Psalm 42

Water is life.

Its molecular shape and physical properties make water uniquely able to sustain the biochemical process that support all living things, from one-celled organisms to giant sequoias to you and me.

So great is our need for water that it covers more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and makes up around 70 percent of our bodies.

We can live only three days without drinking water. Dehydration has negative effects after a matter of hours, not days. Weakness, headaches, and confusion are some of the symptoms of a body that lacks water.

The water levels in our bodies are constantly changing. We lose water when we sweat and every time we exhale. So our brains have neural networks that constantly monitor our body’s water levels. When levels are too low, the brain sends out emergency signals that we register as thirst. The message from the brain is “Drink water now”.

Thirst is the body’s signal to find water, to replenish, to preserve our very life.

Psalm 42 uses thirst as a metaphor for intense longing for God.

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? (v. 1-2)

The psalmist says soul thirst causes him to seek the living God, like physical thirst drives a deer to search for streams of water.

The psalmist is in the midst of troubled times. Tears flow day and night. Others around him are questioning the goodness of God. His soul is downcast, thirsty for time with God to replenish his worn emotions.

As he pours out his soul before God, the psalmist does two things: he remembers, and he speaks.

He remembers happy times when he joined others in corporate worship, participating in a multitude of praise and worship.

These things I remember
as I pour out my soul:
How I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng. (v. 4)

And the psalmist remembers past times of intimacy with the sovereign God.

My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you…
Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers have swept over me. (v. 6-7)

In addition to remembering, the psalmist speaks.

He speaks to his own soul, reminding himself of the truth that with God, hope is never lost. He reminds his soul to praise in spite of his circumstances. He reminds his soul that the living God is a personal Savior – my Savior and my God.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (v. 5)

And the psalmist speaks to God. He pours out his soul before the Lord, confessing that his feelings tell him he has been forgotten by God even though he knows truth that God is with him. Again, the living God is personal – my Rock. His “why” questions are safe with God.

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?” (v. 8-9)

Psalm 42 closes by speaking again directly to the soul, to the emotional center.

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God. (v. 11)

Spiritual thirst drove the psalmist to God.

Having spent time in God’s presence, remembering God’s love and salvation, the psalmist is able to redirect his “why” questions. With so great a Savior, the only question that remains is “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” And he has the answer: Turn to the living God, your Rock, and put your hope in Him, not in changing circumstances. Praise Him while you wait.

Physical thirst drives us to find water.
Spiritual thirst can drive us to find God.

Spiritual thirst differs from physical thirst, however. We will die if we go three days without water. We can exist without meeting with God.

But can we truly live?

Just like a lack of water can cause the body to become weak and confused, we are spiritually weak and confused by our circumstances when we do not spend time with God. We need to meet with God each day to find strength and wisdom. We need to be replenished daily with living water from the living God.

Jesus spoke of this living water we need.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38

The living water that Jesus provides cannot be diminished by drought or changing circumstances. Living water is a never-ending spring accessed by faith. And when our hearts are satisfied, filled to overflowing in the presence of the Savior, we can face whatever the day holds.

Father, I want to thirst after You like my body thirsts for water. I want to long for time in Your presence each day. Make me thirsty for You. Thank you for living water that satisfies the soul. When I feel forgotten, I will remember You, my Savior and my God. I put my hope in You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

psalm 42



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