Read Psalm 42
The psalmist asked “When?” in verse 2, and “Where?” in verses 3 and 10. We now direct our attention to several verses which ask “Why?” the first of which is verse 9.
It is appropriate that we examine this question last, as the culmination of all that has been said before. For with each of these questions, we have had the privilege of entering the inner sanctum of the psalmist’s heart. We have taken a tour through the gloomy halls and lonely rooms, hearing the “When?” of unsatisfied desire and the “Where?” of daily oppression. All the while, we have learned about our own heart when the disease of doubt creeps in. But now we are led to the stairs, and we take them down. Surely, we have reached the bottommost pit of the psalmist’s despair when he cries out, “Why hast thou forgotten me?”
First, this is the most serious of the three questions because of the very nature of the interrogative used. We asked “When?” but that only deals with time. We asked “Where?” but that only deals with place. However, Merriam-Webster defines “why” as referring to cause, reason, or purpose. “Why?” gets to the heart of the matter. In this case, it gets to the heart of God.
Second, being forgotten is a terrible experience. Sometimes friends or even family forget about us. Perhaps your experience is that of Psalm 142:4: “There was no man that would know me… no man cared for my soul.” But now consider that this is nothing compared to being forgotten by God, the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth from whom all blessings flow.
Third, the psalmist supports this question by repeating the “Why?” with proof in the second half of the verse: “Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” It is as if he is saying, “God my rock has certainly forgotten me, and the proof is that I am mourning under my enemy’s oppression.” Even more than that every single despairing word in the psalm is as one of the steps into the pit. Each one leads us to the bottom and to this question, “Why?”
Have you ever asked God why? Why did He make me this way? Why did He make this my way? Why the pain? Why the loneliness? Why the constant trials day after day with no apparent end and barely the strength to endure one? And isn’t it easy to find answers to our questions? The cause: my sin. The reason: God does not love me. His purpose: to punish me temporally and eternally in hell as a just reward for my sins. Then we conclude that God my rock has forgotten me.
But this question is directed toward God. Only He can reveal His heart.
Go to the Bible. Let Him speak.
If there was ever one time and one place where God spoke most loudly, it was one Friday afternoon on a hill called Golgotha. If ever he revealed the cause, reason, and purpose of His heart, it was when He poured out the wrath due to us upon His Son during those three hours of darkness. If ever he gave an answer to our most despairing question, it was with the question of our Lord Jesus Christ when he “humbled himself unto the deepest reproach and pains of hell, both in body and soul, on the tree of the cross, when he cried out with a loud voice, ‘My God, my God! Why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Baptism Form)
The cry of Jesus on the cross is very similar to the one we study today, and if anything, more emphatic. And we know without a doubt that his suffering was far greater than anything we will ever experience. Truly his was the bottomless pit.
Is your soul cast down? Have you gone down the steps, until hitting rock-bottom you ask even this same question? Then notice what is below your feet. When Jesus suffered the wrath of God for our sins, there was no bottom to his pit. But below every believer, there is bedrock. There is “God my rock.” Christ is “that spiritual Rock,” from which we drink streams of living water. (I Cor. 10:4) He is the “rock of offense” over which our enemies stumble. He is the “chief corner stone, elect, precious” on which we are “built up a spiritual house” (I Pet. 2:5,6,8).
And so we can picture that atoning work of Jesus Christ as the Rock upon which our heart is built, and the impenetrable barrier separating us from the bottomless pit of hellfire. Though Satan, as the accuser of the brethren, tries to take our sins and break through that Rock, he cannot so much as cause a crack.
Now don’t you see the guiding hand of God in bringing us into this pit? Up there, we thought we stood on a rock. Only down here do we realize that was nothing more than the sinking sands of favorable circumstances. Then the words which must arise from our lips are the words of the psalmist in verse 5 and repeated in verse 11:
Notice that the question is now directed inward to the psalmist’s own heart, because the problem is never with God. He is immovable, unchangeable. It is when we search our own heart in the light of God’s sovereign grace that we say, “So foolish was I, and ignorant” (Psalm 73:22). In his wisdom, He uses these trials to lead our wayward hearts back to “my father, my God, and the rock of my salvation” (Psalm 94:22).
Only resting on that rock, hoping in our God, can we then declare, “I shall yet praise him.” This is God’s great work of salvation bearing fruit. This is the regenerated believer committed to a life of good works in gratitude for the work of Jesus. This is the psalmist with a healthy countenance, revived by living waters. For it is impossible to ponder this most extraordinary display of his infinite love for us, and not resolve to live for Him who “brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings” (Psalm 40:2).