2017-12-03 Put Your Hope in God

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          December 3, 2017

“Put Your Hope in God”
Text: Psalm 42

We come, in God’s good providence, to the four Sundays immediately prior to Christmas.  These are the four Sundays in the Christian year known as Advent.  The English word advent rises from a Latin root meaning to come.  During Advent, we both celebrate that Jesus, God incarnate, has come to earth in time and space (His first Advent) and anticipate His soon coming to consummate history and God’s eternal plan (His second Advent).  Here at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church (EPC), as at many other places, we note certain themes on successive Sundays in Advent—to wit, hope, peace, joy, and love.  God willing, we shall treat each of these in turn.  We start today with hope—with connotation of waiting and expecting—and we consider hope in our consideration of this Psalm.  Let us hear God Himself as we hear His Word.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

Though this Psalm be the product, humanly speaking, of a group of authors—the sons of Korah—this Psalm is an individual complaint, or individual lament.[1]  The Holy Spirit led these worship leaders of David’s time (ca. 1000-960 B. C.) to write the heart’s cry of an individual—perhaps the heart’s cry of one of them.  This Psalmist has a problem—a downcast, disquieted soul, and he notes his problem twice (42:5, 11).  He lists some reasons; let’s look more closely at them.

First, the Psalmist longs for God, but he appears hindered from public worship to meet with God in a special sense.  His soul longs, even pants, for God—and he wonders where he will come and see God’s face.  He refers, in this wondering, to former times when he would lead the joyful throng to God’s house.  The implication is clear: he does not now lead the procession to God’s house.  Perhaps he cannot get to God’s house at all.  More than this, the Psalmist, though he longs for God, sense the loss of the sense of God’s presence, as he cries in verse nine, “Why have You forgotten me?”  This longing for God, apparently (but not truly) unrequited, would alone harm one’s soul, but there is yet more afflicting our Psalmist.

Second, the Psalmist endures the taunt of his adversaries, “Where is your God?”(42:3, 10).  All the day long he endures this taunt, presumably because of adversities endured that lie open and obvious to all.  This taunt, not to mention the troubles that provoke it, produces copious tears day and night—even to the point that his tears have become his food, and that by the bowlful.  This taunt, moreover, feels like a deadly wound inflicted by the enemy on our Psalmist—and perhaps we have felt what he expresses in Psalm 42.  This taunt, and the antecedent troubles, overwhelm the Psalmist (42:7).  He refers to depth, waterfalls, breakers, and waves sweeping over his soul, and his references are strikingly akin to Jonah’s language from the belly of the fish (Jonah 2:3).  Yet, from these depths, Godly counsel issues forth—to this Psalmist, and through this Psalmist to us.

Though downcast and disquieted, remember God.  The Psalmist remembers God from the Jordan River (rift) valley and from the mountains of Hermon, and even from Mount Mizar (mizar is one Hebrew word for little), a nearby hill.  All of these places, comparatively, are far from the center of Old Testament worship in Jerusalem.  Yet the Psalmist remembers, wherever he may be—and we can too.  Like the Psalmist, we may be in a place we would prefer not to be—either literally or figuratively—yet even from there we may remember our God.

Specifically, we do well to remember, as the Psalmist does, God’s Person and His mercies.  These intermingle in the list we read in this Psalm.  Remember, then, God’s steadfast love—his stubborn, flinty, love-that-wilt-not-let-us-go for His redeemed in Christ Jesus.  Remember that His song ever is with us, and, as a result, we may sing unto Him—even if our song be in a minor key for a season.  This song results in prayer to the God of our lives—and never forget that prayer not only is blessed consolation in seasons of being downcast and disquieted, but also is both a potent weapon in our spiritual warfare and excellent fuel for hope’s flickering flame.

The Psalmist’s exhortation also is the blessed end of matter: Hope thou in God (42:5, 11, cf. wait for Him, Isaiah 40:31).  As the Psalmist hopes in God and waits for Him—and as we do likewise—he, and we, shall find that, despite all, God shall yet be praised.  We shall praise Him for the good yet to come to us, which, after all, is a nifty description of hope.  The ground of our hope, of course, is our triune God Himself—our salvation and our God.

The Lord showed me—as I labored in the study this week—a thrilling truth.  In my translation of this text, I noted a word in the Hebrew text, looked it up, found its definition, to wit, salvation, recorded that word in my translation, and moved to the next word.  Later in the week the Lord led me to investigate that word rendered salvation more closely.  What I found flooded my soul.  I began to sound out the three-syllable Hebrew word—and stopped short after the second syllable (yeshu), exclaiming, “No way!”  The exclamation turned to sheer delight as I finished the word (‘a), exclaiming, “Yes!”  The Hebrew word rendered salvation is yeshua.  This word occurs in some contexts as a proper name–and when this occurs, the translation of that proper name is—Jesus!  This is one of the greatest things the Lord has ever showed me in the study.  Jesus’ Name is salvation.  Praise that glorious Name indeed.

What glorious truth we have as an antidote against hopelessness.  We hear, and perhaps we ourselves have uttered, expressions like, “Things will never get better,” and, “Nothing to look forward to” (sic).  God, by His Spirit, banishes this hopelessness, and by His powerful grace He fills our souls with hope—an humble, confident expectation of good things, in proper measure, now, and an humble, confident expectation of good things, without measure, eternally.

The non-believer does not know this hope.  He needs to hear it and to see it embodied from and in believers and Christ Jesus—in the hope that, by embracing Christ as Lord and Savior by God’s grace, he receives hope as well.  Alas, many a professing Christian either does not know much about this hope, has forgotten about it, or is so downcast and disquieted that hope flickers to the dying point—and such have my full sympathy.  To both unbeliever and buffeted believer, we say again, “Put your hope in God.”  Put your hope in God, and find Him faithful to strengthen your soul and to fill your life with good things—much good in this life, to be sure, and inexpressibly vast, profound good in the life to come.  Put your hope in God, for we shall yet praise Him—Jesus, our God.

AMEN.

[1] The sons of Korah descend from Korah, a rival to Moses and a rebel against him during the wilderness wanderings from Egypt to Canaan (Numbers 16:1 ff.).  Though the families of Dathan and Abiram, Korah’s co-conspirators, perished with them, the sons of Korah perished not—apparently due to not supporting their father in this rebellion.  In generations to come, God raised this family line to honor as worship leaders in His Old Testament church.  Scripture attributes eleven Psalms to them.

Some difference of opinion occurs concerning the human authorship of this Psalm.  Some attribute the Psalm to an unnamed Psalmist (possibly David, so C. H. Spurgeon), to be delivered to or for the sons of Korah.  This is supportable, in my view, from the Hebrew text, but the majority evangelical scholarly view today is that the sons of Korah penned this Psalm by the leadership of the Holy Spirit.

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