It’s easy to have a divided heart. Our examination of Psalm 43 has shown us the problem exists. And we still need to see the next two steps the Psalmist took to address and solve the problem. But we have to take a painful pause. It’s always painful to face an uncomfortable truth. And wasn’t truth what we saw in the previous post? The prayer in Psalm 43 is about being guided by God’s truth. And we can thank Jeremiah for declaring the truth of the human condition. It’s painful to see what he said. But it’s encouraging to know that Psalm 43 is one way to find a profitable path forward!
Divided Heart: Trust
If we only learn one thing from Jeremiah it’s that we cannot trust ourselves. We are very often self-deceived. We think all is well when in reality it is not. And Psalm 43 also gives us guidance at this point.
Our Psalmist is on a progression of worship. He has asked for God’s truth and light. And his second request shows us the intended result of the first request. His prayer is for God’s light and truth to bring him to God’s holy dwelling. We best understand that with an Old Testament mindset.
The dwelling of God was the Tabernacle or the Temple. In each case, the people came to the outer court (women, children, and foreigners), then the inner court (for men), and then to the Holy of Holies (High priest only). The purpose of was to experience the forgiving grace of God. So in verses 3-4 the Psalmist reveals the reason for asking for God’s light and truth:
Let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling! Then I will go to the altar of God.
The blood of the sacrifice was sprinkled on the mercy seat in order to make atonement for the sins of the people. This was God’s prescribed, Old Testament way to forgive the sins of his people. So the Psalmist is asking for God’s light and truth to bring him to the altar of forgiveness. That is a recognition and confession of the fact that the darkness of sin resides in the heart of the one praying. It also resides in you and me. Jeremiah’s words are still true. And we must acknowledge that fact in order to heal a divided heart.
Divided Heart: Today’s Altar
Forgiveness is now centered on the Person of Jesus Christ. He is our sacrifice and our altar. We no longer need the Temple. Our hearts are the temple of God. And that is all the more reason to pray with the writer of Psalm 43!
And while God does reside in our hearts, Scripture says He ultimately dwells in a house made without hands. Jesus dwells there as our Great High Priest and makes continual intercession for us. The writer of Hebrews says:
We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.
Our altar is Jesus Christ. And what do we know about Him? Our Altar…
- Was crucified
- Is risen
- Now stands before the throne of God
It is this truth we sing in the modern hymn, Before the throne of God above, I have a strong and perfect plea — Christ our High Priest, our sacrifice, our altar.
Jesus is the Light of the Gospel. And in Him our eyes are opened, and hearts are illuminated, and we see not only our sin but His amazing grace and forgiveness.
Divided Heart: Joy In Healing
The third step of his prayer is that God’s light and truth would lead him to God as his exceeding joy. See it in verse 4:
Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy.
The final goal of life is not what most people say it is. Many would say it’s forgiveness. But this prayer shows us that forgiveness is a necessary step on the path to the real goal: Joy in God. The Westminster Catechism begins with the classic question: What is the chief end of man? The answer follows:
The chief end of man is to: 1) Glorify God; 2) Enjoy Him forever
So the final, or ultimate, goal of life is God Himself. We are to experience Him in Greatest Commandment obedience and enjoy Him for eternity. And that isn’t possible without coming to Him in humility, seeking His forgiveness.
So what about the ‘joys’ we have in life? Our deceitful hearts are very prone to be joyous over the things we receive from our Father. We are good at rejoicing over His gifts but not so skilled or practiced at rejoicing in Him (for Who and What He is). Remember this: Any joy that does not have Him at its center will be as hollow and meaningless as a mirage is to a person dying of thirst.
So let me ask and challenge: Where is your joy? Follow the example of the Psalmist!
Soli Deo Gloria!