Gospel Logic Replaces Personal Sorrow with Heavenly Promises.
Nowhere is this method of mental and emotional exchange more evident than in Psalm 42-43. Following the train of thought begun with the gospel logic of Abraham and Moses, today we will turn from descriptive prose to two enumerated lists to unpack the plight experienced by the sons of Korah, as well as the promises that these descendents of Levite looked to in order to find hope.
Six Causes for Spiritual Depression
In his exposition on Psalm 42, James M. Boice designates six causes of spiritual depression. This is not an exhaustive list in these Psalms or in life, but they are real and prevalent among Christians striving for godliness. According to Boice, the Psalmist is in the depth of despair as a result of . . .
- Forced absence from the temple of God, where God was worshiped (42:1-2).
- The taunts of unbelievers (42:3, 10).
- Memories of better days (42:4).
- The overwhelming trials of life (42:7).
- Failure of God to act quickly on our behalf (42:9).
- Attacks from ungodly, deceitful, and wicked persons (43:1).
Add to this list any personal maladies, physical pains, relational strife, and just the stuff of life, and you will find that the concoction in Psalm 42-43 is enough to plunge anyone into the depths of despair. Yet, Psalm 42-43 is not just an example of how a Christian complains. It is an example of how a hurting Christian hopes! Like Abraham and Moses, he reasons from the gospel an exchanges deadly thoughts for thoughts of life and light.
Four Spirit-Powered Acts of Faith
Godly living depends entirely on the grace of God to reach us and sustain us. Unless God takes the first step, we would remain spiritual dead and buried by the avalanche of our own despair. However, for those who have received the light of life and the power of the Holy Spirit who “causes us to walk in God’s statutes,” there is an invitation and indeed an expectation that children of God who have the spirit of adoption prompting them to pray would take ahold of God’s and draw near to the father by faith in order to find grace (cf. 2 Cor 4:6; Ezek 36:26-27; Rom 8:16-17; James 4:8; Heb 4:14-16).
This is exactly what we find in Psalm 42-43. For sake of space and time, we will only focus on Psalm 42:5-11.
- Gospel Logic speaks to your soul; it does not listen (v. 5). The Psalms beckon us to talk to ourselves. Often when we see people talking to themselves, we can think that they are a little crazy. However, Psalms like this one and others (cf. Ps 103) teach us that the crazy ones are those who simply listening to the nagging, complaining, angry voices that ricochet in their heart. God’s word gives us soothing, healing, liberating truths that free us from sin and enable us to run to Christ. Like the Gerasene demoniac, when we listen to God’s words we will find a peace that we previously did not know (Mark 4). Therefore, continue to give ear to God’s word. Learn how to preach the promises–not the law–to yourself! Talk to others who have learned the art of speaking the gospel to themselves, and then go do likewise.
- Gospel Logic inquires of the heart, but is not ensnared by the heart (v. 6). Gospel logic does not tell you “to fake it until you make it.” Rather, it calls us to assess the condition of my heart, but not to be mastered by my heart and the polluted feelings that emit from it. God has given us feelings as a thermometer for the spiritual condition of our inner self. But notice, while the heart takes the temperature of our spiritual condition, it should not set the temperature. God’s word and the Holy Spirit should. Our heart is desperately sick and incapable of giving me a good reading on how I am doing. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:4 that even if “I am not aware of anything against myself, . . . I am not thereby acquitted.” Likewise, John insinuates that at times his heart condemns him, but that God is greater than his heart (1 Jn 3:19-20). Do you see what Paul, John, and the Korahites are saying? Inquire of your heart, but do not become ensnared by it. Look to God’s gospel, and live your life in its liberating light. “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free!” (Gal 5:1; cf. John 8:32).
- Gospel Logic dwells on God’s whereabouts, not yours (v. 6-10). Too often, we let external circumstances determine our demeanor, our decisions, and the level of our despair. Psalm 42-43 does the opposite. In a land far from God’s dwelling place, it remembers the goodness of the Lord in the dwelling of his temple, and it hopes again that a day of return is coming. While the devil and his minions taunt us, our hope is not found in our conditions, but in our Christ. And as Romans 8:32 promises, there is nothing that God will not give to those for whom Christ died. Take heart. Look to back to the cross. Look ahead to the new creation. Stop looking around to judge your feelings. Look up (Ps 121)! Look ahead. Those who endure with Christ, will be received in Christ!
- Gospel Logic repeats the promises of God until truth conquers fear (v. 11). We are always tempted to quit. We read God’s word for a day or maybe two and we can expect immediate change. However, it doesn’t usually work that way. God’s word often works in slower, more imperceptible ways. It works the way a healthy diet cleanses the blood and strengthens the heart. It renews the mind over time, rarely does the onset of Bible reading function like a blood transfusion or a heart transplant. Thus, keep reading! Keep memorizing! Keep listening to sermons! Don’t give up. God never abandons his word and he never abandons those who seek him in the regular reading of his word.
Let these encouragements press you back to the Bible, and from the Bible back to the Lord. Too many times I encounter “good Christians” whose lives are in shambles because they are wallowing in the mire, instead of lifting their Bibles and trusting the words God has given them. They know the key, but they fail to apply it to the lockers of their heart. Yet, I believe if they would only take up God’s word and read they would find the solace and strength that they so desire.
Friend, let us plunge ourselves into the living water of God’s word and find how satisfying his word truly is. As Psalm 119:25 urges, “My soul clings to dust; give me life according to your word!”
Soli Deo Gloria, dss