Psalm 42

These notes are based on the NASB text.

What is the background of Psalm 42?
Although the writer of this psalm is not named, some believe David to be its author. If so, David probably penned this psalm during the period of Absalom’s rebellion. During that time, he endured the oppression of his enemies and rumors that God had forsaken him (see Psalm 42:3, and 10) and that there was no deliverance for him in God (see Psalm 3:1-2). This psalm depicts the struggle that many people experience when they are in the midst of adversity. In it we see the psalmist vacillate between doubt and faith, despair and hope, pessimism and optimism, and looking at his circumstances and looking at God.

42:1  As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for Thee, O God.

The writer of this Psalm had an intense longing for God. His longing was as intense as that of a deer searching for water during a period of drought. Such a longing is intent on a single priority, finding and being refreshed by life-giving water. Other issues or things that cannot satisfy do not distract such a longing. Augustine wrote, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, and our souls are restless until they find rest in Thee.”

42:2  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?

The intense longing of the psalmist was also an intentional longing. Apparently separated from familiar surroundings, the writer longed only for God. If David composed this Psalm during the time of Absalom’s rebellion, then David was separated from his people, his palace, and his possessions. Yet he did not express a desire for any of those things or that he might be vindicated. He longed only for the person and presence of God.

The intense and intentional longing of the psalmist was also inspirational. He asked when he might “appear before God” (a technical phrase for a pilgrimage to the Temple) or see the face of God. Someone has said that many men seek the hand of God but very few seek His face. The psalmist had an inspiring and passionate longing for God. Patrick M. Morley, author of The Man in the Mirror, wrote: “Ron Jensen rented a travel camper and traveled around the country with his wife while working on his doctoral thesis. His task was to interview 350 Christian leaders. At the end of his tour he made a discouraging observation. He said, ‘I found a great deal of zeal for God’s work, but very little passion for God.'” The psalmist had an inspiring passion for God and God alone.

Practical Consideration: Our longings reveal our priorities.
The psalmist longed for God. He did not long for lesser things. His soul was restless in its desire to fellowship with God. He was sustained in trials by the conviction that he would again worship God with others of like faith. His priority was fellowship with God. Our longings reveal much about our priorities. They reveal the place God truly holds in our hearts and minds.

42:3  My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

This verse tells of the intense grief and sorrow the psalmist felt. He had no appetite. He wept day and night. Tears were his constant companion. He experienced frustration brought on by the taunts of his enemies who suggested that God had abandoned him.

42:4  These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

As the psalmist experienced the agony of the present (as suggested by the phrase, “I pour out my soul within me”), he recalled the ecstasy of the past when he was involved with others in the joyful worship of God. As he reflected on happy scenes from his past, he must have been encouraged to continue hoping in God in the present.

Practical Consideration: Remembrance can be a powerful remedy for despair.
The psalmist was sustained in his trials by remembering wonderful experiences of worship from his past. Looking back can sometimes help us to keep looking up.

42:5  Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.

The psalmist asked himself: [A] “Why are you in despair, O my soul? ” The phrase “in despair” means to be cast down, to be depressed, or to sink under the weight of sorrow. [B] “And why have you become disturbed within me?” which suggests an agitated and troubled mind.

The psalmist commanded himself to “hope in God,” a reminder that God would intervene and deliver him from his crisis. He reassured himself that he would indeed praise God again in days to come for his deliverance. In this moving dialogue with himself, the psalmist determined to put his trust in God rather than allow his circumstances to plunge him into depression.

42:6  O my God, my soul is in despair within me;
Therefore I remember Thee from the land of the Jordan,
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
42:7  Deep calls to deep at the sound of Thy waterfalls;
All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me.
42:8  The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.

The psalmist felt the weight of his trials. He was far from his home and place of worship. Sadness flooded his soul. Wave after wave swept over him. He felt as though one wave was calling and inviting another to beat upon him. His troubles seemed relentless. Notice that he referred to the waves of affliction as “Thy waterfalls”. . .”Thy breakers”. . .”Thy waves.” He understood that nothing could touch his life without divine permission and all that touched his life would be kept under a divine check and achieve divine purposes. He was confident that God would give him mercy and strength, a song in the night, and hear his prayers. He knew that God would give him an inner consolation in the face of outward misery. He knew that God’s love would remain constant “in the daytime” and “in the night,” even though his circumstances might suggest otherwise.

Practical Consideration: God gives songs in the night.
God is able to give His people songs in the night. He alone can enable them to endure life’s difficulties with a distinctive spirit. Songs in the night have notes penned with hope and faith. They have lyrics composed in the depths of the heart. They have melodies that convict skeptics of the difference God makes in the lives of his people. To some, they appear to be tunes of unreasonable faith. Songs in the night, however, are a powerful testimony to the grace and sustaining power of God. See also Acts 16:25.

42:9  I will say to God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten Me?
Why do I go on mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
42:10  As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
42:11  Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance, and my God.

The psalmist referred to God as his rock. God was his solid and immovable strength and defense. Even though he felt that he had been forgotten, he knew that such could not possibly be the case. Even though he felt the painful (see the phrase, “as a shattering of my bones”), mocking, and sarcastic words of his adversaries, he continued to hope in God. The psalmist continued to believe that God would deliver him and change the expression of his countenance to gladness. The psalmist did not lose hope or faith in the midst of his struggles.

Practical Consideration: We should not forget that God never forsakes nor forgets.
When we feel overwhelmed by life’s circumstances … when we feel troubles engulfing us … when we feel the caustic taunts of skeptics … when we feel alone and abandoned by God … when we feel that God has forgotten us … remember that God never leaves us nor forsakes us and God never forgets us. Nothing can separate us from His presence or concern.

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