Hope for the Restless
Well, good morning church family. It’s good to be with you online today. Glad to see you making comments online. I was watching before I jumped up here just to see everyone joining on and encouraged by that. I’m happy to share with you today.
This is going to be the last message that we’re going to go through together on our series on Revive from the book of Psalms. And we’re going to look at Psalm 42 in particular. So if you want to open your Bibles to Psalm 42, we’ll get to that in just a moment. But one of the things I want to let you know is how much I’ve appreciated just this series together. Before we started into the series called Revive, we had no idea what would be happening in our country and around the world. And it was just a fitting series for us to jump into together.
And so next week we’ll start into our Easter section. But as we get to the tail end of our Psalm series, one of the things that I love about Psalms and I hope that you’ve appreciated with me together, is the beauty of the worship that takes place in this book. When you think about the significance of the book of Psalms, what marks it as unique from all the other books of scripture is that it takes a where man is in connection to who God is and it shows us how to relate the idea of God in theology to how we live our lives day to day. And the circumstances that we face. It takes what we say is orthodoxy and turns it into orthopraxy, how we live in our circumstances in connecting to God and worship.
And together we’ve looked at a handful of Psalms, we’ve looked at Psalm 33 in joy. We’ve looked at Psalm 55 in fear. We’ve looked at 25 and abandonment, chapter 62 in uncertainty, and chapter one 36 in gratitude. And today out of all of the Psalms we’ve looked at together, I’ve saved for myself the best for last. My favorite out of this series is Psalm 42 and that’s what we’re going to discuss today.
You know, the irony of this psalm is really seen in the author the authorship of this psalm. Because the author in Psalm 42 is answering for us this question. It’s a question regarding the restless soul. And in verse five he highlights this question but he doesn’t end it here. He repeats the same question, he does it again in verse six, only he makes it as a statement in verse six. He asks it as a question again in verse 11 and then he mentions it again in chapter 43:5. And so most theologians will say that chapter 42 of Psalms and chapter 43 of Psalms used to be one Psalm broken into two but today we’re just going to look at Psalm 42.
And he asks the question for the restless soul, which is this verse five. Why are you in despair, oh my soul. And why have you become disturbed within me? That word disturbed is a word for restlessness. And so when we approach Psalm 42 what the author is answering for us is what do you do with the restless soul? How do you worship with the restless soul? And the beauty of this Psalm is that it’s led by the sons of Korah. And if you study biblically, who Korah was. In the Exodus, when Moses was leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, as they were going through the wilderness and wandering through the wilderness, one named Korah, a religious leader of the priesthood, he led a rebellion against Moses. And God judged him. He judged Korah, he judged 250 other people, but he allowed Korah’s children to live. And Cora’s children become the very ones that write songs of gratitude and sing the songs of praise in the temple.
And so the irony of this story is to see out of the midst of tragedy, hardship, and rebellion, God restores and redeems and brings something beautiful. And when I think about our circumstance, how great it is that individuals that went through hardship are writing this psalm. But how applicable it comes for our lives. That this question they would pose in verse five, why are you in despair, oh my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me?
Have you ever been there? Maybe asking the same question in your life? It’s been said about Americans and really about people throughout the world that it’s common for us to deal with a low lying state of depression. We can’t even sometimes put our thumb onto where it’s originating from, but we know it persists. And how do you deal with it? I think about our country we most of all have many luxuries. Yet our soul oftentimes feels empty. What do you do? Romans 8 really connects us to that thought in verse 22 and verse 23 it says this, for we know that the whole of creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. What it’s saying is the struggle in life, maybe even the feelings of depression, it’s normal. It’s a state of humanity because all of creation groans and even within us that we experienced this groaning. And so what do we do when our soul feels restless?
I mean even in these moments, if you think about today, it used to be just a few weeks ago, if you heard a gunshot in public, then you panic and ran. But today you hear a cough in public and you run. What do you do when your soul feels restless? What do you want in moments of restlessness? Maybe even most particularly in these moments globally, what do you want in this moment of restlessness? Do you want God to show up and end things and just return them back to normal? God put an end into this virus. Let’s get back to normal. Is that your goal?
What if God’s goal isn’t for things to necessarily go back to normal? Have you considered that? What if God wants more than simply for things to go back to normal? We think about our state of restlessness and I think sometimes we approach it as we just want the thing that created the restlessness to go away. What if that’s not what God desires? What if God wants more than things to go back to normal? What if he wants something to be different or maybe even possible? What if God wants things to be greater?
You know, I’ve heard people talk about the silver lining to this pandemic. If there is a silver lining, I don’t think anybody wants a pandemic, but some of the silver linings I’ve heard people find is that they’re more sensitive to the things of God. God’s used this to open their eyes. Maybe they’re praying more. Or maybe they’re valuing community more. And when you think about those things, what happens after those things pass? We returned back to normal. Where do those values go?
Maybe perhaps the better question, rather than asking us what do you want in moments of restless? Maybe the better question is for us to ask, what does God want in moments of restlessness? What if it’s possible not to return to normal, but to come back bigger, stronger and greater in the Lord? How could we dream in a way that focuses just beyond getting back to the status quo? Because when you think about an answer, you know in a place of restlessness, I just want things to get back to normal.
Oftentimes that statement comes from a very me-centric focus, right? I don’t like this. This isn’t the way that I want to. I just want to get it back to the way that was so I can continue to do what I want to do. God do that. And we use God like a tool to get what we want because what we’re ultimately interested in is very me-centric. It’s all about I. What if God wants more? What if he not only wants peace, but he also wants to make you a more powerful warrior he uses and refines in these moments to help you become a greater servant for his kingdom? What does that look like?
Now, certainly when you think about challenges in our lives, the beauty of a challenge, if we could find one, is that it wakens our lives to something greater. To seek something more that satisfies the soul. That’s where we’re at in Psalm 42:5. That’s what the authors is driving towards. In the midst of hardship, we realize that there’s got to be more than this. God created us this way, too long for more. Ecclesiastes talks about God has written eternity in our hearts that that when we look at death in the face, that our soul grieves in those moments because we’re creatures created for life and life is found in God.
And so the idea of adversity helps us to recognize this. There’s the challenge to the restless soul and the Psalmist dives into those places. How did he get to this place of restlessness? Well, in verse three and on, he starts to pepper this song with the expressions of what brought him to this place of restlessness as he’s seeking God’s face. And in verse three he says this, that he is being threatened, mocked, or attacked, any of those phrases.
But in these moments he’s feeling the pressure by outside sources. Threatened, attacked or mocked. And verse three, my tears have been my food day and night. While they say to me all day long, where is your God? So you seen a mocking him. Where is your God in this? They’re asking him. And in a verse nine I will say to God, my rock, why have you forgotten me? Not that God has left the Psalmist, but he certainly feels isolated this way. And he goes on to says in verse nine why do I go mourning? Because of the oppression of the enemy? And versed 10, as a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me. God, in these moments, he is seeking his face because of these circumstances, right?
He’s being threatened, attacked, mocked. His soul was restless. Not only that, in verse four and verse six he speaks about this feeling of being distant relationally, right? He talks in terms of his relationship with God. But listen what he says in verse four, these things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with the voice of joy and Thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival. So what he was remembering in his day that he went to the temple and he would lead the procession. I mean the sons of Korah led the praise in the temple. And so he’s recalling in his mind these moments of seeking after God in the temple.
Now, here’s the beauty for us today, is that we no longer need to go to that location. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 3:16 and in 6:19 that it’s not about the building anymore. That we become the temple of God, that God’s presence dwells within us. But in Israel’s day, the place where God’s presence dwelled was in a building until Jesus’ sacrifice. And so they would see this building as a place of connecting to God, and he would remember this connection with such rejoicing. And yet in these moments, what he’s acknowledging as he feels distant. And so in verse six he goes on and says, Oh my God, my soul is in despair within me. Therefore, I remember you from the land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon from Mount Mazhar.
And so what the Psalmist is saying here is for whatever reason, in this circumstance, he’s been taken away from his homeland. And he’s now East of the Jordan. And he sort of ascends this high area, and he looks back to his homeland. And off the distance, perhaps the last place that he could stand and see this, he sees the mountains from where he’s from. And he longs to be there with God’s chosen people with God’s presence. He wants to meet with God. And so you see this adversity that he’s going through, this restless of his soul. He feels threatened and he feels disconnected relationally from God. And really the people he used to worship with.
What do you do when you feel restless? This isn’t a hard place to relate to, is it? I mean you’re living much the same way. Threatened, distant relationally. It’s like you’re a part of the 13th district of the Hunger Games, right? A piece of me wants to walk around every once in a while and just do like this. But when you think about this psalm, this is exactly what he’s expressing. This need for belonging, connecting. And yet he’s threatened, hunkered down, isolated. And circumstances have a way of pointing out our greater need for a greater hope. So what’s the solution for the restless soul?
Let me tell you. Good theology makes good therapy in moments like this. And this is why the Psalmist has written the psalm, for us to see the solution for the restless soul. And the way that he starts this psalm is beginning to help us understand how we connect when there is this uneasiness within us. And then Psalm 42:1-2, he does this in such a poetic way. This is perhaps, one of the most popular verses in Psalms, or certainly in the top of popular verses in Psalms because of how artistic it is written. And you can connect with it very easily. But the first point that he makes in this Psalm is seek God as the source that satisfies your soul.
Listen to this. As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, oh God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before him? You see this beautiful picture of this deer that’s longing for water. And what he recognizes for us. You know, when you think about a deer, a deer needs very few things in life. But one thing a deer does need is it needs water. And just as he recognizes the deer’s need for water, for sustenance and sustaining life, he also draws that into correlation for your own soul.
And we strongly need God as much as a deer needs water. And one of the things I think we find so refreshing about this Psalm is that while the deer longs for this, the way that it looks towards God in this moment is that he is the one that can satisfy. I think about all the restlessness of our soul. What makes this Psalm so beautiful for us is that it is acknowledging that God is in control. And one of the best things in the midst of his sovereign control, God’s not worried. God doesn’t worry. In fact, if God were to start worrying, then we could probably hit the panic button. Like if God catches Corona, we’ve got problems.
But what makes the peace of this psalm so pertinent for our soul is that in the presence of God, there is no worry there. He’s in control. When you think about the desperation that’s expressed in this Psalm, but the fulfillment of satisfaction that is in God, it becomes a beautiful place. Just as the deer who doesn’t need much for life needs water. So you’re created in the same way, but rather than water, which you do need, but more than that, it’s God.
What is your goal in seeking God? Is it just for things to return to normal? Can I tell you if that’s your goal, you’re never going to experience God to the degree that this Psalm communicates. Because what this Psalm is saying in these first two verses isn’t simply seeking God just because things aren’t the way you want it. It’s about seeking God and recognition that you need him for everything and the season doesn’t matter.
Because if you just simply seek God simply because you want things to return back to normal, the moment things returned back to normal, what do you do with God? You throw him in the junk drawer like a tool until the next problem pops up. But that’s not the point of the psalm. That’s not the point of this verse. It’s to get us to recognize the beauty of problems is that it helps us to realize how much we do need God. But it’s not to walk blindly after that need is met to to say to ourselves that your soul doesn’t have need anymore.
That the place your soul was created is to rest in him continually in every circumstance. Not just when things returned to normal or when things are abnormal I should say. Jesus even taught us this in the sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:31-33. In this portion of a sermon he’s talking to people that are worriers. And you know, I love how the sermon on the Mount starts. Because it’s really an awkward beginning where these masses are following Jesus. It tells us he goes up on a hill in chapter 5:1 and his disciples come to him, the 12. His disciples come to him. And Jesus sits down like he’s just talking to the 12 and then he starts the sermon on the Mount. The sermon on the Mount is not Jesus preaching to this big crowd. It’s Jesus going in the middle of a crowd. He sits down with just 12 people and he starts talking to 12 people and then everyone else just starts to listen.
But when he’s talking to the 12 people in Matthew 6:31, where Jesus goes is this idea of worry. And he says, do not worry then saying, what will we eat or what will we drink? Or what will we wear for clothing. For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things. For your heavenly father knows that you need all these things. But rather this seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all of these things will be added unto you.
What is Jesus saying? Worry and stress. Sometimes we treat God like he’s nothing more than a tool. I’ll talk to you if I need you, and after that we’re done. What Jesus is saying in this passage in verse 33 is look, God wants to transcend all of that. To become the focus of your life. And so when you get to the place of struggle or stress, you’ve been consistently walking with the one who sustains it all. Number two, Psalm 42:7-8, number one we said, seek God is the source that satisfies your soul. That’s the solution for the rest of the soul. Number two, in verse seven and eight, is this: rest in a hope that transcends the circumstance. Rest in a hope that transcends the circumstances.
Listen to what he says in verse seven. Deep calls to deep at the sound of your waterfalls. All your breakers and your waves have rolled over me. Verse eight. The Lord will command his loving kindness in the daytime and his song will be with me in the night. A prayer to God, the God of my life. So here’s what the Psalmist is saying. The troubles of life, it comes like waves in the waterfall. Every season will have another challenge, but God is constant. His lovingkindness is with us throughout the day and his song stays with us throughout the night.
But the Psalmist is helping us to recognize is if your spiritual life is based on the circumstance, you’re going to have an unhealthy spiritual life. It’s going to go up and down constantly like a yoyo. But what he recognizes in this, in this relationship with God, that the thing that remains constant where he puts his hope, transcends the circumstance. His hope is not based on the moment but in the one who is beyond the moment, which is God.
Let’s say spiritual life is just simply about seeking after God when circumstances arise that you don’t like. God does away with the circumstance. But we recognize within a few minutes or maybe a few days you’re going to be in another circumstance. Life is full of them. Everyday has them, small or great. And what we need more than anything is a hope that rest beyond all of it.
You think about the way God has structured life for us, it’s as if God has structured life in a way that when we get to a place of being comfortable in routine, God changes routine so that we learn to trust him more in the new season. You graduate. You go to college, you get a career, you get married, have kids, become grandparents, retire. Life is full of big seasons, small seasons. But those seasons are always changing. About the time you get comfortable with your season changes and it brings you to a place of needing to seek after God again to learn a new wisdom and how to navigate the path in life.
And so what the Psalmist is saying for us that while life and deep calling out the deep waterfalls crash over us and the in the moments of life, there is one who transcends it all. And his loving kindness is there with us in the daytime and in the night. And so he saying to us rest in a hope that transcends the circumstance.
One of my favorite heroes in the Christian faith is Charles Spurgeon. And one of the things, I actually don’t really care much for Charles Spurgeon’s messages. I think he’s a very poetic speaker. I think he attracted large crowds. The thing that I love most about Charles Spurgeon isn’t what he said, but rather how he lived. Charles Spurgeon was a man that struggled with depression and had deep battles in depression, but he had a hope that transcend.
I think because of that, because of his transparency as a person who struggled, it attracted people because they wanted to discover hope. And so when you think about what the Psalmist is saying, rest in a hope that transcends the circumstance. I think what’s very important for us to know is that this hope is personal. It’s not just an idea. It’s a God who wants to make himself known in your life. And one of the things I want to point out to you that just highlights this is in verse eight it says, the Lord will command his lovingkindness. And this word Lord is unique to the rest of the psalm. Because when the Psalmist is describing God, he uses this generic word Elohim.
And Elohim is so generic it can be used for many different purposes. It can be just be used as an illustration towards a governmental leader, someone in an authoritative position. They’re an Elohim. They are a ruler of some sort. It’s a very generic word. But what the Psalmist says when he gets personal with God is when he starts talking about his love. He uses this word Lord, which is Yahweh. A very personal word for Israel, a word that they wouldn’t even utter, because they considered it so sacred.
But it’s also a word that expresses itself historically for them. When a Jewish person would use this word, their mind should connect back to Exodus 3. A time when Moses had to run away from Egypt because he had killed one of the Pharaoh’s soldiers. And Moses runs and he hides and he’s distant. He’s isolated. But then God comes near, he becomes personal, and he reveals his name to Moses and he says, my name is Yahweh. I am that I am. Or where some translations will say Yehovah. Yehovah and Yahweh are the same word.
And so what he’s saying in the Psalm is that God is personal. So the question for you is, where is your burning bush moment, right? The place God shows up for your panting soul. As the deer pants for the water, so your soul yearns for God. Do you know where that moment is for us? Where God becomes personal? It’s the cross. God took on flesh at the cross so that you could have a hope that transcends circumstances that your relationship with God would become personal. That’s why when Jesus hung on the cross, he said tetelestai, paid in full. And the veil was torn to the temple, showing that the spirit of God no longer dwells in the temple but now rather dwells in this people so that you could have that connection to God for which you were created to belong.
The cross becomes the place where we meet God face to face, where we connect to him relationally. When you get to heaven, if you get to heaven, let me just say this, the only way to heaven, it’s through that cross.
You want to hope that transcends the circumstance? Seek God who became flesh for you and gave his life for you on the cross as he paid for your sins. That Jesus handled it all. Jesus took it all and Jesus was victorious over all so that you could have him. That’s why the Bible says, whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Jesus, we need rescued. Jesus, we need hope. Jesus, we need forgiveness that transcends.
And where is this? The place that God connects to you? Where he is no longer just Elohim but Yahweh, Lord. And it’s through the cross. He’s already won the victory, but through the cross we get the opportunity to walk with him in the battlefield to see how the victory plays out.
The last is this, the solution for your restless soul, so you seek God as the source, the satisfied and seek him alone as the deer pants. Seek God, number two, wrestling. The hope that transcends your circumstance. His spiritual life is just based on circumstance. It’s going to be all over the place. But if you recognize that there is a God who transcends circumstance because he has defeated all and he is already victorious, then we have a place to rest. And number three in Psalm 42:11, he said this previously in verse five but it reminds us this trust in the Lord’s victory though the battle remains.
He asked the question, right? We’ve seen this. Why are you in despair, oh my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? And here he gives an answer. Hope in God. For I shall yet praise him the help of my countenance and my God. What he’s saying is God’s going to change the expression on our face with the hope that we have in him.
One of the things I love about this Psalm is this Psalm doesn’t resolve the circumstance. And the reason I love this Psalm is because he helps us to recognize that rather God’s going to walk with him through the circumstance. In America, we love our hero stories and we love those stories to have a happy ending and everyone rides off into the sunset. But the reality is you’ve got to play through it. And that’s what the Psalmist is saying in these moments. The reason he doesn’t give a resolve to the circumstance is because he has resolved in the one that transcends it all, that he’s learned in his circumstance, that his hope doesn’t rest in the circumstance. But rather his hope rests in God.
Let me just say it like this, very frankly and practically, if the Corona virus has reminded us of one thing as people, it’s this: control is an illusion. How quickly things can change. You can’t always manipulate the moment, but you can know the one who overcomes it. And the more confident we are in his goodness, the stronger we trust and rest and live. Our downcast mood at times is not the final act of life’s drama. Jesus is. And what the Bible encourages us to see is that we can have hope in him because his love is for us. That’s what the Psalmist said in verse eight. His loving kindness continues towards us.
You know, the Christian life isn’t about making things easy. It’s about making things hopeful. If the Christian life was about making things necessarily easy. Jesus did a horrible job of explaining that to us when he said, take up your cross and follow me. Because the cross wasn’t a pretty picture to use as an illustration, but there was a place of servanthood that’s demonstrated in that statement. Rather, the Christian life is about trusting in the one who has already won the war.
I think and I hope for us as a church that we see that God’s goal for us in any circumstance isn’t necessarily for things to be normal or to go back to normal. I don’t think it’s wrong to want things to change, but I think it’s also important to see that God’s goal is much bigger than that. That God is more than capable of taking times of restlessness to show us how he is calling us into something greater.
And that it’s even possible in these moments to come out of this not just seeing things restored, but to see a church that runs stronger, faster, greater for him. Why? Because we’ve seen him faithful in the moments and we’ve sought after him as his people. And when the circumstance changes and things go back to maybe the way they were in some way that we don’t lose hold of what Psalm 42 says. That we didn’t simply seek after God just because we wanted something from him, but rather we seek after God because we want him. As the deer pants for the water, so my soul longs for the living God.