The psalmist here is not talking to an audience. He is talking to himself. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Hope thou in God.” That is one of the habits of the saints, and it is always a highly profitable habit. It means that we look squarely in the face the things that are lurking in the shadows. And very generally when we do that, with the fears and despondencies that haunt us, things prove not so desperate as they seemed. We all know how in the dead of night the slightest noise is apt to startle us. Imagination riots in the darkness. But we smile when we switch on the light and find the footstep is only a creaking board and the knocking only the flapping of a blind.
So also with the soul, formless fears are always the worst fears. Nameless and undefined despondency’s are often the most depressing of despondencies. And just to face them and drag them to the light and manfully charge them to declare themselves, is very often the springboard to new tranquility. Why art thou cast down, O my soul? Come, my soul, answer me that question! Stand there and be interrogated! Give thy reasons! Why art thou cast down? Very generally when one does that, things prove so much less hopeless than they seemed that the soul descries the glimmerings of morning.
Now many people, when they read these words, are apt to interpret them erroneously. They regard them as a call to trust; but that is scarcely the meaning of the words. When I trust a person, I do more than hope. When I hope, I do less than trust. To hope in God is therefore something different from a feeble and attenuated trust. It is to base every hope that burns within us on the profound recognition that God is. Base your hope, whatever your hope may be–and hopes are of a thousand different kinds–on the recognition that God reigns, and that God, the God of the whole Bible, a Father infinitely loving, has been revealed to us in the Lord Jesus. If that is false, if there is no such Being, our sweetest hopes are mockeries. We have nothing to build on but the sand. Our hopes may come to ruin at any moment. But if God is and we are sure of that, surer than we are of our hands or feet, then there is hope for us and for the world. Hope, my soul, because there is a God–that is what the psalmist really means. Hope, because He reigns. Hope, because He is on the throne. Hope, because He cares for you and loves you; because He cares for all the world and loves the world; because He so loved the world that He gave Jesus.
Now, let us apply that thought a little in relation to the future of our race. We have many gloomy prophets in the world today who think our race is hurrying to ruin. They study history and find no hope in history. They deny the reality of progress and have lost all hope in civilization. Education, men had hope in that. Civilization, they had hope in that. Increase of dialogue among the nations, men put their hope in that. And then the war came wrecking hopes just as it wrecked cathedrals, and all these rosy, radiant hopes were as houses built upon the sand. What a wise book the Bible is. How it rejects and refuses shallow hopes. It never says to us, “Hope thou in education.” It says, “My soul, hope thou in God.” Base thy hope on the fact that He is reigning and moving on in His eternal purposes to an end that shall be fair as a perfect day.
Consider the years that lie ahead, hidden in the shadows of the future. For some the prospect is very dark and frightening. Will your health hold out? So much depends on that for yourself and your wife and children. Will your powers hold out, or some day will they give? Will your loved ones all be spared to you? My dear friend, no hope that is worth anything rests upon contingencies like these. It rests upon the certainty of God. He reigns. He knows you and He loves you. In His eyes you are infinitely precious. If you ascend up into heaven, He is there; if you make your bed in hell, He is there. Would it not tarnish the glory of His name if for a single hour in all the future He were to leave you or forsake you? My soul, hope thou in God. Base your hope of the future upon God. Base it on nothing else and nothing less. Everything else and less is but contingency. Build on the sand, and though the sand is made of gold, when the storm comes everything may perish. But who is a rock like unto our Rock?
The Hope of Immortality
Lastly, think of the hope of immortality and of the joy and rest and liberty of heaven when life shall flower into full perfection and we shall meet our loved ones again. That hope is in every human heart, and the question is on what do you base it? Well, you may base it on the inward longing, or on the imperfection of our present being, or on the fact that there is so much on board that is not wanted for the voyage. But when the lights burn low and no argument can silence the questioning, “My soul, hope thou in God.” Base your eternal hope on the life and love and promises of God. He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. No mother would let death rob her of her child if her power were equal to her love, and with Him, love and power are alike infinite.