Let's discover Psalm 43 meaning. This psalm consists of five short verses, so let’s read those right now.
Psalm 43 Meaning Read
43 [Judge/Vindicate] me, O God,
and plead my [cause/case] [fight for me…] against an ungodly nation:
O deliver me from the deceitful and [unjust/evil] [man/men].
2 For thou art the God [of my strength/who shelters me]:
why [dost/have] thou [cast me off/rejected me]?
why [go I/must I walk around] mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy? [my enemies oppress me…]
3 [O send out/Reveal] thy light
and thy [truth/faithfulness]:
[let them/they will] lead me;
[let them bring/they will escort] me [back…]
unto thy holy hill,
and to thy [tabernacles/dwelling place(s)].
4 Then will I go unto the altar of God,
unto God [my exceeding/who gives me ecstatic] joy:
yea, upon the harp will I praise thee,
O God my God.
5 Why art thou [cast down/in despair/depressed], O my soul?
and why art thou [disquieted/disturbed/upset] within me?
[hope in/wait for] God:
for I shall [yet/again] [praise him/give thanks to my God],
who is the [health/help] of my countenance,
and my God. [for God’s saving intervention…]
Psalm 43 Meaning The Psalmist is Depressed
So, in Psalm 43, the psalmist speaks to us about being depressed or cast down.
In verse 2, he speaks of mourning. In verse 5, he talks to his own soul – to himself, really. And he asks himself why he’s cast down and disquieted. Or why he’s depressed and upset.
So, the man writing this psalm is experiencing some sort of inner turmoil that is causing him to give up and quit in his life.
And there are all sorts of catalysts that can make people feel this way. You might be feeling this way. Maybe you’re just physically exhausted and feel like you just can’t go on. Maybe you’re overwhelmed by any number of circumstances in your life. And you feel depressed, cast down, upset emotionally.
So, a person can enter into this spiritual condition of depression for several reasons.
Psalm 43 Meaning Why is the Psalmist Depressed?
But the psalmist actually tells us why he’s depressed throughout this psalm.
He mentions an ungodly nation full of unjust or evil men in verse 1.
In verse 2, he says that these men are his enemies and that they are oppressing him.
And the question in my mind is “who is this nation?” And we’re given minimal details about the identity of this ungodly nation.
Psalm 43 Meaning Babylon?
Here’s one possibility. The psalmist is writing while in exile in Babylon. And this ungodly nation is Babylon. And he’s walking around being oppressed and depressed all day long.
But I don’t think that’s the nation being referred to here. Because the psalmist mentions going to God’s tabernacles and his holy hill and when he's there he plans to approach the altar. And so, if this psalm was set during the time of the exile of Judah, the Tabernacle on Mount Zion was destroyed. He couldn’t visit it and even if he could visit the ruins of the Tabernacle, he would not find the altar that he’s saying that he’s going to approach.
Psalm 43 Meaning Israel
So, this ungodly nation is not a foreign entity. I think it’s safe to assume that the psalmist is speaking of his own people, Israel.
The psalmist is depressed because his own people – not some foreign entity – are oppressing him. They’re deceitful and evil and oppressive.
And we can identify with what that's like – to live in a country marked by lying, evil, and oppression of those who love the Lord.
So, we know that the psalmist is depressed. We know why he's depressed – enemies who are lying and oppressing and being generally wicked.
But what’s the solution to the psalmist's depression?
Psalm 43 Meaning The Solution to the Psalmist's Depression
In the psalmist's mind, what he needs at a very basic and foundational level for help with his depression is for God to act decisively.
He says in verse 1 that he needs God to judge or vindicate him. As if he's being put on trial and needs to be exonerated – probably from these men who are lying about him.
He needs God to plead his cause against his whole nation – which is acting in a very ungodly manner in verse 1 still.
The psalmist ends verse 1 by begging God for deliverance.
So, on the one hand, the psalmist needs God to protect him physically from his enemies.
But that's not where it ends. The psalmist goes on to focus rather on his relationship to God and his word.
In verse 3 he asks God to send out his light and truth. And he says that if God does this, then the psalmist will be led back to God's Tabernacle in verses 3 and 4.
Psalm 43 Meaning Background
And at this point I think we can piece this episode into David's life when he was being chased out of Jerusalem by his son Absalom. He wants to come back to Jerusalem – to the Tabernacle of God. But he needs God to take some action to make that happen. He needs to be defended from his enemies. But he also needs God to sustain him during that time in his brief exile with light and truth.
Negatively, he needs God to hold back his enemies. Positively, he needs God to encourage him by unleashing his truth in David's life.
And when those things happen, it's only a matter of time until David is brought back to God's Tabernacle in verse 3.
Psalm 43 Meaning Mindset
And then his thinking and mindset start to shift from his problems and his depression to the desirability of God.
In verse 4 he starts to visualize being back at the altar of the Tabernacle where he would offer sacrifices.
And of course those sacrifices in the Old Testament were usually animal sacrifices. And yet, that's not what David is limiting the scope of his sacrifice to in this psalm. In connection with the altar in verse 4, what does he say that he's going to do? He's going to praise God on the harp.
Praise will be David's sacrifice to God when he's brought back to God's Tabernacle in Jerusalem.
And I think we know by experience that when we're really involved in praising God it tends to dive away depression, the likes of which David was experiencing and working through in this psalm.
So, David will turn from his depression to instead praise this God who is the God of his strength in verse 2. He is the God who gives David exceeding joy in verse 4. And this strength-giving, joy-giving God is truly David's. He is my God in verse 4.
Psalm 43 Meaning Conclusion
And so, in light of these realities – and the fact that David's God is also ours – any of us who are depressed and cast down can ask ourselves with David - "Soul, why are you depressed and cast down? Hope in God. For we will again praise this God who is the help and health of our countenance."