God, Why Don’t You Rescue Me?- Psalm 42:6-11

As we continue in our examination of Psalm 42, we will begin with a quick review of the first “section” of this prayer and of what the Psalmist has learned so far (for we will recall it is a “wisdom” Psalm, one intended to teach us something). The Psalmist is currently in exile in a foreign land, far from his home, and more importantly here, far from the temple and the presence of God. He, in this Psalm, cries out in anguish, for he has an urgent need for God and does not know where to go in order to meet with the God he so desperately needs. What he discovers as he cries out is that God is everywhere, He does not live in the temple, and God comes to meet the Psalmist right where he is. This meeting results in a dramatic change in the state of mind of the Psalmist, his meeting with God has taught him that God is still his God, is still on the throne, and that everything will be alright. We will continue now with a look at the second section of this prayer, which begins in verse 6. What we find first of all is that, in spite of what he has just learned, the soul of the Psalmist is still “downcast”. Because of this, his meeting with God is not quite over yet. We notice that God immediately works to change his focus. He next begins to “remember You” (God), God begins to change his focus, taking his eyes off of his present situation and onto remembering how God had cared for him in the past, how God had not deserted him in times of difficulty in the past. He begins to takes his eyes off of himself and to place them upon God instead. This does not, however, constitute a denial of his current situation, a pretending as though it does not exist. Verse 7 makes this clear, through the use of two metaphors. The use of deep here is a reference common in the Old Testament to chaos, to the watery deep which was chaotic and terrifying. The use of waves and breakers here refers to the breaking of waves which crash over people and are beyond their control. He is describing here a situation which he sees as chaotic, as a situation in which things are happening which are beyond his control, which he does not understand, and of which he is terrified. These waves are sweeping over him and he feels as if he is drowning. In verse 8, we find God again getting through to him, as he remembers that God loves him no matter what, and God’s love is always with him. He remembers that God is in control of the “waves and breakers”, even if he is not, that God’s protection and provision are with him even in the depths of his despair and fear, which is expressed here in the imagery of God’s “song” being with me, as a mother sings a lullaby over her frightened child. We then notice a bit of a change in tone in verse 9. The Psalmist has now learned that the Lord is with him and that this situation somehow comes “from” the Lord and is for his benefit in some way. He therefore begins to converse with the Lord in order to determine why all of this is happening. He begins by acknowledging first of all that God is his “rock”, he is not doubting who God is or God’s love for him, he is just wondering what he might have done “wrong” to cause all of this to happen. He has asked God to “rescue” him from this situation, he knows God is able to rescue him, but he is wondering now if God is willing to rescue him. He realizes God is his only hope for rescue, that he cannot rescue himself, and He is wondering why God does not just miraculously deliver him from this situation. Verse 9 and 10 then inform us of his current emotional state, for he expresses despair to the point of “mourning” due to the oppression of his enemies (here as both physical and mental), his pain as agony to his “bones” ( a metaphor for the very core of one’s being), and his confusion to the point where he is beginning to ask the question of his oppressors, “where is your God”? What is critical to realize here is that he ends this section of his prayer with the same refrain as he does in the first section, with an expression of hope in God, and an expression that God will somehow “deliver” him. So what ultimately has the Psalmist learned in this second section of his prayer, and what does he desire we would learn from it as well? What he has learned here is that God is always present with and for him, that God’s love and care for him never waver, and that God will always answer when we cry out to him. All of these things are wonderful to know, and we find here that what God does in this incident is to “remind” him of all of this. He already knew this, but the circumstances of life were causing him to forget, and God here gets through to remind him of all of this of God’s unwavering love for and care of him. But we also find something “new” here which the Psalmist learns in this situation, and it is the primary lesson which he desires to impart to each of us. What he learns is that God always hears his prayers, and that God always answers his prayers, but sometimes the answer is simply no. God is God and we are not. He always knows what is best, and will always do what is best for those he loves, and sometimes what is best is not to deliver us “from” the situation, but rather to deliver us “through” the situation. Our next post will conclude our look into this prayer (which concludes as Psalm 43), in order to discover what the Psalmist wants us to find he learned as he was delivered through this rather than from it.

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