The experience of faith in the psalms (Part 4: Faith can be in contrast with your feelings)

Theme: /
Thema:
Faith can be in contrast with your feelings
Text: /
Tekst:
[point 1:] Psalm 42: 5
[point 2:] Psalm 42: 11
[point 3:] Psalm 43: 5
Textpart(s) to read: /
Tekstgedeelte(n)
Psalm 42: 1-5
Psalm 42: 6-11
Psalm 43
By: /
Door:
Rev. H. Drost (minister reformed church -liberated- at Houten)
Ds. H. Drost (predikant gereformeerde kerk vrijgem. Houten)
Translated by:

Original translation by G. Groenewold.
Editors: Cor Hoff (CanRC) and Renee Mulder (FRCA)
Original Dutch version:
Ps042v05 - Het geloof spreekt tegen je gevoel in

Delivered at: /
Gehouden te:

Delft on the 30th of April 2000
Originally delivered in Dutch at Haren (1999)

Remark RJCV: /
Opmerking RJCV

The parts of the sermonseries about The experience of faith in the psalms can be read seperately. The translation of the sermonseries consists of:
4: Ps042v05 - Faith speaks against your feelings
6: Ps052v10 - David is certain in God forever

The other parts (in Dutch) may be found by selecting Dutch for sermon language in the search window.

Extra:

- Introduction to the sermonseries: The experience of faith in the psalms.
- Prayer

Suggestions for the Order of Worship / Aanwijzingen voor de Liturgie

  1. Votum and Salutation
  2. (Morning service: Singing: Ps. 42: 1-2)
    (Morning service: Reading of the law)
    (Morning service: Singing: Ps. 51: 3)
    (Afternoon service: Ps. 63: 1)
  3. Prayer
  4. Reading: Psalm 42: 1-5
    Text: Psalm 42: 5
    Sermon (point 1)
    Singing: Ps. 42: 1-3
  5. Reading: Psalm 42: 6-11
    Text: Psalm 42: 11
    Sermon (point 2)
    Singing: Ps. 42: 4-7
  6. Reading: Psalm 43
    Text: Psalm 43: 5
    Sermon (point 3)
  7. Singing: Ps. 43: 1-5
  8. (Afternoon service: Confession of faith)
  9. Prayer
  10. Offertory
  11. Singing: Ps. 63: 2
  12. Benediction

Beloved Congregation in Christ

May I ask you a question? It is a question that may be posed by the elders of your church when they conduct their regular home visit. This is what they may ask you: "Are you growing in faith?" These days, the matter of growth in faith is discussed frequently. I imagine that you will answer the question by asking another question: "What does growing in faith mean? What is understood by this 'growth'?

Often we think growing in faith has everything to do with strong feelings. You only grow in your faith when you become more enthusiastic, happier, and when you emanate more gladness...

It is true that faith creates emotions. In your relationship with the LORD, there are emotions. The Canons of Dort (Chapter I, Art. 12) mention some of the unfailing fruits of faith to be "a godly sorrow for sins, and a hunger and thirst for righteousness", as pointed out in God's Word. Fruits of faith are emotionally charged conceptions, which create emotions. This means that growth in faith is also a growth in sensitivity. But: it is dangerous to see growth in faith only as a matter of feelings. For then you run the risk that you float on your emotions. Feelings are a bad compass. You can especially notice that when you get into a nasty situation. When you are really in trouble, it will give you all kinds of bad feelings. Then emotions such as despair, anger, or bitterness can become dominant. But does this mean that you have lost your faith? That is not necessarily so, for faith is more and knows more than what you feel or experience. Faith starts with God's promises. From this starting point, faith sometimes contradicts experience and rises above your feelings. Growing in faith -someone wrote- is this: "the faithful person learns to live from his faith rather than from his feelings". This means that you continually learn to live a life led by God and his Word. We can hear this in the refrain of both, Psalm 42-43. Here faith speaks in contrast to our feelings: "Why are you cast down, o my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?"

The theme of the sermon is:

Faith can be in contrast with your feelings.

Faith does this by

  1. Looking backward on the past (Psalm 42: 5)
  2. Looking upward from the present (Psalm 42: 11)
  3. Looking forward to the future (Psalm 43: 5)

Faith can be in contrast with your feelings. Faith does this by

1. Looking backward on the past

Let's read Psalm 42: 2-5. [ Reading: Psalm 42: 2-5 ]
[ Text: Psalm 42: 5: "Why are you cast down, o my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance." ]

In the north of Israel, high up in the mountains of Hermon, in the land of the Jordan, we find a Levite. He is from the family of the sons of Korah.

We know from the Bible that it was the task of the Levites to guard the temple, the house of God. Today, we would call them security guards.
In addition to their task of guarding, they had also been given the duty to sing to the honor of God. They sang in choirs consisting of only men. The LORD was "the God of their exceeding joy" (Psalm 43). While they sang, this choir was accompanied by lyres. It was their task to guard, and to sing in, God's house in Jerusalem. That was their life's calling!

But what is this Levite doing here in the mountains, so far from Jerusalem, hundreds of miles away? Did he not have to work in God's house? Yes, his place belongs in the temple. That exactly is his problem, described in this Psalm. In total grief, he yearns for his return to the temple. From the mountains of Hermon, he looks with eager longing in the direction of Jerusalem, where God's house is located.

Like the deer, standing a few slopes higher up in the mountains, and, who in the heat of this oriental country, yearns for water, so also this Levite is yearning for God's house in Jerusalem. The deer yearns for water, its head high in the wind to smell where the water may be found. In the same way, the Levite is thirsty with desire for God and His house. The problem is that he is far away from God and his work, which was his joy. He is a stranger in exile.

At this moment, far away from God, there is nothing that can make him happy, except a memory, the memory of time past. There, while high up in the mountains, he closes his eyes for a moment, and he hears the music again. And he remembers the past, how the people from the whole country would come to God's house. He recalls his happiness when he was part of the choir, singing and leading the people to God's house. The trumpets would sound, and the lyres would play, and he would be singing along with his brothers: 'your altars, oh my LORD and my God'. And again he closes his eyes for a moment and in his sadness he recalls how 'I used to have a joyful heart when I would go up to God's house, leading the procession, to go to my God and my King''.


These memories make him feel a bit better, so much so that in verse 5 he tells himself not to pay such a lot of attention to this sad situation. "Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?'' You can imagine how that feels when your soul is downcast. You're feeling low, you're down in the dumps. You walk bent over, slouching your shoulders, you show how you feel. You feel weighed down by the situation you find yourself in. You are full of sad feelings.

But faith is in contrast with such feelings. Because the life of faith does not make you live only in the present. There is also the memory of God's work in the past, of God's house. There is more to speak about and consider than what you are experiencing here and now.

We see this happen in our text: "Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me?" When someone starts talking in this manner, he is on the right track. He is no longer dragged down by his feelings. Inwardly, he will still be troubled, for his soul is disturbed. In modern words: you feel stressed. But if you can distance yourself from those feelings, you are on the right track. Then you can say to yourself: "Why are you cast down, O my soul? Why are you disquieted within me?'' (verse 5). There is more to life than the present with its bad feelings: there is also the memory of God's work.

Believing is remembering, it is thinking back on the things God has done, looking back on the past. You remember His deeds of salvation. What did He do to save his people from Egypt? Did He have sacrifice his Son on the cross for no reason at all? That would be outrageous! Congregation, think of what Paul wrote: "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?'' (Romans 8: 32). Would He, who wanted to give me so much, let go of me?

Believing is remembering, and faith is fed by remembering. That is why preaching is so important, for through the preaching we keep God's work in mind. That is the reason why we cannot speak enough about His deeds from the past to our boys and girls. In this way they learn to know God in this world, a world in which He is ignored.

How much time do you spend remembering God's deeds? How do you work with the preaching? Do you explain to your children what God did for them in Christ? Only if you know God's deeds, congregation, if you know all that God did and does, can you speak the language of faith: "Hope in God."


And so: faith speaks to you, in contrast to your feelings.

Let us now sing Ps. 42: 1-3. [ Congregational singing: Ps. 42: 1-3 ]

Faith looks back on the past. By remembering the things of the past, your faith is revived.

In the second place,

2. Faith does this by looking upward from the present

Let's read Psalm 42: 6-11. [ Reading: Psalm 42: 6-11 ]
[ Text: Psalm 42: 11: "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." ]

In the second part of the Psalm, the poet says that, in his sadness, he remembers God. This even leads to a song in the night.

"Where is your God?" the pagans around him say, 'just where is He?' (Verse 10). They seem to be vindicated: what is the use of such a faith; why believe in a God who does not help? He loses face with his faith. "Where is God?" (Verse 10). This question again touches him deeply: did God forget him? Did He let go of him? The God of the past, is He really here in the present?

In Austria in the year 1624 many Lutheran preachers and their families fled the country via boats on the Danube River. Because the Roman Catholic Church had regained power in the country, the Lutheran preachers had to flee. Indeed they had to flee, but what hurt most was the scorn.
From the riverbanks of the Danube, most of the people would scoff: "where is your mighty fortress?" They had often heard the Lutherans sing it: "A mighty fortress is our God". Well then, where was He now?

Now let's go back to today. Perhaps you are ill or you may have problems. Things just don't work out for you. And here you are with your faith. 'Do you still believe in God?' someone will ask. 'Don't you see now that this faith does not even help you? God has forgotten about you!'

In Psalm 42 also we hear the complaint go to heaven that God forgets people: "Why have You forgotten me?" But as soon as you say that in your prayer, things change. For praying is going to God; you look up from the present. That does something for you because praying changes you. We see that also in this Psalm. In the same verse 9 where he utters his complaint, we also read how at the same time he calls God his "Rock". Yes, "my Rock". We can rely on him.

Now that is real evidence of faith. When you are scorned because of your faith, it feels as if God is not there and does nothing. Yes, but faith has more to say than just what you feel, for it has seen and heard more.
Faith for instance was there at Calvary. That is the place where Christ was deserted by God and people. That is the place where everything was against him. And the scorn was there: "He trusted in God; let God deliver him now" (Matthew 27: 43). But nothing happened, except that darkness flooded over him. And he shouted in anguish: "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" And faith gives us this moving answer: "It was for me that God forsook you, Lord Jesus, so that I don't have to be as lonely now as You were then." Faith was there at the cross.

Now this faith comes and comforts you: "Why are you cast down oh my soul, why are you disquieted within me?" Then faith comes and comforts us with the terrifying scream, which Christ uttered on the cross and says: "I am sure that I will never be forsaken: I myself have heard it from his mouth!"


That changes the situation, and you hear a different language: "Put your hope in God, ...my Savior and my God". The poet is speaking to himself. He literally says that the LORD is the "Savior of my face", which means: He will save me, and then I will be able to look people in the eye again. God will once again let me face the world, with my head lifted up.

Congregation, to what do you pay the most attention? What people say about your God, or what God says about Himself? If you listen to what people say, you will lose your faith in the end. But if you faithfully take your Bible, you hear God's voice that says to you: don't listen to them, no matter what happens in your life. I will never leave you, nor forsake you. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews continues with: "So we may say with confidence: The Lord is my helper, I will not fear. What can man do to me?" (Hebrews 13: 5-6). With this confidence, you will look the mockers straight in the face.
This was the second part of this sermon. [ Congregational singing: Ps. 42: 4-7 ]
And so we see that faith testifies against our sentiments by looking back on the past, looking upward because of the present and

3. Looking forward to the future

In our faith we often stumble; we fall down but we also rise up again. In faith we look and search so that we may be fully assured of the comfort of our faith. There may be times that you lose it all. One moment you have everything, the next moment nothing. After such a struggle comes victory. Yes, and then it starts all over again for we are not there yet. That becomes clear when we see the similarity between Psalms 42 and 43.
Let's read Psalm 43. [ Reading: Psalm 43 ]
Our text appears three times in these two Psalms.
[ Text: Psalm 43: 5: "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." ]

Faith must be activated, time and again. Faith has to quote God, every time. And from God, salvation will come. God will not remain in the distance; He will take action. Faith is so strong that the poet now already says that he will respond to God's work of salvation with the words: "for I shall yet praise Him".
'Not here in the mountains, but later on when I am back in Jerusalem, God will do it for me. Then I will again lead the people to God's house in a dense throng. Then all these people will be reunited in God's city. Then the trumpets will sound, my colleagues will sing, and we will cross the court to the altar to thank and glorify Him.' That is praise that recognises God's work.
That is the salvation I will then enjoy, yes,


"Then at Thy sacred altar bending,
my heart to God in prayer I'll raise.
With harp and voice, in worship blending,
Thy courts resound; while psalms, ascending
to God my highest joy, bring praise
for all His wondrous ways."

This truly is the language of faith. Faith sees God ... in the past. It clutches at God... in the present. And accordingly we see the prospect the future holds for us. He will intervene for us and He will save us. For after all, Christ did not stay on the cross, did He? Rather, He rose from the grave. Because of Him, a whole new world opens up for us who believe in Him. He who now lives, comforts and assures us with His words which we find in John 14: 1-3:

"Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.
In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.
I go to prepare a place for you.
And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also."

"I will come again." Until the time that He comes again, the struggle for the experience of God's presence remains. That is the struggle in Psalms 42 and 43. But in that struggle, in longing, we keep on hoping. We are not home yet; but we are on the way home!

"As the deer, about to falter in it's trembling agony,
Longs for flowing streams of water,
So O God, I long for You"

Congregation, do you know this hope, this longing to be with your God? The question is: do you know God? Are you looking forward to this great day of salvation or are you despondent? Are you no longer really looking forward to this salvation? In other words: did you lose God a little bit? Don't you know Him anymore?

Whoever knows God, knows that there is a lot that still needs to happen. Whoever believes in Him is on his way to the full longing in fervent hope. When we are home with Him, we will not have to sing Psalms 42 and 43 anymore. Then the deer will have found water, forever, in God's river, "clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb." (Revelation 22: 1).

Only there we will experience God's nearness and presence in full.

"On the harp I will praise You, O God, my God."

Amen.

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