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?
Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
(Psalm 42:1-2; 11)
We come to Psalm 42 today in our journey through the Bible’s great songbook. I can’t read this psalm without thinking about the great old worship song As the Deer. If you have a couple of extra minutes right now, why don’t you click on that link to the song and read Psalm 42 slowly a couple of times.
In these Thirsty Thursdays, we have been considering the Psalms, one each week, since the end of last summer…ah, summer…
I’ve been thinking about summer a lot this week…or dreaming about it, really. We had a long Michigan winter, followed by a cold and rainy Michigan spring. And even though I know summer has always eventually arrived in the past, I’ve gotten to the point where I wonder if it will ever actually get here this time! It’s not so much that winter and spring are so bad, it’s just that summer is so good!
I don’t think I’m alone in that feeling. Solomon, in his great “Song of Songs,” can barely contain his excitement about summer as he expresses breathlessly:
“See! The winter is past; the rains are over and gone. Flowers appear on the earth. The season of singing has come, the cooing of doves is heard in our land. The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” (Song of Songs, 2:11-13)
Of course,Solomon’s words are a love song. But so are the words of Psalm 42. The psalmist, identified only as “The Sons of Korah,” writes his love song to 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.”
All worship songs are essentially love songs. But this song is written in the midst of a spiritual winter. Two times the writer asks the question, “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” And both times he comforts himself with hope, “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Ps. 42:5, 11)
“Why is my soul so downcast and disturbed?” The people of God are in exile in a foreign land! But the psalmist isn’t complaining to God about any sort of mistreatment or physical abuse—he’s not pleading for the destruction of his enemies. Instead, in the depths of his despair he remembers what it was like when he used to go the Temple and sing songs of praise to his God. He recalls the joy and exhilaration of sharing God’s life and love with thousands of other worshipers (vs. 4). And he simply asks “When can I go and meet with God?”
It’s not simply that his winter is so bad, it’s that the summer is so good!
The deer longs for water because she will die without it; but she also longs for that stream because the water it contains is so good. It is both a river of life (Rev. 22:1) AND it is a river of delight (Psalm 36:8). God’s living water is so good, our baptism liturgy reminds us, because God’s promises are so good. In the living water of baptism, “God promises by grace alone: to forgive our sins; to adopt us into the Body of Christ; to send us the Hopy Spirit daily to renew and cleanse us; and to resurrect us to eternal life.” (from the RCA liturgy for baptism)
These are God’s promises to us if we belong to Him! In the despair of spiritual winter of in the delight of spiritual summer, our hope and joy and freedom are found in the Living Water of Jesus Christ! And here’s the amazing thing: when we receive that life-giving water, we become vessels that carry that life, and share the life, with everyone around us! Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:38)
Are you hurting and broken inside? Jesus is calling. Drink deeply from his river of life. And then offer that living water to someone else who is thirsty. Stay thirsty; drink up; and share the life of Christ!