Psalm 43:4
Then will I go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy: yes, on the harp will I praise you, O God my God.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(4) God my God.—An expression used in this collection instead of the more usual “Jehovah my God.” (Comp. Psalm 45:7, and for its import see General Introduction, and Psalm 50:7, Note.)

43:6-11 The way to forget our miseries, is to remember the God of our mercies. David saw troubles coming from God's wrath, and that discouraged him. But if one trouble follow hard after another, if all seem to combine for our ruin, let us remember they are all appointed and overruled by the Lord. David regards the Divine favour as the fountain of all the good he looked for. In the Saviour's name let us hope and pray. One word from him will calm every storm, and turn midnight darkness into the light of noon, the bitterest complaints into joyful praises. Our believing expectation of mercy must quicken our prayers for it. At length, is faith came off conqueror, by encouraging him to trust in the name of the Lord, and to stay himself upon his God. He adds, And my God; this thought enabled him to triumph over all his griefs and fears. Let us never think that the God of our life, and the Rock of our salvation, has forgotten us, if we have made his mercy, truth, and power, our refuge. Thus the psalmist strove against his despondency: at last his faith and hope obtained the victory. Let us learn to check all unbelieving doubts and fears. Apply the promise first to ourselves, and then plead it to God.Then will I go unto the altar of God - The altar on Mount Zion, where sacrifices were offered: 2 Samuel 6:17. The meaning is, that he would again unite with others in the public and customary worship of God. Compare the notes at Psalm 42:4.

Unto God - Into the immediate presence of God; the place where he was worshipped.

My exceeding joy - Margin, the gladness of my joy. The Septuagint renders this, "who makes my youth joyous:" or, "the joy of my youth," (Thompson) The Hebrew is, the gladness of my joy; meaning, that God was the source of his joy, so that he found all his happiness in Him.

Yea, upon the harp will I praise thee - Compare the notes at Psalm 33:2-3. Instruments of music were commonly used in the worship of God, and David is represented as excelling in the music of the harp. Compare 1 Samuel 16:16-23.

O God, my God - It was not merely God as such that he desired to worship, or to whom he now appealed, but God as his God, the God to whom he had devoted himself, and whom he regarded as his God even in affliction and trouble. Compare the notes at Psalm 22:1.

4. the altar—as the chief place of worship. The mention of the harp suggests the prominence of praise in his offering. 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.

Psalm 43:4

"Then will I go unto the altar of God." If David might but be favoured with such a deliverance as would permit his return, it would not be his own house of heritage which would be his first resort, but to the altar of God his willing feet should conduct him. His whole heart would go as a sacrifice to the altar, he himself counting it his greatest happiness to be permitted to lie as a burnt offering wholly dedicated to the Lord. With what exultation should believers draw near unto Christ, who is the antitype of the altar! clearer light should give greater intensity of desire. "Unto God my exceeding joy." It was not the altar as such that the Psalmist cared for, he was no believer in the heathenism of ritualism: his soul desired spiritual fellowship, fellowship with God himself in very deed. What are all the rites of worship unless the Lord be in them; what, indeed, but empty shells and dry husks? Note the holy rapture with which David regards his Lord! He is not his joy alone, but his exceeding joy; not the fountain of joy, the giver of joy, or the maintainer of joy, but that joy itself. The margin hath it, "The gladness of my joy," i.e., the soul, the essence, the very bowels of my joy. To draw near to God, who is such a joy to us, may well be the object of our hungering and thirsting. "Yea, upon the harp will I praise thee." His best music for his best love. When God fills us with joy we ought ever to pour it out at his feet in praise, and all the skill and talent we have should be laid under contribution to increase the divine revenue of glory. "O God, my God." How he dwells upon the name which he loves so well! He already harps on it as though his harp music had begun. What sweeter sounds can music know than these four words? To have God in possession, and to know it by faith, is the heart's heaven - a fulness of bliss lies therein.

Psalm 43:5

"Why art thou cast down, O my soul?" If God be thine, why this dejection? If he uplifts thee, why art thou so near the ground? The dew of love is falling, O withering heart, revive. "And why art thou disquieted within me?" What cause is there to break the repose of thy heart? Wherefore indulge unreasonable sorrows, which benefit no one, fret thyself, and dishonour thy God? Why overburden thyself with foregodings? "Hope in God," or "wait for God." There is need of patience, but there is ground for hope. The Lord cannot but avenge his own elect. The heavenly Father will not stand by and see his children trampled on for ever; as surely as the sun is in the heavens, light must arise for the people of God, though for awhile they may walk in darkness. Why, then, should we not be encouraged, and lift up our head with comfortable hope? "For I shall yet praise him." Times of complaint will soon end, and seasons of praise will begin. Come, my heart, look out of the window, borrow the telescopic glass, forecast a little, and sweeten thy chamber with sprigs of the sweet herb of hope. "Who is the health of my countenance, and my God." My God will clear the furrows from my brow, and the tear marks from my cheek; therefore will I lift up my head and smile in the face of the storm. The Psalm has a blessed ending, such as we would fain imitate when death puts an end to our mortal existence.

Then will I go unto the altar of God, to offer sacrifices of thanksgiving for my deliverance.

My exceeding joy; the principal author and matter of all my joy and comfort. Then will I go unto the altar of God,.... Which was in the tabernacle, either of burnt offerings, or of incense, there to offer up the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for mercies received. The altar under the Gospel dispensation is Christ, on which such sacrifices being offered, are acceptable to God, Hebrews 13:10;

unto God my exceeding joy; as over the mercy seat, upon a throne of grace, and as his covenant God; or this is exegetical of the altar, which is Christ, God over all, blessed for ever; and who is the object of the unspeakable joy of his people, in his person, righteousness, and salvation;

yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God, my God: the harp is a musical instrument, used in that part of public worship which concerned the praise of God under the former dispensation, and was typical of that spiritual melody made in the hearts of God's people when they sing his praise, see Revelation 5:8.

Then {d} 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.

(d) He promises to offer a solemn sacrifice of thanksgiving in token of his great deliverance.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
4. Then will I go] Or, That I may come (Psalm 42:2).

unto God my exceeding joy] Even unto the God of my gladsome rejoicing. God Himself is the goal of pilgrimage: the altar is but the means of approaching Him and realising His presence.

Yea, upon the harp will I praise thee) And give thanks unto thee upon the harp, as of old (Psalm 42:4).

O God my God] A phrase found only in the Elohistic Psalms, and clearly the equivalent of Jehovah my God, due, not to the original Psalmist, but to the Elohistic editor. See Introd. p. lvi.Verse 4. - Then will I go unto the altar Of God. As the special place where thanksgiving ought to be made, and sacrifice offered (see 2 Samuel 6:17; 1 Chronicles 16:1). Unto God my exceeding Joy; literally, unto God the gladness of my exultation. Yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God. The psalmist has before him some such scene as that depicted in 2 Samuel 6. and 1 Chronicles 15:25-29, where, amid shouts and singing and dancing, and "with sound of the cornet, and with trumpets, and with cymbals, with psalteries and harps," a joyful procession approached the tabernacle, David himself taking part in it. (Heb.: 42:7-12) The poet here continues to console himself with God's help. God Himself is indeed dishonoured in him; He will not suffer the trust he has reposed in Him to go unjustified. True, עלי seems at the beginning of the line to be tame, but from עלי and אזכּרך, the beginning and end of the line, standing in contrast, עלי is made emphatic, and it is at the same time clear that על־כּן is not equivalent to אשׁר על־כּן - which Gesenius asserts in his Lexicon, erroneously referring to Psalm 1:5; Psalm 45:3, is a poetical usage of the language; an assertion for which, however, there is as little support as that כּי על־כּן in Numbers 14:43 and other passages is equivalent to על־כּן כּי. In all such passages, e.g., Jeremiah 48:36, על־כּן means "therefore," and the relationship of reason and consequence is reversed. So even here: within him his soul is bowed very low, and on account of this downcast condition he thinks continually of God, from whom he is separated. Even in Jonah 2:8 this thinking upon God does not appear as the cause but as the consequence of pain. The "land of Jordan and of Hermonim" is not necessarily the northern mountain range together with the sources of the Jordan. The land beyond the Jordan is so called in opposition to ארץ לבנון, the land on this side. According to Dietrich (Abhandlungen, S. 18), חרמונים is an amplificative plural: the Hermon, as a peak soaring far above all lower summits. John Wilson (Lands of the Bible, ii. 161) refers the plural to its two summits. But the plural serves to denote the whole range of the Antilebanon extending to the south-east, and accordingly to designate the east Jordanic country. It is not for one moment to be supposed that the psalmist calls Hermon even, in comparison with his native Zion, the chosen of God. הר מצער, i.e., the mountain of littleness: the other member of the antithesis, the majesty of Zion, is wanting, and the מן which is repeated before הר is also opposed to this. Hitzig, striking out the מ of מהר, makes it an address to Zion: "because I remember thee out of the land of Jordan and of summits of Hermon, thou little mountain;" but, according to Psalm 42:8, these words are addressed to Elohim. In the vicinity of Mitz‛are, a mountain unknown to us, in the country beyond Jordan, the poet is sojourning; from thence he looks longingly towards the district round about his home, and just as there, in a strange land, the wild waters of the awe-inspiring mountains roar around him, there seems to be a corresponding tumult in his soul. In Psalm 42:8 he depicts the natural features of the country round about him - and it may remind one quite as much of the high and magnificent waterfalls of the lake of Muzêrı̂b as of the waterfall at the course of the Jordan near Paneas and the waters that dash headlong down the mountains round about - and in Psalm 42:8 he says that he feels just as though all these threatening masses of water were following like so many waves of misfortune over his head (Tholuck, Hitzig, and Riehm). Billow follows billow as if called by one another (cf. Isaiah 6:3 concerning the continuous antiphon of the seraphim) at the roar (לקול as in Habakkuk 3:16) of the cataracts, which in their terrible grandeur proclaim the Creator, God (lxx τῶν καταῤῥακτῶν σου) - all these breaking, sporting waves of God pass over him, who finds himself thus surrounded by the mighty works of nature, but taking no delight in them; and in them all he sees nothing but the mirrored image of the many afflictions which threaten to involve him in utter destruction (cf. the borrowed passage in that mosaic work taken from the Psalms, Jonah 2:4).

He, however, calls upon himself in Psalm 42:9 to take courage in the hope that a morning will dawn after this night of affliction (Psalm 30:6), when Jahve, the God of redemption and of the people of redemption, will command His loving-kindness (cf. Psalm 44:5, Amos; 3f.); and when this by day has accomplished its work of deliverance, there follows upon the day of deliverance a night of thanksgiving (Job 35:10): the joyous excitement, the strong feeling of gratitude, will not suffer him to sleep. The suffix of שׁירה is the suffix of the object: a hymn in praise of Him, prayer (viz., praiseful prayer, Habakkuk 3:1) to the God of his life (cf. Sir. 23:4), i.e., who is his life, and will not suffer him to come under the dominion of death. Therefore will he say (אומרה), in order to bring about by prayer such a day of loving-kindness and such a night of thanksgiving songs, to the God of his rock, i.e., who is his rock (gen. apos.): Why, etc.? Concerning the different accentuation of למה here and in Psalm 43:2, vid., on Psalm 37:20 (cf. Psalm 10:1). In this instance, where it is not followed by a guttural, it serves as a "variation" Hitzig); but even the retreating of the tone when a guttural follows is not consistently carried out, vid., Psalm 49:6, cf. 1 Samuel 28:15 (Ew. 243, b). The view of Vaihinger and Hengstenberg is inadmissible, viz., that Psalm 42:10 to Psalm 42:11 are the "prayer," which the psalmist means in Psalm 42:9; it is the prayerful sigh of the yearning for deliverance, which is intended to form the burthen of that prayer. In some MSS we find the reading כּרצח instead of בּרצח; the בּ is here really synonymous with the כּ, it is the Beth essentiae (vid., Psalm 35:2): after the manner of a crushing (cf. Ezekiel 21:27, and the verb in Psalm 62:4 of overthrowing a wall) in my bones, i.e., causing me a crunching pain which seethes in my bones, mine oppressors reproach me (חרף with the transfer of the primary meaning carpere, as is also customary in the Latin, to a plucking and stripping one of his good name). The use of ב here differs from its use in Psalm 42:10; for the reproaching is not added to the crushing as a continuing state, but is itself thus crushing in its operation (vid., Psalm 42:4). Instead of בּאמר we have here the easier form of expression בּאמרם; and in the refrain פּני ואלהי, which is also to be restored in Psalm 42:6.

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