The Righteous One Anticipating the Father’s
Heavenly Smile

a brief study of Psalm 43, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 13 July 2007

Many commentators, modern and ancient, believe that Psalm 43 was originally part of Psalm 42. This may be so, or they may be 2 separate Psalms as reflected in our Bible. But whatever the case may be, it is not difficult to see that they are indeed related for they share a common refrain: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul &c.”

This refrain is found in Psalm 42, verse 5 and verse 11. It is also the concluding verse of Psalm 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.

We saw that Psalm 42 was, no doubt, written by David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit at a time when he was facing severe discouragement and perhaps depression. Many commentators believe that David was at this time fleeing from his son Absalom and wandering in the wilderness beyond Jordon (cf. v. 5, 2 Sam 15-18). We can imagine the tears, lost, sorrow, pain, and confusion that must have overwhelmed David’s soul.

But David’s experience was not unique to him. All through the ages, the sons of man have experienced the same kind of discouragement though their circumstances might be different.

In fact, one man, the Son of Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, experienced the sorrows that David wrote about in a way that David could not have imagined. Indeed, we have little doubt that David wrote under the inspiration of the Spirit of Christ in a way that prophetically gave expression to the sorrows and meditations of Christ our Lord as He suffered for our sins.

In this way, this psalm contributes to our understanding of the thought-life and inner-struggles of our Saviour.

But this psalm must not only be used in an intellectual way. It is given to us that as believers we may encourage ourselves and admonish one another. In particular, this Psalm teaches us (with the example of David and the greater David) on what to do when we face severe discouragements and even depression.

What is true of Psalm 42 is also true of Psalm 43.

In the first 5 verses of Psalm 42, we see how we are to pour out our heart and talk not just to God but to our soul about our feelings in times of discouragement.

From verses 6-11 we learn that we must speak to God and to our own soul about why we are feeling what we feel. We learn to question our soul in a way that will make us realise how unreasonable it us for us to continue to feel despondent.

In Psalm 43, on the other hand, we are taught to pour out our heart unto the Lord to send forth His light to dispel the darkness of the soul.

This psalm has 3 parts. Verses 1-2 contain a plea for vindication. Verses 3-4 contain a petition; and verse 5 contains the refrain which is a self-exhortation.

Let’s look at these 3 parts briefly.

1. A Plea for Vindication

1 Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.

David, as we saw, was probably running away from Absalom. Perhaps he felt that the whole nation had turned against him for they had enthroned Absalom to be king. In the case of our Lord, the unjust and deceitful man is not Absalom, but Judas Iscariot, the traitor. And indeed the ungodly nation turned against Him. David would return to the throne when Absalom died; but the greater David was banished from the nation. The kingdom was taken away from them and given to the Gentiles, just as Hosea prophesied:

23 And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hos 2:23)

So as David appealed to God to come to his defense against the unjust man and ungodly nation, our Lord cried the same to His Father.

But on what basis?

2 For thou art the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

On the basis that you are the God of my strength. I have committed myself to your care as my stronghold, and I know that you are my strength. In you I live and move and have my being. Everything that happens to me is in your sovereign hand. You are in control. When the traitor betrayed me, when the nation rejected me, it was not without your permission and sovereign foreordination.

My head tells me that you will never leave me nor forsake me, but my heart troubles me. I know it is irrational, but the feeling of being abandoned troubles me. I feel cast away and forsaken. I feel a sense of indignation that I have to go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy when thou art sovereign and just.

Beloved brethren, youth and children, have you not often felt the same way. It is no sin to feel this way. David grappled with such feelings, and so did our Lord who was tempted at all points like as we are, yet without sin.

What shall we do when we feel this way? Let us learn to petition the Father.

2. A Petition to Send Forth
the Light & Truth

3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.

What a beautiful prayer! “Send out thy light and thy truth!” But what does it mean?

At first sight, many of us will think that this is a prayer for God to send His illuminating Spirit and His Word to encourage us.

But I would put it to you that this is not what the text means. What the psalmist is referring to is the light of God’s countenance of favour and the assurance and display of His faithfulness.

The depressed soul is shrouded in darkness. It is discouraged. It feels quite lost. What does it need most? It needs the light of God’s countenance. It needs to see, through eyes of faith, God’s heavenly smile. It needs also the assurance that God’s promises are true. It needs to be reminded that God is faithful and will keep His word.

God’s light and truth alone will meet the deepest desire of the child of God—to worship and enjoy God.

3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. 4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.

The holy hill and the tabernacle are symbolic of joyful congregational worship of God’s people. God’s people enjoy God in many ways. However it is in formal worship that we experience some of our best moments of enjoying Him.

It is there we must especially offer the incense of prayer at the altar. It is there we must offer the calves of our lips in corporate praise. It is there we must employ our harps, for it is there we must strum our heart-strings in harmony with God’s people.

It is there we would have a foretaste of the eternal worship in heaven.… which Christ our Lord was no doubt anticipating when He took up those words in His lips.

When the child of God is facing discouragement and spiritual depression, such an experience of enjoying God is one of his chiefest desires. This is what makes him cry out: “O send forth thy light and thy truth…”

But alas the answer does not come immediately. Indeed, very often those who are suffering deep depression are unable to pray though they usually know what they desire.

At such times, let us learn to talk to ourselves as the psalmist does in the final refrain of this psalm.

3. A Refrain to Exhort Self

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.

Notice that I said: Talk to yourself, not talk with yourself. When you talk with yourself, you are reasoning in yourself. This is not a good thing to do when you are feeling discouraged and depressed. Often, the more you talk with yourself the more discouraged and tired you will feel.

No, no; you must talk to yourself. You must exhort yourself with the authority of God’s truth.

When the psalmist asks: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he is not expecting an answer. He is saying to himself, “You have no reason to be cast down! You do not need to be disquieted. You must hope in God.”

Look to Him. He is a faithful God. For a season you have come under a frowning providence, but God has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you.

The Father did for a moment, as it were, turn His face from His Son as He bore our sin on the Cross. But the darkness has turned to light. The Sun of Righteousness has risen with healings in His wings. He is exalted on high. He is sending forth His healing rays. He laid down His life for you. Shall He abandon you? Shall the Father and His Spirit abandon you when the Son redeemed you with His blood?

No, no; God will never forsake you. He will restore you. He will bring you back unto the place of the joy of your salvation. Look at how the psalm ends:

…for I SHALL yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

It is not “For I may yet praise him.” It is not even, “For I think I shall yet praise him.” It is “I shall yet praise him…” He is the health of my countenance and my God.

He will lift me up. He has never failed me. He understands my struggles though man may not. He has proven Himself faithful. He will yet prove Himself faithful.

As the Father never ceases to love His Son when He turned His face from Him, so I know that the Father still loves me and will restore me to the joy of communion with Him.

He will plead my cause. He will send forth His light and His truth. I shall yet praise Him who is the health of my countenance and my God.


May the Lord use these words to lift up the spirit of some of us who are hitherto discouraged and depressed as was David and as was our Lord!

And for those of us who come to the Table with deep burdens in our heart, let us come casting our cares upon Him because He cares for us. Indeed, for our sakes, He experienced some deeper grief and deeper discouragement than anyone of us. But He came out victorious. Shall we not trust Him to guide us unto our heavenly rest? Amen.

            —JJ Lim