Hope in God

Hope in God

“Hope in God”
(Psalm 42)
Advent Series (1/5)

Rev. Todd A. Linn, PhD

Henderson’s First Baptist Church, Henderson

I invite you to take your Bibles and join me this morning in Psalm 42, a psalm about hoping in God. While you’re finding Psalm 42, check out this short video clip on hope.

[VIDEO CLIP: Skit Guys; Hope; 1:46]

Hope is a good word. Hope is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ. He is our hope, our eternal hope. We’re going to talk about hope this morning. Beginning our celebration of the season of Advent, the arrival or coming of Christ, we have lit the first candle which symbolizes hope. Next week is love, then joy, then peace. But first hope. Now this psalm is a psalm about hope, hope in God.

Please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word. Listen for the psalmist’s hope in God. We don’t know exactly who the psalmist is. The title of it says that it is a contemplation or instruction of the sons of Korah, but we don’t know much more than that, a psalmist wrote this poem or song under the inspiration of God. Just the first 5 verses to get us started. Listen for the psalmist’s hope in God.

To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah.

1 As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
3 My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”
4 When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
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.


Hope. There is so much hopelessness in this fallen world, isn’t there? Physical suffering. Hunger. Thirst. Job loss. Financial ruin. Families broken. Sin in the world.

People in the Old Testament, believers like the psalmist here, believers in God, believers in the one true and living God, looked forward to the coming of the Messiah, the One who they knew would bring hope and salvation into the world. So they looked forward to the Advent, the arrival, the coming of the One who would bring hope. We know Him as the one who has come, Jesus Christ. So if we could imagine Old Testament believers lighting the Advent candle they did so looking forward to the arrival of the Messiah, the Messiah who would come, we light the candle looking back to the Messiah who has come, Jesus Christ; our eternal hope.

Hope. The word hope embodies truth. That’s why biblical hope is more generally the truth of God, all the promises of God that are fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ. Certainties.

That’s why biblical hope is different from the word hope as we often use it in modern English. When we use the word hope in contemporary conversation, the word hope in our language indicates some level of uncertainty, some level of doubt. We cross our fingers and close our eyes and “hope” everything will be okay or we “hope” as though wishing for a wish to come true. Biblical hope hope, however, is a belief that contains no doubt whatsoever…no uncertainty…it means to look forward in anticipation to that which is certain to come to pass. It’s the joyous certainty of future fulfillment. It’s a sure thing.

Think of Christian hope as looking down the road where you are awaiting the arrival of a car. You see the car in the distance, just a little dot near the horizon, dust in the air indicate its movement as it heads closer to you. It absolutely is headed your way. As time passes, the car gets still closer. It’s bigger. More details are visible. You are waiting in confidant expectation of its soon arrival. That is New Testament hope. It’s a sure thing.

This means all of Scripture’s promises will be fulfilled. Everything God says about the future is included in the Christian’s hope. This is why Paul says to the church in Thessalonica, for example, that when Christian loved ones face death, they do not grieve as unbelievers grieve. He said Christians do not grieve “as they who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Christians do not grieve as they who have no hope. We grieve, yes, but grieve in hope—certainty—knowing all the facts about what happens to the soul at death—absent from the body, present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8).

Or in Romans 5:5, where Paul writes: “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Paul is speaking about the truth that the Christian remains justified, not guilty of all sin, not just now, but for all time, into the future. This hope does not disappoint. Why? Because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts. God’s love for us.

So your salvation—including future salvation—is secure, says Paul, your future hope will not disappoint you because God’s got this taken care of; God’s love; He loves His children.  He’s not going to declare a believer righteous and then take it away.  He loves Christians.
These understandings of biblical hope, then, inspire us to stand upon the truth of God’s Word. And the notion of “clinging to hope,” then, takes on a new meaning for Christians. Our “clinging to hope” is not our blindly hanging on with no assurance of our safety or no assurance of security. It is our hanging on, clinging to, truth! It is our resting in truth, standing on truth.

It means you will be okay! You’re a child of God! You have trusted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! You are resting in the one in whom “all of God’s promises are yes (2 Corinthians 1:20)!” My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Now, let’s go back to Psalm 42. One thing that’s so helpful about a psalm like this is that we don’t know exactly what the psalmist was going through when he wrote it. Usually that kind of background information is helpful to us, but with the majority of the psalms, we don’t really know the specific setting, background, or situation.

I think that is providentially a blessing from God because if we knew the exact problem being faced by the psalmist—and it didn’t match up with our problem—we would be more likely to dismiss it as something that doesn’t exactly fit our situation so we would say, “Well, he’s going through something different than me.” So we don’t know the exact situation the psalmist is facing and are therefore more likely to see how God’s truth hits home.

The psalmist longs for God. He opens with an illustration, and analogy. He says in verse 1, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my should for You, o God.” Verse 2, “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” When shall I see Him?! “When shall I come and appear before my God?”

The longing of the psalmist! Is this usually the kind of thing we long for? Longing to be in God’s presence? Perhaps more often than we care to admit, our longings are for so many other things. We long for the week to be over. For 5 o’clock to get here. We long for the semester to end. For school to be over. We long for our team to score. We long for dinner! We long for the vacation to come. We long for the girlfriend or boyfriend to be back in town. We long for the baby to be born. All this things are good things and there’s certainly nothing wrong with longing for any of them. They’re all quite natural longings.

Now, hear what the psalmist is saying: Like a deer longing for water, so my soul longs for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God, or see the face of God?! This is an unrivaled longing. This is a hoping for, looking forward to, a restless growing desire for, being in the very presence of our Creator and sustainer, God Himself.

The psalmist is being so honest. He’s struggling here. Verse 3, “My tears have been my food day and night.” He’s like, “I’ve been crying nonstop.” And he’s being taunted by unbelievers. He describes their taunts in verse 3, “…they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’”

Unbelievers, skeptics, atheists, they taunt the believer. Sound familiar to any of you? “Where is your God? How could He allow this to happen? Doesn’t He love you?”
Then the psalmist reflects on the many times he had gathered with others in corporate worship, walking together to the sanctuary into the house of God for worship with others. Verse 4: When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude: I went with them to the house of God, withe the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim’s feast.”

He’s describing corporate worship! What we’re doing right now. Never underestimate the power of corporate worship. We all need 2 groups every Sunday. Small group Sunday school. Big group, corporate worship. There is something so encouraging about being with our brothers and sisters and praising God.

When someone disparages corporate worship, saying something like, “Well, I can worship God alone in the woods,” I share with them that I can worship God in the woods, too. That’s not the point. We should always worship God wherever we are. Corporate worship is important because we are relational beings and the Bible teaches us to be with others. Christianity is a “one another” faith. We are to love one another, warn one another, encourage one another, sing with one another. To do “one another” you have to be with another. So the writer of Hebrews warns in a paraphrase of Hebrews 10:25, “Don’t neglect your getting together with one another in corporate worship.” He says, “That’s how unbelievers live their lives and you’re not an unbeliever.” Corporate worship. The psalmist so misses it! He’s remembering how joyful it was when he was last with his brothers and sisters. Then this honest cry in verse 5 that is repeated in verse 11 and also in the following psalm, Psalm 43, which many scholars believe was originally part of Psalm 42. This phrase in both verses 5 and 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 for the help of His countenance.

Now I want to come back to this verse in a moment because it is the key verse to the psalm, but let’s continue reading first, verse 6:

O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar.

He’s saying, “No matter where I go, I will remember You. Verse 7:

Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me.

The pouring waters here describes the suffering of his situation, like waves and billows (big waves!) over which God is sovereign and is allowing to fall upon the psalmist. Verse 8:

The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me—A prayer to the God of my life.

The amazing back-and-forth of the psalmist from praise to suffering, from suffering to praise, so honestly describing his situation! Continuing in verse 9:

I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

How long must I put up with this?! The taunts and oppression of the enemies of God. Another illustration in verse 10:

As with a breaking of my bones, My enemies reproach me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

Then the familiar refrain, the repeat of verse 5 in the final verse, verse 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.

Especially from this refrain, verse 5 and verse 11, the psalmist gives us help. Helps to hope in God. There are several here, but I want to distill them into three.

**Helps to Hope in God:
1) Don’t Feel Bad for Feeling Down

The honesty of the psalmist is so refreshing! Sometimes we just battle depression, despair, and feelings of utter hopelessness. And we even question God, don’t we? The psalmist does! Remember that back in verse 9: “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

This is normal. We are asking God, “Hey, what’s going on?!” Don’t feel bad for feeling down. You are a human being. You feel. God made you that way. You naturally hope for things to improve. We hope for things to change. We hope for a better tomorrow, a better future. We hope for a lost family member. We hope for our health to improve. We hope to beat a habit. We hope for reconciliation with someone. We hope to get out of debt.

We feel down and we ask God, “Why have You forgotten me?” That’s a natural thing to wonder. It’s okay. Don’t feel bad for feeling down. It would only be bad if we stayed there. It would only be bad if we never moved forward. It would only be bad if we didn’t do the second thing here. Second help to hope in God, number 2:

2) Preach to Yourself

Listen to the sermon the psalmist preaches to himself, again verse 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.

I remember a book I read many years ago. It was entitled, What to Say When You Talk to Yourself. Good title! The title is predicated upon the assumption that we do, indeed, talk to ourselves. And we do. All the time! Just be careful not to move your lips when you talk to yourself or people will think you’re crazy!

But this is what the psalmist is doing for us here. He’s telling us what to say when we talk to ourselves:

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.

Do you see specifically what he preaches to himself? It’s the truth of God’s Word. He says to his soul: “Hey soul, hope in God!” Hope in God. Trust in Him. Be certain in Him. Your faith is not a blind faith. Hope in God, the God of His Word. Praise Him. “Praise Him for the help of His countenance,” or “Praise Him, the One who is your salvation and God.”

He recalls what He knows to be true about God. Verse 8, for example, despite all the waves and billows of verse 7: “The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime.” God is good. He’s here with me. He’s going to get me through this. He’s going to command His loving kindness for me and toward me. That’s what you say to yourself. That’s what you preach to yourself. Truth about God.

It’s so important that you preach to yourself, talk to yourself, rather than listen to yourself. Know what I mean? Know the difference? You can listen to yourself, speaking to you words of despair and discouragement as the enemy, our big Enemy, Satan, tries to get you to play that old record of despair that is bound up in your old, sinful nature. All that stuff he wants you to say. You’ve got to talk that down and drown it out with truth.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones writes about this in his book of sermons on spiritual depression. In a place where he refers to this psalm, Psalm 42, we writes about this idea of talking to ourselves. He writes:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them but they are talking to you, they bring back the problems of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you? Your self is talking to you. Now this man’s treatment [the psalmist here in Psalm 42] was this: instead of allowing this self to talk to him, he starts talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul?” he asks. His soul had been depressing him, crushing him. So he stands up and says: “Self, listen for moment, I will speak to you.” (Spiritual Depression, 20–21; as printed in John Piper sermon: “Spiritual Depression in the Psalms”)

And he speaks truth to his self: “Hope in God!” Rest in God. Trust in Him and His goodness. Trust in the One who knows your future and will take care of you. Biblical hope. Absolute certainty that what God has said He will do.

I was 23 years old and had never heard Jeremiah 29:11. Still newly married, I was away from home for the several weeks of training in Atlanta, training for the Chick-Fil-A business internship. I was depressed and insecure with major feelings of inferiority. As my roommate and I were going to sleep that evening, he offhandedly mentioned Jeremiah 29:11 as a verse that encouraged him. I looked it up later. Imagine my comfort in reading that verse the very first time: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” That verse sustained me through difficult times and guided me through uncertain future days. Hope. I am God’s child. God will take care of me. I’m okay.

Helps to hope in God. Don’t feel bad about feeling down. Preach to yourself. Preach the character of God in the Word of God. Bookmark this psalm! Turn to it this week and read it when you are going through difficult times. Don’t feel bad about feeling down. Preach to yourself. Thirdly and finally:

3) Sing Praise to God

Do you see the psalmist singing? There’s a hint of it in verse 5: “For I shall yet praise Him” and even more clearly in verse 8: “And in the night His song shall be with me—A prayer to the God of my life.”

Singing is a gift from God. Sing praise to God. Often it is the key to rising from despair. Singing of the hope we have in God. Certainty in God.

Let the King of my heart
Be the wind inside my sails
The anchor in the waves
Oh-oh, He is my song

“You are good, good, oh-ohh
When the night is holding onto me
God is holding on…” That’s verse 8: “And in the night His song shall be with me—A prayer to the God of my life.”—And He’s never gonna let you down!

Or hymns we often sing in Response; personalize it:

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
Here’s some light soul!
There’s light for a look at the Savior
And life more abundant and free!
Still singing to my soul:
Turn Your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace

All to You, Lord, I surrender
All to Thee I freely give
I will ever love and trust You
In Your presence daily live
I surrender all (this darkness)
I surrender all (this habit, my wayward child)
All to Thee my precious Savior
I surrender (my life, my soul, my all)

And you don’t have to be a good singer! There’s no one with you there in the car when you’re alone—just the Lord!—and He loves your voice! He gave you that voice. Use it to make Him smile—and you’ll find yourself smiling, too. Music and praise are powerful, you all!

We’re gong to sing together in a moment, responding to the truth we have heard from God’s Word.

Before we sing, think about this: Advent is not just the placing of ourselves in the shoes of Old Testament believers, looking forward to the coming of the Messiah. It certainly is that. It is about anticipating the coming of the One on Christmas Day to be our hope in this fallen world. But Advent is even more than that. And by that I do not mean merely our looking for Christ to come again, anticipating His second coming, though Advent is that, too.

Consider Advent as the One who has come and continues to come every moment of every day as “every heart prepares Him room.” Advent. Jesus is here now.

Imagine for a moment with me. Imagine a longing you have. Say a longing for the arrival of your best friend. Or a longing for that vacation to Florida. You have been longing for this for quite some time. Now imagine if it were possible to be right there in Florida right now. You could fulfill that dream immediately. You could satisfy your longing right now. Boom, you are in Florida! Longing fulfilled. Vacation right now. Sounds crazy, right? I mean you really have to wait for this. You have to get yourself physically to Florida, so you make arrangements, get off work, travel to Florida. Then the longing is fulfilled.

You know what’s so cool about longing for God’s presence? On the one hand, we can be with Him immediately, at any moment of the day! Our longing for Him in our lives is fulfilled the moment we take time to unplug from the world, get quiet somewhere, close our eyes and see Christ in the eyes of faith. You can take mini-sabbaticals, mini-vacations with Jesus throughout your very busy day if you’re smart enough to schedule those fantastic appointments of meeting Him and satisfying the longing of your soul.

This is what Bernard of Clairvaux (a 12th Century French Abbot) was talking about when he wrote: “O humankind, you need not sail across the seas or pierce the clouds or cross the Alps!   No grand way is being shown to you. Run to your own self to meet your God!   The Word is near you, on your lips and in your heart!”

You need not sail across the seas or pierce the clouds or cross the Alps! Jesus is here. He is here now. Advent. Arrival. We have Christ. He is everything. Our greatest treasure.

Do you have Him? Have you received Him as Lord? He is the only hope of your salvation. Turn from sin and turn to Him and be saved.

If you are thirsting for meaning, but drinking from the wrong source, repent. Turn to Jesus and drink from Him.

Let’s pray. God forgive us…help us see Your light that shines in the darkest night. Jesus. Amen.

We’re going to respond now through song. Stand, sing, and respond however you need to respond today. Sing.

I once was lost in darkest night
Yet thought I knew the way
The sin that promised joy and life
Had led me to the grave
I had no hope that You would own
A rebel to Your will
And if You had not loved me first
I would refuse You still

But as I ran my hell-bound race
Indifferent to the cost
You looked upon my helpless state
And led me to the cross
And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace

Hallelujah! All I have is Christ
Hallelujah! Jesus is my life

Now, Lord, I would be Yours alone
And live so all might see
The strength to follow Your commands
Could never come from me
Oh Father, use my ransomed life
In any way You choose
And let my song forever be
My only boast is You

I’ll be in the response room if you have questions about joining the church, baptism, or being saved.

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