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.
Psalm 42 and 43 were probably once all one psalm. They were written by a Levite, a “son of Korah”, one who led worship for the people of Israel.
The author finds himself in exile among the Gentiles (43:1). They oppress him, mock and taunt him for his faith (42:3, 10; 43:2). It seems like it will always be like this.
He remembers the days before his exile, when he would joyfully lead groups of pilgrims to Jerusalem for festivals and feasts. He remembers how the people would worship together, travel together, eat together, and laugh around a campfire in the evening (I’m embellishing a little).
He remembers being with HIS people in a holy place and how delightful that was.
Now his heart is grieved. He feels God has forgotten him. (42:9; 43:2)
This feels familiar. This feels like life with Covid-19.
We are exiled in our own homes. The restrictions seem to change from day to day, and it seems impossible to make plans.
We remember days when we could gather together – to worship, to celebrate, to study and encourage one another.
We remember when we could travel freely, plan celebrations, and meet for coffee.
The author questions the Lord.
“I say to God my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go around mourning, oppressed by the enemy?’” (42:10)
The author is drowning in sorrow and pain (42:6-7). He feels small in the storm.
But two things change at this point.
First, the author turns his attention to the character of God, who is loving and present.
The second change is lost in the translation to English. In v. 8 he writes,
“By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me – a prayer to the God of my life.”
In Hebrew the author, who has been using the word “Elohim” to refer to God up to now, changes to the name “Jehovah”.
Jehovah is the God of the Covenant. Jehovah is the God who promised blessing and faithfulness and love and care. Jehovah is the one who said, “I will not leave you nor forsake you.”
The author begins to talk to himself,
“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.” (42:11; 43:5)
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 down cast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.: 43:3-5
God of my life; God of my exceeding joy; God of the promise; God of light and truth; I put my hope in you. I trust that I will praise you yet, my Saviour and my God.
That’s what I would have said…