Psalm 43 TALK: Homeward Bound (The Christian Hope of Heaven)

(All bible quotes from The Holy Bible, New International Version)

PSALM 43 TALK

HOMEWARD BOUND

(THE CHRISTIAN HOPE OF HEAVEN)

 INTRODUCTION

 As you go through life you find you attend gatherings that represent the stage of life you are at. For instance when you’re a child you attend birthday parties for various ages. When you turn 18 and or 21 you attend parties that celebrate your entering your independent age. You attend a lot of weddings when you and your contemporaries are entering marriage or baptisms or naming ceremonies when you and your contemporaries are raising a family. I am now in my sixties so I have sadly started to attend funerals and this will be an on going feature of life to come. This is because I am approaching my death as well.

Funerals for older people are sad emotional numbing experiences but for young people they are even more emotionally horrific. When I was a Church Youth minister many years ago I remember attending a funeral for a 14-year-old boy who was not a Christian who was tragically killed when riding illegally a motorbike on a local road. The crying and wailing at that funeral by those who attended the funeral was emotionally devastating and many young people asked, “Why would God allow this to happen”?

Every time I attend a funeral of a person of any age I am reminded of both my own mortality and of course the great hope we have of heaven as Christian believers. As Christians we know that death is not the end but we are in fact homeward bound.

Psalm 42 and 43, probably originally one Psalm present a message of hope in God in the face of great difficulty. In my study of Psalm 42 I said that these two Psalms contain really three song verses and a chorus. Derek Kidner explains the difference between the two Psalms with this insightful observation,

“The dark moods (Psalm 42) alternate with increasingly affirmative prayer (Psalm 43)”

 He entitles Psalm 43 in his commentary as, “The Release”, release from the dark depression of being cruelly separated from his home and ministry in Jerusalem probably during the time of the Absalom rebellion. This son of Korah was a leader of Tabernacle music and singing and he now finds himself out in the wilds of the trans-Jordan wilderness facing certain death at the hands of the rebellious Absalom and his many followers. Here he prays that God will, Psalm 43: 3b,

“bring me to your holy mountain”

 For the Christian that holy mountain also called Mount Zion symbolizes heaven itself as spoken of in Hebrews 12: 22,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly”.

 The hope of the Son of Korah is that he would be “Homeward Bound” and not trapped away from home in the wilderness surrounded by an “ungodly nation” verse 1 or those who oppose the true God of Heaven.

Our hope is that our life will not end in death lost in the place all the ungodly will go to but through faith in what the Lord Jesus Christ did for us we will go to be with him in heaven where all peace and joy is found. In John 14: 1-3 Jesus promises us a heavenly home when we die and go to heaven,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my fathers house are many rooms; If it was not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going”.

My title of “Homeward Bound”, reminds me of the secular song of the same name by the great Paul Simon. Even though he is not referring to heaven as his homeward bound destination the chorus of his song resonates for me of our desire to be with God in heaven,

“Homeward bound

I wish I was

Homeward bound

Home, where my thought’s escaping

Home, where my music’s playing

Home, where my love lies waiting

Silently for me.

In this study we will conclude our look at the Sons of Korah’s song of hope of returning home to Jerusalem to be close to God and lead the singing and worship there again. We will also explore through the New Testament our great hope of going home to be with God in heaven where we will sing and worship God forever.

My headings all relate to the theme of “Homeward Bound”:

1.     HOMEWARD BOUND FOR VINICATION (1- 2)

 2.     HOMEWARD BOUND FOR RESTORATION (3 – 4)

 3.     HOMEWARD BOUND BECAUSE OF OUR HOPE IN GOD (5)

 

1.     HOMEWARD BOUND FOR VINDICATION (1 -2)

 As I spoke of in the last study on Psalm 42 David and those who supported him copped a vicious verbal attack on their integrity and faith from those who opposed them and ultimately God himself. In Psalm 42: 10 we read the words,

“My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God”.

 We learnt that the book of 2 Samuel records one such taunt when David and his faithful followers where on the run fro Absalom in the words of a man from the tribe of Saul, Benjamin and he is called Shime, 2 Samuel 16: 7 -8,

“Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!”

Shime was not the first man to kick a man when he was down as David was on the run from Absalom with many of his family and loyal followers and seemingly facing certain death. David stops his men from killing this nasty man with the words,

2 Samuel 16: 11 – 12,

“David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

 The sentiment of David’s words are expressed beautifully by the opening prayerful plea of The Sons’s of Korah’s opening words of Psalm 43,

“Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation”

 Here the writer or writers is asking God to be their judge and lawyer. They are calling for the defense of their good name and sincere faith in God to be taken to the highest court of all, heaven itself and they want God to plead their case for them. So sure of their innocence and true faith in God are they that they are in fact challenging God to vindicate them. We saw this same thing in a number of David’s Psalms in the first book of Psalms, 17: 2, 26:1 and 35: 23,24.

And who are these accusers?

Here they are described as,

“An ungodly nation”

 Many commentators hotly dispute the meaning of this phrase and what it means. Leupold points out that Hebrew word “Nation” called “Goy” commonly refers to hostile Gentiles but believes that the word should be translated, “an ungodly people”. He writes,

“The Psalmist seems to be thinking rather of their great numbers and the fact that their attitude is ungodly”.

 I have stated one of the main theme’s of Book one and two of Psalms is, “The Struggles of the anointed King and his followers” which was set up right back in Book 1, Psalm 2 verses 1, 2,

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed one”.

 This struggle is not just against the Gentile Nations but is also against those who oppose the Lord’s anointed King within the Nation of Israel. Interestingly Psalm 2 is followed by Psalm 3 which is set in the rebellion of Absalom a prime example of this rebellion against the Lord’s anointed King from within Israel and even from within David’s own family.

All this rebellion then comes from ungodly people who not only oppose God’s true King on earth but his faithfully followers and God himself.

This Son of Korah or even Son’s of Korah, if this was a collaborative composition where faithful followers of The Lord and The Lord’s anointed King David and they plead with God in the second part of verse 1,

“rescue me from deceitful and wicked men”

 This is the rhyming thought and this bit of parallelism reveals that the rebellion of Absalom certainly fits well to this Psalm as Absalom and his followers were both deceitful and wicked.

Vindication did come for David and his followers when in only a few weeks Absalom and his followers where defeated easily in battle and Absalom lost his life. However the opposition to God and the Lords anointed did not stop with the overthrow of Absalom rebellion as David lived his whole life facing conflict and difficulties because of his unique close identification with God.

Jesus is God’s great Anointed King we first see this at the Baptism of Jesus when God declares, Luke 2: 22,

“You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased”

 A fulfilment of the prophecy concerning the anointing of the Messiah King found in Psalm 2: 7-8

“You are my Son, today I have become your Father. Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession.”

 So Jesus and his followers face the same opposition and taunts from God’s enemies like David and his faithful followers received.

So there was a vindication of the taunts of Absalom and his followers once David was re- installed as King back in Jerusalem after Absalom death but the ultimate vindication is yet to come in the great day of judgment when we are all homeward bound when Jesus returns from Heaven.

However when the Son of Korah wrote this Psalm he still faced a very difficult situation as verse 2 expresses,

“You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy”.

 He was “Homeward Bound” by faith but it had not yet come. Notice how the writer calls God his “stronghold” meaning strength and protector. Yet he still faces what seems like God’s rejection, as he has to bear the vicious taunts of the enemies and what seems like a great victory of God’s enemies over his faithful followers.

Sometimes our hope of Heaven, our Homeward Bound journey will be challenged by the circumstances of our lives and we need to remember too that our God is our Stronghold and by faith push on our Homeward Bound journey.

As the writer to the Hebrews puts it,

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.

 And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God”.

 Jesus has gone before us making the our homeward bound journey possible but we need to have faith in him to stay focused on the way ahead no matter what happens to us.

2.     HOMEWARD BOUND FOR RESTORATION (3 – 4)

 Now the Son of Korah prays for his ultimate restoration to his place on the special mountain of God often called Mount Zion. There he would be restored to leading the music of worship in the great Tabernacle of David’s time and Temple in the time of Solomon.

We read the start of his prayer in verse 3,

“Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell”.

 In the middle of this mans current dark circumstances he prays for God’s light and truth to break through his darkness and guide him back to his home and ministry in Jerusalem. Leopold believes he is actually asking for God’s mercy as he writes,

“Light”, “is best thought of as a figure of God’s mercy or His “steadfast love”. Darkness seems to have settled upon us when we are deprived of the assurance of God’s mercy. Light seems to shine into our life when we know ourselves to be in God’s favor”.

 Truth follows light because through God’s word we discover the truth about God that he is a God of mercy and love. Jesus had much to say about light and truth. He claims to be both light and truth as we read in the following two verses,

John 8: 12,

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

 John 14: 6,

“Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”.

Jesus can make these claims simply because of whom he is. In John 1: 14 we learn that Jesus is God’s word or truth become flesh,

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”.

Note where following Jesus will lead us to in the John 14: 6, non other then to our Father in heaven. This is because those who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ are bound for Heaven. The holy mountain or Mount Zion symbolized heaven and was to represent the concept of God dwelling with his people on earth.

That is why This Son of Korah speaks of Mount Zion being the place where God dwells. In Old Testament times Mount Zion was a very special place to all Israelites but we now know from the New Testament that Zion and even Jerusalem are but symbols for the real dwelling place of God, heaven itself. I quote Hebrews 12: 22 again,

“But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly”.

 This is the great hope of all Christians that this world is not our home but rather we are Homeward Bound to heaven itself. In 1 Peter 2: 11, Peter writes,

“Dear friends, I urge you, as foreigners and exiles, to abstain from sinful desires, which wage war against your soul”.

 Hear Peter is telling his readers that we do not belong to this world but rather our home is in heaven where all believers are headed for and we should live our lives with this firmly planted in our minds not letting life’s circumstances or the world around us shape how we live but rather we are to let our ultimate destiny shape our lives.

Then this Son of Korah states what he will do when he gets back to God’s Holy Mountain in verse 4a,

“Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and delight”.

As a Levite he had special duties to perform in Jewish worship but David gave some of the Sons of Korah extra duties involving the making music and leading singing. This Son of Korah longs to return to Jerusalem to perform his special ministry in Tabernacle worship. He first wants to go to the altar of God, David Guzik points out what this going to the altar wanting to offer a sacrifice is all about in this following insightful comment,

“This wouldn’t be a sacrifice of atonement for sin, but for gratitude and celebration of fellowship with God”.

Christ died for our sins on the cross so we do not need to offer a sacrifice of atonement for sin but like the Son of Korah we offer a sacrifice of praise, Hebrews 12: 13,

“Let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name (Jesus)”.

So the Son of Korah wants to offer a sacrifice of praise and gratitude to the God he believes will take him home to Jerusalem and therefore he calls God his “joy and delight”.

It is interesting he speaks of joy when we consider where he is, exiled from Jerusalem possibly facing death and out in the wilds of the Trans-Jordan valley. Human joy is so fickle it is often dependant upon our circumstances. However with God joy and delight are eternal.

Only in God can we find true joy as Jesus advised his disciples as they faced the most terrible day of there lives when they would witness the death of their beloved leader. Jesus advises John 15: 9- 11,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete”.

As a old children’s hymn goes:

Happiness is to know the Savior,

Living a life within His favor,

Having a change in my behavior,

Happiness is the Lord.

Happiness is a new creation,

Jesus and me in close relation,

Having a part in His salvation,

Happiness is the Lord.

Real joy is mine, no matter if teardrops start;

I’ve found the secret,

it’s Jesus in my heart!

Happiness is to be forgiven,

Living a life that’s worth the living,

Taking a trip that leads to Heaven,

Happiness is the Lord!

The Son of Korah then speaks of what he will do when he gets there in vs. 4b

 “I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God”.

As I have already pointed out The Sons of Korah where Levites and where given an extra and very special ministry by David to be leaders of music and singing in the Tabernacle after David, the Temple (1Chronicles 15: 16 – 22). Deprived of being able to perform this special ministry because of his exile from Jerusalem this Son of Korah now looks forward to being able to perform his special ministry of music again. He led the people in praise with singing and the playing of the harp.

How this relates to heaven is that music and praise is associated with what we will do in heaven. A good example of this is Revelation 5: 8 – 11,

And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders”.

When I go to large Christian meetings like conventions I am usually swept away by the uplifting emotions of singing with hundreds of other fellow believers and for me I have a glimpse of heaven. After all who will be in heaven with us? Of course all the true believers that have ever lived, what a Christain convention that will be.

3.     HOMEWARD BOUND BECAUSE OF OUR HOPE IN GOD (5)

 Now we come to the final time the repetitive chorus is sung and it follows what we have just been looking at in verses 1 – 4. In my study of Psalm 42, where this chorus first appears I mentioned how it contained the big idea of the Psalm namely,

“Put your hope in God”

 It starts with two questions,

“Why are you downcast, O my Soul? Why so disturbed within me”

 I mentioned in my Psalm 42 study that this self-questioning was like the writer seeking to snap himself out of his despair and depression. He is counseling himself by asking himself two important questions. It is as though he is saying why am I letting my current circumstances get the better of me. Then he advises himself to,

“Put your hope in God”

 I heard a Christian speaker recently point out the importance of having hope in this life. He said that it is when people think they have no hope in the future that they commit suicide. He went on to point out how having hope he also called vision can drive us on to great things for God.

The writer wanted to return home and his hope in God meant that he believed he was now homeward bound. Our hope for our ultimate future is that we one day will go home to be with God so we too are homeward bound. Listen to the apostle Paul speak of this, Philippians 1: 20 – 24,

“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body”.

 Note how Paul uses the word, “hope” in this passage. He eagerly expects and hopes. He has faith and confidence in God and knows that God has a plan for him in this life yet when it comes to an end he is heaven bound.

As Christians God has a plan for us in this life and we all have the great sure and certain hope of Heaven to come. This is why we should not let the difficult circumstances we might face in this life control us but by faith in the Lord Jesus seek to look beyond our difficult circumstances to the great hope we have in God.

The Son of Kohah completes his song with what he sees as the reason for him to hope in God, when he writes,

“For I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God”,

 His hope was that his God of all hope would change his difficult circumstances and restore him to his home and ministry in Jerusalem. Also this week I saw the movie, “Twelve Years a Slave”. This is the true story of a Negro man named Solomon Northup who was kidnapped by anti – slave members of the Southern States of America in the early 1840’s. He faces terrible horrific cruelty and seems destined to live out his life as an enslaved person. However Northup never gives up hope of one day returning home to New York to his family and freedom. This hope sustains him while other slaves around him feel they have no hope and perish as a result.

We might think our current circumstances are very difficult and will never change but we are to live through whatever we face with hope and faith in God. Like Solomon Northup who had hope in returning home one day. Our great hope is that God has a plan for our lives and ultimately we to are homeward bound. I close with the words of Jesus I quoted in my introduction in John 14: 1 – 3 and my own poem inspired by the study of this Psalm.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, trust also in me. In my fathers house are many rooms; If it was not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going”.

BOUND FOR HOME

(Based on Psalm 43 and the Christian hope of Heaven)

 

Bound for home yes I’m homeward bound

Because Jesus died for me.

Gave me life when I should be dead

His death has set me free.

One day my Lord will return on high

And then the world will see

That we were right and they were wrong

When all will bow the knee.

 

Bound for home yes I’m homeward bound

No matter what life brings.

For heaven awaits those who trust

The Lord the King of Kings.

For he is way the truth and the life

The redeemer of our sins

The light of the world that shines on us

Whose praise Heaven now sings.

 

Bound for home yes I’m homeward bound

This world is not my home.

For we are but pilgrims passing through

Heavens shores is where we’ll roam.

But now we live to serve our Lord

In this life’s froth and foam.

In heaven we’ll sing and praise the Lord

No longer will we groan.

 

Bound for home, yes I’m homeward bound

My Lord is my sure hope.

For he has made a way for me

And given me help to cope.

So why am I often feeling so low?

My Lord keeps me afloat

And helps me through difficult times

And gives me hope to cope.

 

Jim Wenman

 

PRAYER:

 Father in heaven we want to thank you for sending your Son into this world to die for our sins on the cross so that we can be accepted by you into heaven. We thank you for giving us the hope of heaven. Help us to live our lives with this hope in mind so that we live our lives not as the people of this world live but as people who are bound to be one day in your eternal heavenly home. In Jesus name we pray Amen.