The collection of psalms in Book II express lament and distress about present circumstances and conditions while looking to the faithfulness of God.
People today are highly attuned to the presence of injustice, both personally and in society. The world has long been marked by evil and injustice, and God’s people have often been oppressed by it. Psalms 42–44 were written in response to oppressive, unjust, overwhelming realities and provide a model for how we should respond in the face of injustice.
Psalm 42 lifts our eyes from unsolvable circumstances to our mighty God. It speaks of tears, turmoil, dejectedness, and even depression, but the response is not to wallow. Rather the psalmist speaks to his own soul, he preaches to his soul: “Why, my soul, are you so dejected?…Put your hope in God, for I will still praise him” (Psalm 42:5,11). He reminds himself of God’s power and His faithful love. So in the face of injustice, we first turn to God and remind ourselves of who He is and what He is capable of. He is our hope.
Psalm 43 begins with two powerful pleas, asking God to vindicate and rescue. Vindication means to be proven right. Rescue is what we need from God when we can’t extricate or save ourselves. This is a prayer for God to take direct action, but the psalm takes a surprising turn. Rather than expounding upon how God should take action, it asks, “Send your light and your truth; let them lead me. Let them bring me to…your dwelling place….to God, my greatest joy” (Psalm 43:3–4). One would assume that light and truth are the means of victory, of defeating injustice. But the psalmist’s aim is more than that. He yearns to be near to God, to dwell with God so that his joy may be full. In the face of overwhelming injustice we do plead with God to act, and we plead even more with God to draw us close.
Psalm 44 seems confusing at first, like this psalmist is waffling from faith to anger at God, then back. That is mostly because we tend to read psalms as emotional journeys, following the ebb and flow of how we perceive the psalmists’ feelings. While the psalms emanate from the heart and pour out deep feelings, foundationally, they are truths about God. And this one is a picture of God’s sovereignty. It recognizes God’s responsibility for all victories and, necessarily, God’s hand in hard times too. Then it ends with a beautiful prayer that God would “redeem us because of your faithful love” (Psalm 44:26). God’s faithful love is our hope in God in the face of injustice. It is how we can avoid outrage, and as we yearn and strive for justice, we turn to Him and say, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so I long for you, God.”