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Psalms Series One

On Hope

Psalm 42

David, on fleeing from Absalom, wrote these two Psalms:

{42:1} For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. 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. {8} 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. ‑‑ Psalms 42‑43 (NIV)

It is the rarest of things today to hear a sermon on the subject of hope. Paul commends to us (in more than one letter) "faith, hope and love." Sermons on faith abound; love is a frequent topic, but don't put "Hope" in the newsletter or attendance will fall. The attitude is common now; our ancestors would have wondered at us for it.

C.S. Lewis put it this way:

"Hope is one of the theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did the most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this."

There is a physical analogy to this. Have you ever been to a circus and watched the tightrope walkers? You and I would probably keep our eyes on our feet and on the rope; their eyes are straight ahead - in the direction they are going. This is how they keep their balance! So it is with us in our spiritual lives. If we pay most of our attention to the things of this world, we become a "Protestant tea sipping society" - concerned with good works, indistinguishable from any other charity except by our old customs. Soon enough such a congregation will wither and die - cut off at the roots. The root is hope. By setting our minds on the hope we have, all earthly virtues come with it.

"Where is your God?"

David presents to us one of Satan's chief weapons against hope: "Where is your God?" When times are tough, when things are not just, our "friends" ask that. The argument is something like this:

a) you tell me that God is just; that he is fair.

b) but what is happening is not just, not fair.

c) you tell me that God is omnipotent

d) how can this be?

There is an answer which springs readily to a Christian's lips. It's as old as Job, for he got it from his "friends." The answer: "God punishes sinners; you must have done something terrible." "No I haven't" "You haven't even admitted it to yourself - it's worse than I thought!" And all the while David is miserable at his misfortune. Some friends, huh?

Jesus was confronted with a similar dilemma, recorded in John 9:

{9:1} As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. {2} His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" {3} "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. {4} As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. {5} While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." {6} Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man's eyes. {7} "Go," he told him, "wash in the Pool of Siloam" (this word means Sent). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing. ‑‑ John 9:1‑7 (NIV)

The King James puts verse 3 much better: "that you might see the glory of God." Sometimes it is not just that those around us might see God's glory (and what kind of example are we?) but that we might see it ourselves, in ourselves.

Indeed, it is worth noting that David gives no answer to his problem in these Psalms; rather; he simply expresses his problem - and his hope.

Contra Despair

So what are we to do when despair sets in? One response (same elder, same meeting) is to deny it:

a) any real Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit

b) despair is therefore impossible for the real Christian

c) therefore, if you despair, you are not a real Christian.

It is only necessary to examine the argument to watch it fall apart. Replace the word "despair" with the word "sin":

a) any real Christian is indwelt by the Holy Spirit

b) sin is therefore impossible for the real Christian

c) therefore, if you sin, you are not a real Christian.

By this argument none of us are real Christians or none of us sin - take your pick.

Despair is succumbing to the temptation to give up hope. How can we resist this temptation? (First realize that the temptation and the sin are not the same thing!) There are several weapons suggested by David:


a) emotional memory (why do we worship each week, if not to remember? And why do we sing, if not to involve our emotions?)

b) memory of things God has done for us in the past

c) memory of God's character - unchanging, as shown in nature

Prayer - (the value of the habit of prayer is hereby proclaimed!)

Fellowship - Christianity is not a solo flight!

Others will come to your mind; for this is a personal list.

Last Things

Just what is our hope? David paints a beautiful, prophetic picture here of the second coming of Christ, based upon the metaphor of the church as the Bride of Christ. It's in Psalm 45:


{45:1} For the director of music. To the tune of "Lilies." Of the Sons of Korah. A maskil. A wedding song. My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. {2} You are the most excellent of men and your lips have been anointed with grace, since God has blessed you forever. {3} Gird your sword upon your side, O mighty one; clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. {4} In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. {5} Let your sharp arrows pierce the hearts of the king's enemies; let the nations fall beneath your feet. {6} Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. {7} You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. {8} All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad. {9} Daughters of kings are among your honored women; at your right hand is the royal bride in gold of Ophir. {10} Listen, O daughter, consider and give ear: Forget your people and your father's house. {11} The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord. {12} The Daughter of Tyre will come with a gift, men of wealth will seek your favor. {13} All glorious is the princess within her chamber; her gown is interwoven with gold. {14} In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her and are brought to you. {15}d in with joy and gladness; they enter the palace of the king. {16} Your sons will take the place of your fathers; you will make them princes throughout the land. {17} I will perpetuate your memory through all generations; therefore the nations will praise you for ever and ever. ‑‑ Psalms 45 (NIV)









Doesn't this sound like the second coming of our Lord?





See the conquest of the nations prophesied in Revelations





The fragrances used in Christ's burial





The injunction is to leave this world - and its father, Satan



Vice pays its tribute to virtue - Tyre represents the world








Praise forever!




By any chance are you an Indiana Jones fan? Think about this: could you stand to live that way? Constant danger, threatened on every side by evil? In a sense you do live that way (Satan is very real). How do you even stand to watch Indiana Jones? There's only one way: you know that everything will turn out right.

How will things turn out right? Here's how:

Bodily Resurrection:

{16} For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. {17} After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.

‑‑ 1 Thessalonians 4:16‑17 (NIV)

All those illnesses, deformities - why does that child have only one good hand? Who sinned? - all will be healed.


{31} "When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. {32} All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. {33} He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. {34} "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. {35} For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, {36} I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.' {37} "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? {38} When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? {39} When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' {40} "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.' {41} "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. {42} For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, {43} I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.' {44} "They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?' {45} "He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.' {46} "Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life." ‑‑ Matthew 25:31‑46 (NIV)

Of all this, no man - not even Jesus Himself (see Matthew 24:36) - knows when. God is loving; God is just - and He's also patient!

{9} The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ‑‑ 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

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