Psalm 43: Why are you cast down, O my Soul?
Why indeed? Why not? Certainly there are many reasons to be downcast.
Most scholars believe that this short psalm was actually part of Psalm 42. There are many good reasons for this, a key one being that the last verse, “Why are you cast down, O my soul . . .” (5) is repeated twice in Psalm 42. But for whatever reason, some editor, putting together the book of the Psalms, decided to separate out the last five verses into their own psalm. For my part, I choose to treat this as a separate psalm because it fits well with the theme of this week, Holy Week.
The week begins with Palm/Passion Sunday, wherein we reflect on the fickleness of the crowd that one day praises Jesus with shouts of acclaim—“Hosanna!”—and turns on him days later, crying out, “Crucify him!” We hear of whisperings and terrors in Psalm 31, often used this Sunday. “Yea, I hear the whisperings of many—terror on every side!—as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.” (31:15) It would sound like someone who is paranoid, if it wasn’t for the fact he was right, they were whispering against him!
In Psalm 43 the writer asks God to vindicate, defend, and deliver him from ungodly people. God is to act as judge, advocate and bailiff. Where the primary theme of Psalm 42 is loneliness and longing, in Psalm 43 the writer is calling for justice against those who plot against him. He asks God to send out his light and truth to lead him. “Oh send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me.” (3a) The weapons against the powers of evil are light and truth.
The power of evil gathered against Jesus and resulted in his death. The power of evil is still present in this world, giving us reason to be concerned. Power games are being played out in the Ukraine, the anniversary of the bombing at the Boston Marathon is this week, and shootings took place at a Jewish synagogue. All reasons to feel paranoid, insecure.
There’s something about Holy Week that brings out the paranoid in me. I recently signed up for enneathoughts – daily reflections based on your Enneagram personality type (for more on the Enneagram, see resource page, click here). My week started with this thought, fives (my number) are prone to insecurity. They fear that the environment is unpredictable and potentially threatening unless they understand it completely.
That’s me, that’s why I spend so much time trying to figure things out! But Holy Week can’t be figured out. It can’t be understood no matter how hard we try. It doesn’t make any sense. Evil prevails with the death of an innocent man. No matter how much we may want to control our environment, there are forces out there we don’t understand and can’t control. Such is Holy Week.
Fortunately Holy Week ends with Easter. God’s light and truth remain more powerful than evil. God is our judge and advocate!
The writer trusts in God’s light and truth, that they will prevail, so he asks, why be cast down? We have God’s light and truth to guide us. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God.”(5b) Our hope is in our God!