Rejection: Psalm 43
Where do you turn when the one you love rejects you? Turn to Jesus–He knows.
Anyone here who has never experienced rejection? How about rejection from someone you trusted, or even loved? A spouse, a parent, a child, a sibling, a best friend, a co-worker, the boss who hired you, the nation where you were born? Jesus is human. Jesus experienced rejection.
Psalm 43 prophetically records Jesus’ feelings of rejection by God his very own Father.
1 Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!
2 For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
3 Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. (Psalm 43:1-5 ESV)
Some see in this poem a song of joy and hope, while others see an extension of the sad strains of Psalm 42. I bundle it with Psalms 42, 22, 13, and others like these.
God’s main focus in all of Scripture is his Son. Jesus said so. “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me,” (John 5:39 ESV). The Old Testament had the job of predicting and setting the stage for the New. Psalms announces the human life of the divine Son. When the psalmist speaks, he prophesies, and the voice he prophesies is the voice of Christ.
Verses 1 and 2 of Psalm 43 indicate that an ungodly nation rejected Jesus and he was oppressed by unjust and deceitful enemies. We previously learned this in Psalm 13. There we see God being very slow to hear the psalmist’s plea for help. Verse 2 of Psalm 43 takes the psalmist one step further. Here he accuses God of rejecting, or spurning, him. This is not quite as strong yet as Psalm 22:1, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” where “forsaken” means left me behind, abandoned me.
We get the picture. Not only did God’s holy, anointed Son receive the blows of his own people, but while they were doing this, God himself rejected, turned away from, and abandoned him. How must Jesus the man have felt? Shouldn’t the Bible, if it is God’s word, predict this? Who would think? Who would expect? The Bible must tell us these things if we are to place our trust in this person hanging naked and dead upon a cross, then buried in the ground.
Jesus’ disciples had lost faith after his crucifixion. They were afraid and confused. They hadn’t yet heard of his resurrection when Jesus anonymously came by two of them on the road and walked with them awhile. Jesus pinpointed their lack of faith, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25 ESV) Then he explained to them what the Old Testament had predicted concerning his death and resurrection, “26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Luke 24:26-27 ESV). Their faith was strengthened. They went running all the way back to where they had just left and shared with the other disciples what they had learned. Prophecy bolsters faith. Knowing this, God included Psalms in Scripture.
Psalms: Poetic Prophecy
Media service providers love to bundle–TV, internet, land lines. Why do some Old Testament scholars deny God that privilege? God bundles. Psalms can be grouped according to themes. This is not news. But God does more than repeat themes and scatter them throughout Psalms. He loves to string psalms like pearls on a single strand.
The major thread running through Psalms is the story of God’s Son, especially what happened to him on the cross. When God foretells a story centuries before its occurrence, the foretelling is called prophecy.
Acts 2:23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (ESV)
25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.
Acts 13:36 For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption,
Why did God prophesy the events of his Son’s life centuries before they occurred? I can think of a few reasons. Perhaps collectively we can think of more:
- to prove the presence of the supernatural
- to provide supernatural credentials for his incarnate (born as a human) Son
- to provide a road map of education and warning for the Son’s journey through human existence
- to prepare a people ready to receive his Son
- to bolster the faith of his Son during a very rocky ride
- to bolster the vision and understanding of the first disciples, the first followers of Christ
- to bolster the faith of the first disciples-turned-missionaries
- to convince all that God is for us, not against us, as we discover that the very human voice of the psalmist is my voice, and your voice, and the voice of people everywhere
God told the events ahead of time, so that we who were to follow could see, understand, and believe.
Why poetry? Why write prophecy as poems? Is there a better media than poetry to convince us “stubborn of heart” people that Christ, God’s chosen and anointed, was and is every bit as human as we are? Poems can be a subjectively accurate display of the heart, feelings, mind, and thoughts of the person speaking them.
God loves people so much that he sent himself in the person of his Son to bring life to us–to raise us from the dead. And with his Son, even before his Son’s arrival, he sent these magnificent poems to display the utter humanity of his Son in a way that an itinerant preacher/healer could not do in real time. Think of Jesus and his disciples so pressed upon by the anxious crowds that they had time neither to eat nor sleep. Think about the thousands of people Jesus healed, the thousands (?) of miles they walked, the hundreds of sermons he preached in three years, the hours and hours of private praying he did. Who would be there to write down his meditations and prayers? God provided. He sent a prophet-poet named David centuries ahead of time to record the thoughts, feelings, and prayers of his yet-to-be-incarnated Son. In this way God foretold the life of his Son.
Who in the culture of that day would have expected that God’s Son, his anointed, the mighty King to be (see Psalms 2 and 110), would live a life of poverty and suffering? Who in their wildest dreams would even dare to imagine that God would reject his Son unto death? Who would possibly dare to claim that the nakedly shamed and beaten Jesus of Nazareth was…Messiah? Impossible! No one but God would think these things. Therefore God predicted in advance through the prophecies of Psalms and other books, such as that written by Isaiah, so that at the right moment, we could recognize the divine Christ in his human form when he came.
In the voice of the suffering psalmist, I hear my own voice. As I do, I realize the fact that God ultimately wrote these words and included them in his book. This tells me that just as God sees the psalmist, God sees me, he sees you, he loves me, and he loves you. And just as the psalmist turned to God through all his trials, cried out to him for help, and praised him, God wants me to do the same. God is love.