Discouragement, Praise & the Psalm-Writing Sons of Korah

by Kristen Gilles

in Exhortations And Musings

"Solitary Sorrow" photo of a statue“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and my God!”

Sometimes we, like the children of Israel enduring brutal slavery to the Egyptians, become too discouraged to listen to what God has said in promising to deliver, redeem and rescue us from our oppressive enemy. (Exodus 6:9)

In Exodus 4, Moses and Aaron first told the Israelite elders of God’s plan to rescue and redeem them. They performed the miraculous signs God had given them so that the Israelites would believe. Then the elders responded with appropriate worship of their God: “When they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped” (Ex. 4:31).

But in the next chapter we read that just after they heard and believed God’s promise to save them, just after they bowed down in worship to their compassionate, saving Lord, the oppression intensified and their hearts grew despondent again. After Moses requested that Pharaoh let them go to offer sacrifices to their God in the wilderness, Pharaoh made their slavery even more miserable by requiring them to find their own straw for making bricks, while also requiring them to make as many bricks as they did when he provided the straw. Moses and the Israelites were utterly downcast because they couldn’t see the promise of God’s deliverance fulfilled.

But hear God’s compassionate, gracious, generous response to their despondency, and to ours:

I am Yahweh—the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, Isaac and to Jacob as El Shaddai—God Almighty . . . And I affirmed my covenant with them. Under its terms, I promised to give them the land of Canaan, where they were living as foreigners. You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them. Therefore say to the people of Israel, “I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from the oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!” (Ex. 6:2-8)

If God gave you this beautiful promise in the midst of your deepest suffering, would you have trouble believing Him? Would you cease to worship Him and rather give yourself over to your discouragement?

The Israelites did. But that did not keep God from fulfilling His Word. Although His people were faithless like you and me, God remained faithful to His covenant. He brought them out of slavery in Egypt and into the land He promised to give them. He freed them from the oppressive rule of Pharaoh with His powerful arm and great acts of judgment. He claimed them as His very own possession.

And in Christ, He has done the same for you and me. Although we travel along in this broken world, constantly at war with the evil inside and outside of us, we have certain victory through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for us on the cross, to reconcile us to God, to be His very own people.

Yes, we are all sad and discouraged at times. Some of us endure indescribable depths of suffering. Some of us are simply worn down by the day-to-day disappointments at work and home. We’re tempted to refuse to listen to God’s promises. We’re tempted to seal our lips and lock our knees, refusing to worship him. We forget at times His faithfulness to every generation of mankind. We struggle to remember his faithfulness in our own lives.

The Sons of Korah were like us. They were descendants of the tribe of Levi, from Moses’ own family. Their forefathers endured the slavery in Egypt and they experienced God’s promised deliverance. And they told the story to their children so they’d remember God’s faithfulness in their own generations.

If you read Psalms 42 and 43, you’ll find that the Sons of Korah — in spite of knowing well the story of God’s rescue of their families from slavery in Egypt, — understood their tendency to forget, and their critical need to remember God’s faithfulness at all times. In these psalms, we see how they realized that the proper response of their downcast saddened souls, in the midst of their struggling to breath as the tumultuous waves and crashing breakers of suffering were overtaking them, was to:

  • Remember God’s faithfulness in their lifetime and in all of history
  • Recognize his love poured out upon them day after day
  • Sing the prayerful songs in the night that he gave them
  • Praise the Lord.

How do you respond in your suffering? Ask yourself, “Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad?” Then answer the questions honestly, the way the Sons of Korah did. They weren’t bashful about approaching God’s throne of mercy and grace, begging for help and relief from the oppression of their enemies. They poured out their complaints to Him, “O God my Rock, why have you forgotten me? Why must I wander around in grief, oppressed by my enemies?” (42:9) But they didn’t get stuck there—they pressed on to put their hope in and praise the Lord.

“Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise Him again—my Savior and my God!” (Ps. 42:5-6; 11; 43:5).

They knew that God was the source of all their joy and that what they needed most was for Him to send His Light and Truth to lead them to his dwelling place (Ps. 43:3-4). They compelled their souls to pray, to hope and to praise the Lord in the midst of their suffering, even when they didn’t see relief on the horizon. They believed God’s Word and trusted his proven character. They remembered his faithfulness.

So should we.

“Solitary Sorrow” photo, top, by FallingWater123, used via Creative Commons license

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