PSALM 42 - 43 - Thirsting for God
Psalms 42 and 43 form one poem. The poet is presumed to be king David. The background circumstances which motivated these thoughts are unknown. Some believe that it may have been written at the time of David's departure due to Absalom's rebellion. However, there is no clear evidence for this. With regard to certain other psalms, we are told that the Holy Spirit moved David to speak as a prophet (eg., Mat 22:43,44; Acts 2:29-31). Thus, the experiences from which David wrote fade into the background, as the Spirit presses the prophetic message.
1.a. To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah.
To the chief musician... the sons of Korah-
David intended these words to be sung in the Temple. The sons of Korah were a branch of the Levitical tribe, who were given charge over portions of the worship service.
Maschil...- This word, meaning 'instruction,' is in the title of several psalms.
More than a musical notation, the word implies that this psalm contains important insight for growing in the knowledge of the Lord.
1.b. As the hart panteth after the water brooks,
so panteth my soul after thee, O God.
This is not a scene of contentment 'beside the still waters.'
The sheep, in Psalm 23:2, are refreshed and comforted by the presence and provision of their Shepherd. But here, a wild deer, alone in the desert, searches desperately for water (cp. Psa 63:1).
So panteth my soul after thee, O God.-
This is a matter of life or death, for the 'soul' is the essence of my being (Gen 2:7). The thirst is intense, of a kind that demands full attention... He seeks with his whole heart, with all that is in him (Jer 29:13). He seeks... but the refreshing flow remains distant and beyond reach.
     Yet, he knows the life giving stream for which he searches: 'Thee, O God.'
2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:
when shall I come and appear before God?
Do you thirst for Him?
Many religious searchers have spent their lives chasing mirages, of theological theories and concepts about who or what God might be, only to come up dry. Others have contented themselves with the empty wells of false gods, received by tradition from their fathers.
     This searcher knows the God, for whom he thirsts, as a living Person.
when shall I come and appear before God?
This is not a desire to 'put in an appearance' like many 'church goers' do on appropriate occasions. Rather, it is a continual yearning to be in the Presence of God (Psa 84:2). The word 'appear' {HB=ra'ah} is rooted in the word 'to see.' As used in numerous OT references to God, it speaks of His thorough understanding of our need, and of His ability to meet that need. (See how this word is used in Gen 16:13,14; 22:13,14)
     In His Presence, my thirst will be satisfied, for He will 'see to it.'
     Separated from Him, my thirst is unquenchable...
3 My tears have been my meat day and night,
while they continually say unto me, Where [is] thy God?
my tears...- my continual bitter food. Psa 102:9
Where is thy God? - their continual mocking.
These mockers doubt, not that there is a God, but that He will help this needy one. See Psa 3:2; 22:8
4 When I remember these [things], I pour out my soul in me:
for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God,
with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.
...I pour out my soul in me.-
David's life was punctuated by periods of bitter tears (eg., when Saul pursued him without a cause, when Absalom usurped the kingdom, etc.). His recourse was to pour the burdens of his heart out before the Lord (Psa 62:8).
...I went with them to the house of God...-
David's enemies had once been close to him. Together, they had rejoiced when the Ark of the Covenant was restored to Jerusalem, as he led the people in joyful abandon and danced before the Lord (2Sam 6:12-18). Yet, many in that congregation turned against him, later. Were their hearts sincere on that joyful 'holyday'? Were they truly worshipping the living God with him? or, were they thinking, like Michal, that 'he made a fool of himself,' as they took pleasure in their 'holiday'?
     Jesus also entered the house of God in the midst of a multitude of worshippers. As He approached the Temple early in the week of His final Passover, the crowd joyfully paved His way with palm branches and their own garments, while praising God and proclaiming: "Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is He who cometh in the Name of the LORD..." (Mat 21:8,9) Yet, only a few days later, many voices in that crowd had called for His crucifixion, and then cried out to mock Him. They knew neither who He was, nor what they were doing. They could not know the agonies of His heart, which He poured out before His God.
     The former joy was gone.
5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and [why] art thou disquieted in me?
hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him [for] the help of his countenance.
Why... O my soul?...- His soul is torn by extremes of emotion:
  • cast down - ie., brought low, sunk down.
    A deep depression troubles His inner being. (cp. Joh 12:27,28; Mat 26:38)
  • disquieted - ie., groaning, roaring.
    Within Him a storm rages. (cp. Psa 46:3, where this word is translated 'roar')
hope thou in God...- Yet, His confidence in God is unshaken.
'Hope' is lit., 'wait.' (See this word in Mic 7:7)
for I shall yet praise {ie., give thanks to} Him...
In His time, the living God will calm the agony within me. By what means?
...for the help {HB=yeshuah} of his countenance {HB=paniym, face, presence}.
In the Presence of God's Person, my thirst will be satisfied.
Are you in despair, desperate for God's help? His help has a name: Yeshuah (the Hebrew name of Jesus, which means 'salvation', Mat 1:21). He alone can meet your need, because He alone can bring you into the Presence of the living God (Joh 14:6). Do you ask: But how? Where shall I begin when crushed by despair? The Lord's instruction is before us...
    1. Begin with confession of your brokenness, and the sin that caused it.
6. O my God, my soul is cast down within me:
    2. Trust in the Redeemer, who, bearing your burdens, was broken for you.
therefore will I remember thee...
The above points of instruction are taught to us by example, for they express the experience of our Yeshua. It is His voice that we hear, as He prepared the way for us, at a specific time and place in history.
from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.
What is the significance of these places?
  • The Jordan river valley descends to the lowest place on earth, more than 1,000 feet below sea level.
  • The Hermonites, a range of mountains in northern Israel, is dominated by Mount Hermon, which is the highest point in the land, at more than 9,250 feet above sea level.
    • Together, these extremes illustrate the depth and height of God's love for you, as expressed in the immeasurable greatness of Christ's sacrifice on your behalf (Eph 3:14-19).
  • The hill Mizar - The name means 'little.' But there is no known hill by this name.
    If this psalm simply expresses David's sorrowful departure from Jerusalem, due to Absalom's rebellion, the little hill would be the Mount of Olives, which he ascended with weeping (2Sam 15:30).
         But, here, the height and depth of emotion and the intensity of communion with God expose a crisis far deeper than any David could have known.
         David's greater son, Jesus the Christ, was also a rejected king. He also wept upon the Mount of Olives, not because He was rejected of men, but in anticipation of taking our sin upon Himself which would cause His separation from God (Luk 22:39-44; 2Cor 5:21 with Isa 59:1,2).
         If in anticipation, His agony was so severe, what must it have been when His hour had come, upon the little hill of Golgotha? (Joh 19:17,18; Mat 27:46)
7 Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts:
all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.
Deep calleth unto deep...- What are these depths?
Only here, in all of scripture, does this word for 'deep' {HB=tehom, depth} occur twice in the same verse. Only here do the depths cry out to each other. What are these depths?
Elsewhere, in scripture, this word is applied to...
  • the depths of oceans and lesser bodies of water,
    both of which were God's doing. Psa 135:6
  • the depths of the land (from which water springs),
    which was God's gift to Israel. Deu 8:7
  • the depth of God's power and knowledge
    by which He created and controls the seas. Psa 33:6,7; Prov 3:20
  • the depths of the smitten Rock
    from which water flowed in the wilderness. Psa 78:15 (cp. 1Cor 10:4)
  • the depths of the judgments {pronouncements, purposes, justice} of God.
    Psa 36:6 (cp. Rom 11:33; 1Cor 2:10; Eph 3:18,19)
  • the personality of Wisdom, who was with God,
    before earth's depths were formed. Prov 8:22-30 (cp. Joh 1:1-4; 1Cor 1:30)
       From the scripture references above, we deduce that "Deep calleth unto Deep" refers to God the Father and God the Son, who were eternally One in essence, One in thought and One in action.
       They were always together, absolutely inseparable, until torn apart by my sin, which Jesus took upon Himself. The anguish in those Depths is far beyond our comprehension. Yet, though separated by my sin, they were One in purpose, for the work of salvation was accomplished by 'God in Christ Jesus' (2Cor 5:19).
...thy waterspouts... all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.- cp. Psa 88:7,15-17
'Waterspouts' are violent wind-driven tornadoes of water upon the sea surface.
     Swallowed in the sea, under God's judgment, Jonah quoted these words in his prayer of repentance (Jonah 2:3). Jonah's brief burial at sea, foreshadowed the death and resurrection of Christ (Mat 12:40).
     God's fierce wrath upon sin was poured out upon Jesus. He bore the judgment you and I deserved, so that all who trust in Him would escape God's wrath (Rom 5:8-10).
     In Noah's day, God judged the wicked world with a flood. The ark preserved the eight people within, as its hull bore the pounding waves of the judgment, in which their unbelieving neighbors perished. Likewise, only those who are 'in Christ' are saved from God's wrath (Joh 3:17-19,36).
     The saved have reason to rejoice, for our Savior bore indescribable sorrows that we might never know them.
8 [Yet] the LORD will command his lovingkindness in the daytime,
and in the night his song [shall be] with me,
[and] my prayer unto the God of my life. the daytime - Jesus was crucified 'in the daytime' around 9 am (Mark 15:25, hours were counted from sunrise).
During that time, He demonstrated 'lovingkindness' toward those who crucified Him (Luk 23:34), toward His mother (Joh 19:25-37), and toward a repentant thief on an adjacent cross (Luk 23:39-43). the night - A deep darkness covered the scene, from noon to 3pm (Luk 23:44).
His voice pierces the darkness, quoting several Psalms. In the rigours of crucifixion, singing is impossible, but He prays with all His being:
9 I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me?
why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
10 [As] with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me;
while they say daily unto me, Where [is] thy God?
Though crucified and mocked by enemies (Mat 27:39,40) and forsaken by His God, still His confidence in God is unshakeable. Above the pain of crucifixion, His great grief is in the mocking question of those who watch Him die.
     He does not share their doubt. Rather, He questions the turmoil within His own soul, for He knows the One whom He trusts.
11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
and why art thou disquieted within me?
hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him,
[who is] the health of my countenance, and my God.
...who is the health {HB=yeshuah, help, salvation} of my countenance...-
This verse (v.11) is nearly identical with v.5. The words translated 'help' and 'health' (in the KJV) are the same word in the original. The verses differ in the focus of praise...
  • v.5 "I shall praise Him for the help of His countenance."
  • v.11 "I shall praise Him who is the help of my countenance, and my God."
    I will praise Him, not only for His help, but for who He is, for He is my Help.
    My trust is in my God alone, for whom alone I thirst.
Here, as though the tomb is being sealed, Psalm 42 closes.
Yet, behind the stone, beyond the mocking gaze of men, His prayer continues, in Psalm 43.
Psalm 43
1. Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation:
O deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.
2. For thou [art] the God of my strength: why dost thou cast me off?
why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
judge me {ie., pronounce Your sentence, vindicate me}... plead my cause {ie., defend my case}...-
Though unrighteous men had already executed their sentence, the final resolution of His case rested in the hands of the Righteous Judge. Psa 2:1-4
Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy {ie., the adversary}?
His grief and distress was due to the weight of sin, which He carried away for His people who had become caught up in the rebellion of Satan.
Yet, though banished, as the scapegoat to a land not inhabited, He knew no other strong place of refuge than the presence of His God, for whom He yearned.
3. O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me;
let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.
4. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy:
yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.
...thy light... thy truth -
Though condemned for our sin, in truth our Savior is perfect in righteousness (eg., Heb 4:15). In the light of God's countenance, which reveals our secret sins (Psa 90:8), His innate holiness cannot be hidden (Psa 40:11; 97:11).
...let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill...
Both verbs (lead, bring) can have the sense of providing transport from one realm to another. Because of the truth concerning the Savior's holiness and concerning the Father's righteous faithfulness, the banished One would be brought back to His rightful place. cp. Psa 2:6; 3:4; Acts 2:24 thy tabernacles {ie., to dwell in the Presence of God, Psa 16:10,11; 23:6; Acts 2:32-36}.
...unto God my exceeding joy.- Psa 42:1,2; cp. Joh 17:13
I will praise Thee, O God, my God.- Psa 22:1-2,22-24
5. Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
and why art thou disquieted within me?
hope in God: for I shall yet praise him,
[who is] the health of my countenance, and my God.
God has indeed delivered our Savior and exalted Him into His Presence. But for the moment, you and I endure trouble, as He foretold (Joh 16:33). He is faithful and true. It is for us to wait for Him, who is our 'Yeshuah' and God (1The 1:9,10; Titus 2:13,14).

This Concludes the study in Psalm 42 - 43.
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