Notice that no author is listed for this psalm. Yet there can be little doubt but that Psalm 43 is written by the same author and under the same circumstances as Psalm 42, since both psalms end with the same verse (verse 11 of psalm 42 and verse 5 of psalm 43.) Therefore, we would judge that the author of the first is also the author of the second. We have suggested some unknown psalmist could have written this any time during Israel’s history when they were oppressed without good reason by their enemies on the east side of the Jordan. The psalmist might have been one of the sons of Korah, though we can confirm that these men were singers, so they song may have been written for them to sing, and not by them. Our other suggestion, following Rotherham, would be Hezekiah in the days when Judah was threatened by Assyria and Jerusalem was besieged. His inability to go to God’s temple then would be because of his illness.
In either case, we might point out that many of these psalms are written more with future circumstances in mind than with circumstances in the past. That is, that these psalms are meant to be the song book during the kingdom of God, and many of them speak more of events that will take place then than they do of events of the past. If that is the case here, these words may be prophetically speaking of the time when Israel will be oppressed by their enemies when God turns off the kingdom controls and allows ungodly men to go their own way once again in the tribulation period. Israel will be oppressed unjustly by her enemies at that time, and an ungodly man, whom we commonly call the antichrist, will be the prime mover of hatred against them. Many of them will be captured and taken into captivity at that time, being removed from the land and cut off from God’s temple.
Whatever the case might be, let us now examine this psalm.
1. Vindicate me, O God,
The author calls upon God to vindicate him. The word in Hebrew, shaphat, means “to judge,” and the Hebrew name Elohim or “God” refers to Him as the Creator and the Judge of His creation. We know that to judge a person means to determine what is right concerning him, and then to set things right according to that determination. All circumstances are bad for the psalmist at this point, yet he knows that this is not right, as he has done nothing to deserve the persecution that he is experiencing. Therefore, he calls upon God to act to judge his case, convinced that such judgment will result in him being freed from the oppression of his enemies.
And plead my cause against an ungodly nation;
He calls upon God to plead his cause against the ungodly nation that is oppressing him. Which nation this was depends upon the unknown circumstances under which this psalm was written. In the future, this will be the nation of the antichrist.
Oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!
An entire nation was oppressing the psalmist, but their actions were being directed by a single deceitful and unjust man. This is often the case when God’s people are persecuted. There is one wicked individual who drives the persecution. Who this particular individual was is hard to say. David was oppressed first by Saul, and then by his own son Absalom. For Hezekiah, it was the Rabshakeh, the mouthpiece of the king of Assyria. In the future tribulation, it will be the man of sin called the antichrist.
2. For You are the God of my strength;
The psalmist now turns to God, and calls upon Him as the God of his strength. He knows that He is the One Who can strengthen and help him in light of the troubles he is facing. It could well be that there was a Satanic element to the persecution Israel was facing at this time. As we know from Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this eon, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” Certainly this will be true in the tribulation period to come. Satan and his forces hate the nation God chose to be His Own. Only through God’s strength, then, can they hope to overcome the supernatural forces that are arrayed against them.
Why do You cast me off?
The psalmist asks God why He has cast him off? For it seems that he is cast off and forsaken, considering the fact that his enemies have power over him, and God does not go into action to help him.
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
The psalmist again wonders this in the light of the fact that God has not moved to deliver him from the oppression of the enemy that has power over him at this time. Instead, he mourns under their oppressive actions.
3. Oh, send out Your light and Your truth!
The psalmist calls upon God to send out His light and His truth. He is asking this in view of the persecution of the enemies that are against him. Certainly in the day of the tribulation, those who are oppressed by their enemies will look to God to go into action once again, send out His light and His truth, and bring an end to the rebellion that has come upon the kingdom of God. Yet we too look for God to do this in our day. We know that someday God will reveal the truth of His Son Jesus Christ to the world, and when He does this, then, as Colossians 3:4 says, “When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.” God’s people will ever benefit when God acts to send forth His truth.
Let them lead me;
The psalmist wants to be led by God’s light and truth. How much do we long for the same leading! In this present darkness, there is nothing we need more. And the light we have that God has given us to lead us is found in His holy Word. That Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path, the only such lamp God has given us in this dark world and this time of His silence.
Let them bring me to Your holy hill
The psalmist longs for the light and truth of God to bring him back to His holy hill, to rejoice before Him once again in His temple, even as he wished in the last psalm, Psalm 42.
And to Your tabernacle.
The psalmist wants to come to God’s holy hill so he can once again enter God’s tabernacle, as he has done in the past. This makes us wonder if this persecution did take place in the early days of Israel, for that was when God dwelt in a tabernacle, and not in the permanent temple built by Solomon. This could be the case, yet this word “tabernacle” technically just means “dwelling place,” and does not have to mean the tent that was God’s mobile dwelling before the building of the temple. This could refer to the permanent building of the temple, just as well as to the tent. Certainly, this is what God’s dwelling will be in the tribulation to come.
4. Then I will go to the altar of God,
Once this light and this truth have come, then the psalmist knows he will be able to go to the altar of God once again. In our own dark day we know that God’s altar on earth has been destroyed. Yet when the light and truth of God has gone forth to usher in His kingdom, His temple and altar will be built once more, and all the godly men of the Israelites of the past, like this psalmist, will be raised from the dead and able to go once more to it. In the past, of course, the author hoped for the end of the tribulation he was facing, so that he would no longer be cut off from God’s altar, and could return there once again, as he had done in the past. In the future tribulation, the oppressed people of God will also await the movement of God to bring about their vindication and allow them to return to God’s altar as well.
To God my exceeding joy;
The altar of God is in the temple, the place with which God had identified Himself and which was the symbol of His presence. The psalmist views it as returning to God’s altar will be the same as returning to the presence of God, his exceeding joy. Yes, it is a joyful thing to be in the presence of the living God! Today, we enjoy that privilege through our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
And on the harp I will praise You,
When the psalmist returns to God’s temple, he knows that he will praise God with the harp there. This shows us that this had been his joy and privilege in the past. He was a musician for God, and played his harp in God’s temple. What a privilege it would be to be given such a task! We can play music for men, but it is a great thing to be able to play music for God. In the kingdom of God to come, this will be possible once again, as the musicians in God’s temple will again be restored and organized in their old positions. What a time that will be! What music will then be played!
The psalmist shows that he is a harpist. We know that David was a harpist, but it is difficult to find circumstances in David’s life to fit a time when he was east of the Jordan and surrounded by enemies, rather than by friends. Hezekiah may or may not have been a harpist. We know that the sons of Korah were singers, but we do not know what other musical talents they may have had. Clearly, the author is a musician, and not just a lyricist. As much as we would like it to, this statement really does not answer our question of this psalm’s authorship.
O God, my God.
It is God he will praise on his harp. Thank God for every way we are able to please Him, and every thing we are able to do for Him!
5. Why are you cast down, O my soul?
This now repeats the refrain of psalm 42, as this verse appears almost word-for-word in Psalm 42:5 and Psalm 42:11. This would make these psalms a pair with a single chorus, perhaps sometimes sung separately, but often together. This also leads us to imagine that they are written by the same author and under the same circumstances.
The psalmist questions his soul, that is, his emotions within him, as to why they are so cast down, why they are so depressed? Certainly he was facing great trouble and heartache, and in such times it is easy to become depressed and downhearted.
And why are you disquieted within me?
He again questions his emotions, wondering why they are so disquieted, so troubled, within him?
Hope in God;
He urges himself and his surging emotions to hope in God. Hope in the Scriptures does not mean wishing for something that may not happen, but means looking expectantly for something that is going to happen. The psalmist knows his deliverance will come eventually. Therefore, he urges his emotions to quiet themselves and wait for the time when God will step in to help him.
For I shall yet praise Him,
He knows that the time will yet come when he shall praise God. Even if his waiting is cut short by death, he knows that he will be raised from the dead. Nothing can stop the fact that he will yet see deliverance, and will praise His God in the future.
The help of my countenance and my God.
God is the help of his countenance. The Hebrew word is yeshuw’ah, a familiar word, for it is part of the word that becomes “Jesus” in the Greek. It means “salvation” or “deliverance.” The “countenance,” of course, is the face. If this is literal, it could be that Hezekiah’s illness affected his face, as some illnesses do, and he was looking for God to save his face. However, this could easily be a figure of speech, for the face can be put for the man, and certainly the emotions of a man are shown in his face. The downcast look of his face will be replaced with smiles and joy when God steps in to save him. This will be the salvation of his face, whether or not a literal problem with his face is cured. Thus, the psalmist looks to God, eagerly awaiting deliverance from the troubles that face him. May we too look to God for our deliverance and salvation. He does not promise us that all our problems will be solved in this life. Yet ultimately our hope is in Him, and He is our help and our expectation in every trouble. Let us look to Him therefore, no matter how long our deliverance may wait.
To the Chief Musician.
This psalm, like many others, is dedicated to the Chief Musician in Israel. It could be sung by Israel, and would be particularly appropriate any time they were oppressed and awaiting God’s deliverance. It is a good psalm for us to remember in times of trouble, as well.