blog meditation Psalms

Meditation Psalm 42, 43

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    ‘Where is your God?’
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me –
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    ‘Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?’
My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    ‘Where is your God?’

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

Vindicate me, my God,
    and plead my cause
    against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
    deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
    Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Saviour and my God.

(Ps. 42:1-43:1-5 NIV)

Psalm 42 and 43 are often taken together as one Psalm. There are a number of reasons for this, but I will just draw attention to one of the reasons given. There is a refrain in 42:5, 42:11 and 43:5 that is the same.

The pattern of the Psalm alternates between lament and hope.
A. Lament (42:1-4)
Hope (42:5)
B. Lament (42:6-7)
Hope (42:8)
C. Lament (42:9-10)
Hope (42:11)
D. Lament (43:1-4)
Hope (43:5)

These are very appropriate Psalms for us during ‘lock down’ because the Psalmist was isolated from Temple worship and is in some kind of captivity. The Psalmist questions God in 42:2b, 42:9 and 43:5, and he questions himself in 42:5, 42:11 and 43:5, and his enemies taunt him in 42:3 and 42:10.

The Psalmist is longing for God’s presence. As the deer pants for water to quench its thirst so the soul longs and thirsts for God. C.S. Lewis says that the Psalmist has an appetite for God.

The Psalmist asks God when he can go and meet with Him. This might well be the prayer we pray today, ‘When can we gather together with God’s people in God’s presence?’ The Psalmist shows his increasing intensity of desire for God, his soul thirsts for God, for the living God, that he might see the face of God (NIV meet with God). The title ‘living God’ may be linked with the phrase ‘the spring of living water’ found in

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.

(Jer. 2:13 NIV)

LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water.

(Jer. 17:13 NIV)

As the deer panted for the water, so the Psalmist longs after the living God, the spring of living water.

The Psalmist wants to know when he can once again be in the presence of God. The paradoxical dilemma is how can one who so longs for God’s presence have such an extreme sense of alienation. The Psalmist is so troubled at not being able to go to the temple that he has been reduced to tears. This is very challenging to us. Does it upset us as much that we are not able to go to church? We live at a time when the culture has been for many decades influenced by individualism. We have lived with that mindset all our lives, so it is difficult for us not to be influenced by it. We have become so conditioned by individualism that it is hard for us to have the concept of community that the Psalmist had. It is even difficult for us to understand the Psalmist’s grief at not being able to go to ‘church’.

In addition to his own questions, the Psalmist is constantly goaded by his enemies asking, ‘where is your God?’ As he pours out his soul in prayer to God, he recalls the days when he joined with the multitude, celebrating a festival event leading the march to the temple. They sang the Psalms, they celebrated, they shouted for joy. It was during these festivals when they thought about God’s mighty acts of salvation.

When doubt appeared to triumph, the Psalmist puts his trust in God and expresses the hope that there will be a day when he will praise Him, his Saviour and God. The Psalmist returned again to lament. He remembers with nostalgic joy the promised land. Reference to the Jordan sees him going back to the watery image that started the Psalm. But now the waters overtake him with grief. The chaotic waters of the deep, the thundering of the waterfalls, represents an overwhelming sense of oppression. These are God’s waves that sweep over him.

Once more the Psalmist expresses his hope in the covenant love (hesed) of the covenant Lord. Day and night he had experienced God’s care, protection and blessing. This experience made God very real to him, the God of his life.

The Psalmist knows that God is his rock, but it doesn’t feel like that just now. It makes the question all the more heartfelt, ‘Why have you forgotten me?’ He has been abandoned to godless enemies asking again and again ‘where is your God?’ Again we need to feel the challenge of this, does the lack of the sense of God’s presence ever disturb us the way that the Psalmist is disturbed? Once more the Psalmist sings or prays the refrain.

The lack of the sense of God’s presence is evident to his enemies. How foolish to trust in a God who is not there. The Psalmist wants God to be present in manifest power so that his belief in God will be vindicated.

The Psalmist uses another name for God, ‘You are my stronghold.’ There are statements of faith yet still incredible doubts. This is a real encouragement to us because we find a sense of incredulity that we can at one moment express faith and at the same time doubt. We think we must be the only Christian who feels like this. Here God has opened a window to let us listen in on the honesty expressed by the Psalmist.

He calls for the light of God and God’s care to come to him and lead him. Light to help him understand and care to comfort him. He returns to his longing to be at the place where God dwells, to stand by the altar of God and offer his sacrifices. The Psalmist promises to praise God and to make music in His presence, and he says ‘my God is my joy and my delight, O God, my God’.

He brings the two Psalms to a close with the refrain and the hope that he will praise God, his Saviour and his God.

Lord because the gathering of Church is taken from us, we begin to realise how much a part of our life is the gathering with Your people. We pray that soon it will be possible for us to come to Your house, the place of the gathering of Your church, where You promise to be present with us. Lord You are our joy and delight, because through Your work of redemption You have made our hearts sing. We worship You O God, our God in the name of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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