Today [Psalm Forty-Three] Finding the Altar Within. In this chapter we find David reacting to very bad news from a dear friend. Saul’s son Jonathan tells David to run for his life because the king determines to kill him. David’s response is to turn to God and seek his justice. David trusted in the judgment of God. David didn’t see the judgment of God as something to be avoided. In the midst of his crisis he finds the altar of God. For us the altar is not in a tent or a building but in our own human heart.
[Psa 43:1-5 KJV] 1 Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation: O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man. 2 For thou [art] the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off? why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 3 O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. 4 Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. 5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, [who is] the health of my countenance, and my God.
This psalm is a psalm without a particular title. It is assumed to be written by David in a time of great personal crisis. The Septuagint bible – an Old Testament body of scripture written before Jesus time interprets the circumstance of this passage as being David’s response to when Saul’s son Jonathan told him that the king meant to kill him. Have you ever had a threat from your enemy delivered by a friend? Jonathan deeply loved David and wanted David to be aware of the level of jeopardy that he was in at that moment. David cries out to God and laments that the entire nation of Israel under Saul’s leadership seemed to be raised up against him. He doesn’t know where to turn and feels hopeless in light of the enormity of the problem before him.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed in the midst of a problem? Have you faced circumstances that placed you completely out of your depth and the only hope you have is if God intervenes in an unusual way to deliver you? This was David’s plight – and in the situation as was his custom he turns to God for help. You and I can learn from David’s response under pressure. God is no respecter of persons but He is a respecter of faith. If we do with our faith under fire what David did with his faith under fire you will get the same results.
In verse 1 we see the first thing David did was seek the judgment of God. He calls out to the Father “Judge me Oh God…” Now this is a strange thing because David’s enemies saw him as being under the judgment of God already. They believed their persecution of David was part of the punishment connected with what they felt was God’s judgment against him. Sometimes when we are in trouble we feel as though we are running from God’s judgment. You do not ever need to fear the judgment of God. God is a just judge. Many times in my prayer time I have told the Lord in a bad situation “I appeal to the throne…”
Occasionally two Christians will disagree and one will dare to turn the other “over to the devil for the destruction of their flesh but the saving of their soul…” I have encountered this more than once in my experience. My response is always “don’t turn me over to the devil. Why would I be concerned about the losing team? Turn me rather over to God – He is BIGGER and I trust Him. This is seeking God’s judgment and justice. God is a just God. You need never distrust the outcome of God when He adjudicates what is going on in your life.
In verse 2 we see the distinction between David’s emotional response and his heart response to his circumstance. He is determined to trust in God in his heart but his emotions – in his emotional make up he feels very far from God. He is not sinful in making known how he feels. One of the redeeming qualities of David was his honesty and transparency in prayer. Even though David feels very far from God he still maintains that God is the “God of his strength”. You may not feel strong. You may not feel that God is near to you in the time of trouble. Faith has little to do with feelings. Sometimes faith in your heart is in direct opposition to your emotional response at the moment. That doesn’t mean you are being hypocritical. David doesn’t allow the challenge of his emotional state to drive him away from trust in God. Instead he turns it into a prayer and presses into the presence of God for answers and comfort.
In verse 3 David petitions the Father to shed light on his situation. For us when we speak of light and truth we know that God Himself is our light and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life by which we live day by day. When you are walking in light and truth you are always walking toward God and not away from Him. Notice that David asks the Father to bring him into His tabernacles. The tabernacle for us is not the tabernacle of Moses, or the temple of Solomon. It is also not the church house or cathedral.
[1Co 3:16 KJV] 16 Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?
If God is going to lead you in a time of trouble into His tabernacle – and YOU are the tabernacle what does this mean? It speaks to WHO God is on the inside of you. God is your covert in a time of storm. You access this resource on the inside of your own heart and life – not in any outward religious structure. Jesus put it this way:
[Luk 17:20-21 KJV] 20 …The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: 21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
When we are in trouble we do not turn outwardly to man but inwardly to God. Phil. 4:19 says that God meets all your need according to His riches in glory. Col. 1:26,27 states that the glory is IN YOU. Therefore, the leading of God (for us) that David is speaking of is an INWARD leading to EMPOWERMENT and DELIVERANCE flowing OUT from us into our life’s circumstance to bring victory and breakthrough.
In verse 4 David, once he enters the tabernacle makes his way to the altar of God. The altar of God for David was one of two things: 1.) where animals were sacrificed for sin; 2.) where incense was offered up before the Holy of Holies as a form of prayer. Now David in his lifetime probably never laid eyes on the altar of incense in the Holy Place because this was not allowed, but the priests could offer incense therefore for him and for the people. What does the altar represent for you and I?
Altars are not very popular in modern church culture. We have replaced altars for the most part to make more room for the stage where performances are given to adoring crowds. Instead of a public altar if we do anything at all with earnest seekers we take them back into a private room out of sight so as not to interrupt the proceedings in the main sanctuary. The whole idea of the altar in our recent history started out as an “inquirer’s bench” or “mourner’s bench” during the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening under the leadership of men like George Whitfield and Jonathan Edwards turned away from salvation as an institutional matter and made it a personal and living, emotional experience. To come to Christ was more than joining the church or being christened as a baby. To come to Christ was now a deeply emotional experience and a spiritual commitment upon which all one’s life was transformed and taking a new direction. The altar and the altar call was the “means” or instrumentality that facilitated this transaction between a seeking soul and the Father.
For us today the altar may not be in vogue in our churches, but you do have an altar within the tabernacle of your own human heart. You are the temple of God and within you is the altar where Jesus was offered up before the foundation of the world. There is the altar of prayer where your prayers are offered up as a sweet smelling incense before God. Neglect not the altar of God on the inside of you. As David when you are in trouble before you seek the face of man – seek the face of God before His altar in your own human heart.
In verse 5 David again asks himself the challenging question: “Why are you cast down Oh my soul…” It is as though David is monitoring his own human response to his interaction with God that the psalm represents. While David is repairing, seeking to God’s altar he sees that his soul is troubled. His soul has better things to do. His soul is distracted and doesn’t have time to spend in God’s presence. Angered in his spirit David turns and rebukes his soul – in effect challenging his soul with “what is your problem?! Can’t you see I’m trying to pray?” Let us follow that example! Do not let your soul decide what happens next when you are under pressure. Just because your soul doesn’t see the efficacy of seeking after God doesn’t mean you let it have its way like a 2 year old child. Learn to put your mind, will and emotions in check and go ahead and seek the kingdom.
David concludes and the curtain closes on the scene of David remonstrating with his soul like a father chastening a little boy. He tells himself to hope in God. He tells his soul that no matter how upset he is in his emotions he is going to YET praise him. Don’t let your soul dictate your response to God. Don’t let your soul snatch the praises of God from your mouth. This is a discipline that most of us know nothing about. Learn to talk to yourself. Learn to chasten yourself as David does. Determine not to allow your soul not to distract you from the altar within your own heart where God answers by fire and delivers you from all your trouble.
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