Observe: The Psalm begins with an image of longing: As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, Lord (1). The poet knows it is God he thirsts after, while mockers jeer, ‘Where is your God?’. As he pours out [his] soul (4) to his seemingly-absent Lord, he recalls going to the Temple to worship and praise, under His protection. Now, he is downcast, his emotions an internal storm.
The beautiful verse 8, By day the LORD directs his love, at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life, pulls him out of despondency – until it washes back in on him. He is pleading for hope: Why are you forgetting me? It looks like the enemy is winning, and he muses, Why are you cast down, O my soul? (11a) Why such sadness?
His dilemma has no apparent resolution, yet he can tell himself, Hope in God for I shall yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God.(11b).
Interpret: Psalms 42 and 43 are often considered a unit as we begin Book 2.
Reading carefully, we find an undercurrent of deep sadness in David’s longing as he addresses his soul. An undercurrent, too, is of exile – from the Temple? From God? He is discouraged and yes, depressed – my tears have been my food day and night (3); overwhelmed, as if drowning: All your breakers and your waters have gone over me (7). External oppression, internal emotional turmoil, mocking all around, discouragement, helplessness … God, where are You?
It’s a deep, honest prayer. Yet God’s sovereign love holds the psalmist all along. Those breakers and waves are from God, purposeful, and not from the enemy nor David’s fickle feelings.
The singer determines to hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him … (5,11). His hope, though, is not fully realized: I shall yet praise Him – just not at the moment (unusual, as laments generally end with praise). But praise will happen – in God’s perfect time. Patience and endurance are his Godly armour in this spiritual battle, hope his principal weapon.
Apply: The psalmist asks Why? It’s a legitimate question in events that confuse and discourage and often depress. God doesn’t forget, though it may feel like it. Feelings come and go and are unreliable. God is fully reliable, and ever-present -- perhaps testing, perhaps waiting, always loving.
With a solid underpinning of trust that He cares deeply for us who suffer, His Spirit assures us He is working out His plan for our lives.
So, we “self-talk” the Gospel and look beyond ourselves – a graced discipline of the will – and the Spirit whispers, if God is for us, who can be against? ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Rom 8:31…35)
It’s not easy or pleasant, but God disciplines those He loves (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6) to transform us into His true image-bearers. Filled with hope in Him through our difficulties, despite our state of mind, we bring His compassion to those thirsty, discouraged and depressed.
Ask: Lord of my life, would you help me in dark times to remember You care? Would you transform my feelings of failure and fear into hope, praise, love, and trust, because aren’t You alone my Saviour and my God?
Pray: O God, grant that I may desire you, and desiring you, seek you, and seeking you, find you, and finding you, be satisfied in you forever. Francis Xavier
Sing Psalm 42: As the Deer Pants
Lord from Sorrows Deep I Call - Keith Getty
For Reflecting at Lent: Ah, Holy Jesus, How Have You Offended? - Fernando Ortega
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.