New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Psa 43:1 Vindicate me, God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation. Oh, deliver me from deceitful and wicked men- Many Biblical characters worked their way through this problem of being distracted by others in their community. Ps. 43:1 begins with David lamenting how he had been unfairly judged by an “unmerciful nation” of Israel, but concludes with him focusing back on his personal relationship with the Father: “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?... hope thou in God... who is the health of my countenance and my God” (:5 AV). David felt that his judgment by his nation in the wake of his sin with Bathsheba was unjust, and he asks God to legally plead his case against them. But before the court of Divine justice, David had been verily guilty. Again we sense that his desire for forgiveness was genuine enough, but the extent of his penitence was continually limited by his abiding sense that he was better than his nation, and his fear of shame in their eyes.

In the context of the exiles, the "ungodly nation" was Babylon; the "wicked men" were initially the supporters of Saul and Absalom, but then became the Babylonians.

Psa 43:2 For You are the God of my strength. Why have You rejected me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?-
Despite these feelings, David was spiritually mature enough to still consider God as his "strength", even though he felt God wasn't coming through for him as he expected. David of all people appeared confident in his relationship with God and his personal hope of salvation. And yet he frequently felt at times “cast off” (Ps. 43:2; 44:9; 60:1; 74:1; 77:7; 88:14; 89:38; 108:11), using a Hebrew word elsewhere commonly used about God’s final rejection of sinners. David genuinely felt a condemned man- and yet he rejoiced in God’s salvation. Few of us get the balance so right. The prototype of Christ feeling forsaken was in David feeling forsaken by God when he fled from Absalom (Ps. 42:9; 43:2; 88:14); but clearly he was not actually forsaken. "Oppression" was what God's later people were to suffer at the hands of their enemies (s.w. Is. 30:20; Dt. 26:7); David's suffering was seen as that of God's later people, and so his Psalms were reused in this context.

Psa 43:3 Oh, send out Your light and Your truth. Let them lead me. Let them bring me to Your holy hill, to Your great tent-
David sees himself as Israel in the wilderness, being led by the light of the shekinah glory in the cloud and fire. So often we have noted that David felt the presence of God in exile just as much as he did in the sanctuary in Zion; thus he often comments that he is under God's wings, as if he felt located on the mercy seat with the blood of atonement beneath him and the cherubic wings and shekinah glory above him. But still he is so desperate for the sanctuary in Zion, as if he maybe hadn't quite learned the lesson; and maybe this was why he was so insistent upon building a physical temple there, even though God had said this was not in fact what He wanted. 

Psa 43:4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God, my exceeding joy. I will praise You on the harp, God, my God-
We again note that the literal altar in Zion was David's greatest joy; see on :3. He seems to equate "God" with "the altar of God"; as many do today, he failed to separate religious externalities from God. But then we can also note that as we go through the life of David, it is evident he went along roads few others have travelled. For example, who else would offer his sacrifice upon the altar and then start strumming his harp in praise as he watched the animal burn (Ps .43:4 Heb.)? This was a new paradigm in Israelite worship.

Psa 43:5 Why are you in despair, my soul? Why are you disturbed within me? Hope in God! For I shall still praise Him: my saviour, my helper, and my God
- "Despair" is the word used of David's feelings after the sin with Bathsheba (s.w. Ps. 38:6). It is the word for bowing down, for humility. But nobody likes being bowed down in humility, and David likewise wriggles against it. But we see here the kind of self-talk which is characteristic of all those who are truly spiritually minded. This 'bowing down' was to characterize the sufferings of Judah for their sins (s.w. Is. 2:11; 5:15; 26:5). David was possibly asking himself a rhetorical question- Why was he bowed down? Because God wanted to humble him so that He might restore him.

AV has as in Ps. 42:11 "Praise Him who is the health of my countenance". But "health" is the usual word for 'salvation', and "countenance" is the usual word for 'face'. 'Save my face' would be a fair translation. And here again we encounter our concerns as to whether David's repentance was as thorough as it might have been. He did indeed confess his sin and seek forgiveness. But so much of his praying at this time is for God to save him from shame, and to judge and destroy and eternally condemn those at whose hands he was receiving judgment for his sins. And this was the problem with the exiles whom he later came to represent.