“Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. …” (Ephesians 5:19).
“Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God” (Psalm 43:5).
Part of being a believer means that we have things to say. Who are we to talk to? Well, there’s God, of course. We should be talking to Him as much as possible. We are told to pray without ceasing after all (1 Thessalonians 5:19). There are other people to talk to — for we are not alone in this world. Not only that, we should learn how to talk to ourselves.
The book of Psalms helps us greatly in all of these areas – especially in talking to God and in talking to our self.
This collection of poetry provides writings that are to be said and to be sung. Eugene Peterson liked to refer to Psalms as “tools” that we take up to tend to our hearts and minds.
There’s form in these passages. As people, we need rhythm, a sense of pace and pattern. We also need rhyme. It is not that we have to have sound-alike syllables to recite — roses are red, violets are blue, etc. Rather the “rhymes” that Hebrew poetry provide give shape and order in terms of concept, thought, and instruction through contrasts, comparisons, and emotion.
These writings serve us in our reality. We can speak on earth of things as they are in Heaven, for that is where these thoughts come from.
We are frail beings operating in a fallen world that is energized and charged with cosmic interference. The prince and power of the air agitates the atmosphere about us. He deceives and he lies. Hell stirs the pot. It mixes a strange stew that bubbles and boils as unseen forces do their stuff.
Confusion is the aim of the enemy. Turbulence brings turmoil and disquiet. And the Psalms are given so that we might frame those emotions and direct our thoughts and voices toward the Lord.
I think we do much of our own talking in the wrong way. One preacher put it this way: We talk too much from ourselves and not enough to ourselves.
The Sweet Psalmist’s Words
The sweet psalmist of the Bible was King David. It was he who gave us so many phrases of hope and lament, of praise and of distress. He was a man with a heart after God, but more importantly, he discovered how to address himself.
This makes sense because we know where David came from. Psalm 78 tells us he was a shepherd boy who spent his time watching over animals that were not that clever and vulnerable to predators. He was alone in the wilderness with the flock for hours and hours. He learned that God was with him there.
In those fields, under the stars and in the hot sun, this man cultivated his communication skills. He never feared to tell God about what was going on in his life.
David learned how to speak to Heaven in all manner of circumstances. His fears were addressed in Psalm 27: “… [God] will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble. …” In sickness, he prayed, “I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction. …” (Psalm 31). When his failure was laid bare before him, David went before the Lord and said, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51).
The Psalms that have really been my go-to words are found in Psalms 13, 42, and 43. These have addressed feelings that I have battled most.
These three songs, to me, serve to expose the wrestling that we sense inside of us. Such feelings must be spoken to. Even the apostle Paul experienced the inner struggle with human nature, as we see in Romans 7, where we read of his fight with “the law of sin that dwells in my members” (Romans 7:23).
Hear David as he shouts, “How long, O LORD? Will You forget me forever? How long will you hide Your Face from me?” (Psalm 13:1). That’s what pours forth at first from him in this short song. We can read through the pages of 1 and 2 Samuel, which outline the life of this king for us and match these thoughts to any number of situations in which David found himself.
These feelings of forlornness and despair dissipate rather quickly it seems. David’s got a new outlook on things by the time he’s through: “I will sing to the LORD for He has dealt bountifully with me” (Psalm 13:6).
Spirit and Soul
Psalms 42 and 43 reveal more about the split personalities that exist in us. We are spirit and soul within our bodies. These parts of who we are can be in contention. Paul wrote to Timothy of this in his counsel to the young pastor: “… in meekness instruct those who oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:25). And Psalm 86 includes this supplication: “Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in thy truth: Unite my heart to fear thy name” (Psalm 86:11).
A communion must happen, and only the Word and the Holy Spirit can work this out for us.
Our human spirits have to be submitted to God and allowed to lead us. This aspect of us is called “the candle of the Lord,” according to Proverbs 20:27. The rest of that proverb says that the light of that candle “searches the inward parts of the belly.” That last phrase is a figure of speech employed to represent our soul-ish or carnal natures.
When the flame of God is at work, things are revealed. The light of the Lord exposes the ways of the flesh. This is important to our quality of faith. “For he that sows to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that sows to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting” (Galatians 6:8).In Psalms 42 and 43, we read of how David gains control of himself. He speaks from his spirit to his soul. Disquiet has come to him, but he refuses to let the turmoil rule him. Click To Tweet
In Psalms 42 and 43, we read of how David gains control of himself. He speaks from his spirit to his soul. Disquiet has come to him, but he refuses to let the turmoil rule him.
He’s clear about the tension that is pressing in on him. David lists the troubles surrounding him. He’s thirsty, his heart wants God. He’s overwhelmed. Tears flow as some mock his trust in God. He feels forgotten and dead.
And yet he commands his soul. “Hope you in God,” he says as he talks to himself. He doesn’t forget what he feels — he just pours out those feelings. He remembers and thinks on the house of God and the congregation that celebrates. He considers the praises that are lifted there.
Jonah did just this, while in the stomach of the big fish in the deep. He turned his thoughts to the house of the Lord and praised Him. “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord: and my prayer came in unto Him, into His holy temple” (Jonah 2:7).
“Hope you in God, my soul.” All is well. The Redeemer lives.
Light and truth, David follows their lead. Where is he taken by these thoughts? To the altar of God, where there is exceeding joy. And what else does he find there? His lyre, his stringed instrument that helped him compose his hymns.
That’s right; David wouldn’t let his troubles keep him from picking up his guitar and praising the Lord.
We are in a season where everyone is so quick to speak from themselves, from their wounds and disputes and emptiness. The Psalms show us another way. We can read them out loud and talk to the atmosphere around us.
We can ponder these words and they will be the help for our countenance. Yes, hoping in God and praising His Name can give us a fresh face.
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