Author: Meriana DuBose
In the classic 1970s Tootsie Pop commercial, a little boy asks Mr. Owl, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” The Owl takes the pop and says, “Lets find out … one lick, two licks, three licks … *crunch* - Three.” And with that, the little boy has gained his answer and lost his Tootsie Pop!
Reading the first two verses of Psalm 43 is a similar process of peeling back the layers of complaints to get to the true center of the issue. We first have a quick list of difficult circumstances: one lick- “ungodly people,” two licks- “deceitful men,” three licks- “unjust men” (vs 1) … then, the *crunch*- rejection from God. (vs 2)
Here is the center of the psalmist’s cry and the true source of his desperation, “For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me?” Too often, when our circumstances are difficult, or we are in a season of suffering, we assume that God has left us. The darkness of our trials can blind our hearts to the truth of God’s ever-present nearness. This feeling of isolation and abandonment is more crushing than our trial. But rather than continue praying for the resolution of his problems or the defeat of his enemies, the psalmist pleads for the presence of God himself.
This is a wonderful example for all Christians of how to pray when burdened. Let’s look more closely. “Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me.” (vs 3a) When we allow our hearts and minds to be led by despair, we can lose sight not only of the truth but also of a right view of who God is. The psalmist feels like God has rejected him. Conversely, being led by light and truth guides his steps closer to God - directly into His dwelling! (vs 3b) Being led by truth illuminates our God’s true character:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18
“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
God never forsakes or forgets His own. Not only is He near to us, but He invites us to come into the most intimate space. The psalmist describes three places, His “holy hill,” His “dwelling” (vs 3), and His “altar.” (vs 4) When he meets God there, it is with exceeding joy and praise. He is once again in right view and intimate relationship with the Lord, even calling Him “my God.” (vs 4) This is quite a contrast to the mourning and rejection felt in vs 2! Abiding in God, being welcomed into His presence, and having full assurance of His acceptance forever can only lead to one thing for the suffering psalmist--hope. (vs 5b)
For the new-covenant Christian, our hope is unshakeable thanks to the finished work of Christ. Why do we never need to fear rejection? Because Christ was rejected, we are accepted. (Matthew 27:46) Why are we invited into God’s dwelling? Because the curtain has been torn in two and we can boldly approach the Throne of Grace thanks to our perfect High Priest. (Hebrews 4:14-16) Why are we able to come to God’s altar with praise rather than sacrifice? Because the spotless Lamb fully satisfied the wrath of God forever. (John 1:29, Hebrews 13:15) We know that trials and suffering will be a constant part of life. However, we can pray for God to “send out His light and truth” to be led by them daily. We can be assured that regardless of whatever difficult circumstance is occurring, when we get to the very center of it all, Immanuel is with us and He will never forsake us. “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God.” (vs 5)