“Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle. Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. 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” (Psalm 43:3-5).
The word “countenance” when used as a noun (as it is in the above verses) refers to a person’s facial expression. For example, a frown on one person’s face would indicate sadness while a smile on another person’s face would indicate gladness. In Psalm 43, the writer declares that God is “the help of my countenance”. In other words, for the psalmist God is the one who could turn his facial expression from a frown to a smile!
As Psalm 43 begins, the psalmist has a frown upon his face because of the enemies: “Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man!” (Psalm 43:1). The writer struggles because although he looked to God in faith, thus far, he did not see God coming to his aid: “For You are the God of my strength; Why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (Psalm 43:2). His countenance is one of sadness, worry, and frustration as he feels alone in having to face his enemies. He describes his facial expression as one of “mourning”.
To his credit, even though he does not see God acting on his behalf as of yet, the psalmist still calls upon God in faith to guide him: “Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle” (Psalm 43:3). He realizes the situation he is facing is too great for him to handle alone. He needs God’s help and direction. Even though, as of the present moment, he has not seen God act on his behalf, he still looks to God as his strength. This is faith and he was walking by it: “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
The psalmist has confidence that if he keeps looking to God in faith and continues to call upon Him, God will guide him so that he may escape from his enemies and be delivered to worship God at God’s appointed place, the tabernacle: “Then I will go to the altar of God, To God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God” (Psalm 43:4). By faith he has confidence that God will turn the sadness, worry, and frustration he has to “exceeding joy”!
The writer questions himself about why he had allowed himself to be cast down: “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” (Psalm 43:5). In the face of the sadness he has experienced and felt, he reminds himself how he needs to keep his hope in God. He needs to cling to his faith in God even during these hard times because God will be faithful to see him through this trial. God will help turn his countenance from sadness to gladness.
Do I view God as the “help of my countenance”? Do I look to Him in faith as the One who can turn my sadness into gladness? To prevent from falling into excessive sadness, perhaps I should challenge myself by asking: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope in God”. Today, I will remember God is the help of my countenance!
“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken” (Proverbs 15:13).