Psalm Bible Study (Worshiping God)

Psalms 42-43, Looking Up When Feeling Down


  1. Psalm 42 begins a new book in the psalms. For the first time we are told a psalm is written by a different author than David. The sons of Korah penned this psalm and few of the other psalms found in Book 2.
  2. We are going to study this psalm in connection with psalm 43. I believe that psalm 42 and psalm 43 were originally one psalm containing the same theme. There are at least three reasons why we can assume psalms 42 and 43 were originally joined together. (1) There are a number of ancient manuscripts that have both of these psalms as just one continuous psalm. (2) Psalm 43 has no title for it. All of the psalms in Book 2 have a title assigned to them except psalm 43, making it more likely that it was connected to psalm 42. (3) The repeated refrains are found in both psalm 42 and psalm 43. “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in the God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” This refrain is found in 42:5, 42:11, and 43:5, which is equal distant throughout both the psalms.

I. Longing to Meet God (42:1-5)

A. Thirsting for the living God

  1. The scriptures will use creation as a teaching tool for our lives. The proverbs tell the person to “go to the ant” and “learn from the sloth.” In psalm 42, we are learning from the deer’s thirst for water. This visually helps us understand the zeal and longing that we are to have for the Lord. Just as a deer needs the streams of waters for survival and pants for those refreshing waters, so also our souls should long for God. The thirst is so strong that the psalmist asks when he can go and meet with God.
  2. Testing our thirst is one of the best test we can perform on our hearts to determine our love for God. Do we thirst to talk about spiritual things? Do we thirst to study God’s revealed word? Do we thirst to worship the Lord? Do we thirst to study the word with other disciples? Do we have the thirst that causes us to ask “When can I go and meet with God?”
  3. This is exactly what the Lord meant when he told the Pharisees to learn what “I desire mercy and not sacrifice” meant (Matthew 9:13). The question is not if we are showing up, but if we want to show up. The question is not if we are just reading, but if we want to read and study. Have we developed a thirst for the things of God?
  4. Now we must realize that we cannot have a thirst without trying something first. I do not have a strong thirst for potato chips until after I have had the first one. I do not have a strong thirst for popcorn until I have had the first kernel. The thirst dies the longer we remove ourselves away from a particular action.
  5. Further, thirsting for the living God only begins when we realize that it is a matter of our own soul’s life and death. Just as the deer requires water for life and therefore thirsts for it, so also we will thirst for the living waters of God if we will see its need.
  6. The psalmist’s desire is so strong that he wants to “meet with God.” It is not enough to go and worship for God. Nor is it enough to have a longing for the Lord. The thirst can only be quenched when he goes to meet God. This is the drive and goal of life. The psalmist wants to experience God, be with God, and spend time with God. The psalmist does not see worship, knowledge, and reading as God’s rules to keep. Rather, the psalmist realizes that worship, knowledge, and reading are the ways to be with God. These are the only ways to get to know and experience God until we can see him face to face.
  7. We also must see that this thirst is sustained even through his personal times of oppression and skepticism. We see the psalmist’s pain in the words, “My tears have been my food day and night.” We also see the scorn the psalmist is enduring as others say to him all day long “Where is your God?” He is remembering the good times with God and continues to thirst for God even though he is enduring an undisclosed oppression.

B. The need for self-talk

  1. I have told this to many people in my efforts to help others deal with their emotions and now I see the scriptural foundation for this advice in this psalm. We have to talk to ourselves when we are enduring oppression, suffering, or begin to be skeptical of what God is doing for us. Notice how the psalmist talks to himself, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
  2. The psalmist is speaking to his emotions. He is not allowing his emotions to dictate his mind. He is going to keep his feelings in check, realizing that he must keep his hope in the Lord. This is absolutely critical for us to understand and commit ourselves to do in the midst of trouble. We cannot allow our emotions to get the best of us and control our lives. We cannot allow our actions and rationale be dictated by how we feel. To be governed by our feelings and emotions is spiritual suicide and makes us an emotional disaster. The psalmist is telling us that we have to talk ourselves through many of the hard times of life. The next section of the psalm describes for us how bad things have been for him.

II. Overwhelmed and Forgotten (42:6-11)

A. The downcast soul

  1. Consider the feelings of the psalmist: his soul is downcast and the waves have swept over him. He cries out to God “Why have your forgotten me?” He is oppressed by his enemies and, in the midst of his suffering, is enduring the taunting words of his foes. The enemies continue to say to him, “Where is your God?
  2. Does this sound familiar to your soul? Have you ever experienced these feelings? Have you ever been overcome by these emotions? The psalmist is not speaking from his ivory tower, declaring to us all what we ought to do. Rather, the psalmist is speaking from experience and is teaching us by telling us about his life and how he got through his difficulties. Life is not easy when we feel overwhelmed and forgotten. Life is hard when we feel that God has completely forgotten about us while being struck down by others. What should we do in the midst of these feelings?

B. Lift yourself up!

  1. The psalmist again addresses his soul. I would like to focus on the next statement in this repeated refrain, “Put your hope in God.” The psalmist is reminding himself to put his hope and trust in the Lord. When are backs are to the wall and things do not seem to be working out the way we expected, it is time to repeatedly tell ourselves to put our trust in God.
  2. The repetition of the phrase should tell us that it is not going to be enough to tell ourselves to trust God once. We have to keep reminding ourselves of this! Things will not go according to plan and how we deal with it is a test to our ability to trust in the Lord.

III. Plea For Rescue (43:1-5)

A. Give me guidance

  1. The psalmist now asks for vindication. Evil surrounds him in the midst of his suffering. He further states that God has been his stronghold and strength and does not understand why it seems that God has rejected him.
  2. Rather than keeping his focus on himself, he turns his attention to the Lord. The psalmist calls to God to send forth “your light and your truth” and “let them guide me.” The psalmist offers a beautiful call of dependence upon God to guide him through his turmoil. It is always important for us to keep our eyes on God during our troubles. Rather than allow our emotions to spin us into despair, we must keep our eyes heavenward awaiting God’s deliverance.

B. I will yet praise Him

  1. Perhaps the most fascinating part of this psalm is the ending. The psalmist declares that even though he does not understand and feels rejected and oppressed, he will continue to praise God. God is his joy and his delight (43:4). When God is what really matters in life, then we may lose the things of this world but we will always have what is most important and what brings us lasting joy: God.
  2. The psalm concludes with the same refrain of self-talk. “For I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” We must tell ourselves what is most important. When the going in our lives do get tough, we have to be tough with ourselves to get through our misery. Our emotions will lead us into self-pity and agony. Keeping our eyes on what matters will help us endure till our suffering ends.


God has called us to pick ourselves up in times of trouble. I believe this is the point of the thrice repeated refrain “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.” To get through the turmoil, we need God. While we wait for God, we cannot allow our emotions to spin out of control and rule our lives. Nor should we sit back and expect everyone to come rushing to our aid. We are to pull ourselves up and endure. God will get us through.

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