we proclaim the excellencies of the marvelous Help of His Presence.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light, (1 Peter 2:9).

Let’s Grow Together!

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