The content of Psalm 42 is the anguishing soul of the Psalmist intermingled with prayer and praise. This psalm was written for then and today, an invitation from God to come to him, and the occasion, when going through a exhausting storm of life. We may be in the midst of an inexhaustible storm of ridicule and taunting, and we may not feel the presence of God. We may feel he has turned his face from us. Whatever you may be going through, and you feel alone, God invites you to seek Him, and return to His house.
Some ascribe the writing of Psalm 42 to the sons of Korah, a Levitical family of singers, who may have been among the companions of David during his exile. Others suggest David as the author when he was fleeing from his son, Absalom. 2 Samuel 17.
Let’s look at the life of David, or it could be a son of Korah, and what was going on during this time.
In 2 Samuel 17:2, Ahithophel, who acted as military counselor to Absalom, describes David as weak handed and weary, and thought to make David afraid. And once David was killed, all that followed David would flee and return to Absalom.
But Absalom asks for another’s counsel of how to defeat David. This man, Hushai, unknowingly to Absalom, was not an enemy of David, and gave different advice. This man describes David’s men as mighty and valiant, and David, as a man of war. His strategy was that David and his men would be like a bear robbed of her cubs, and would fight to the death. Absalom liked the advice Hushai gave and decided on this strategy to get rid of David. Hushai’s plan was to warn David of the attack ahead of time, so that David would not be found where they expected him to be.
Also unknowingly to Absalom, there was another One, in His omniscience, far more wiser than any man and he was intervening, and He didn’t need either man’s counsel. 2nd Samuel 17:14. “For the Lord had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom.” The Hebrew word for evil means harm, distress, disaster, troubles.
We need to understand what we’re reading in 2nd Samuel 17:14, and to do this, we need to refer to other books of the Bible.
Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things” The Hebrew word for darkness and evil is a metaphor for misery, destruction, death, sorrow, adversity, trouble, calamity. God brings light and peace into our lives, our homes, our families, our world, and by our wrong choices, we bring trouble into our lives. These are consequences and correction to bring us back on the right path. God does not remove the consequences, and we must straighten our paths to make our way through the troublesome times.
Micah 7:8 “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise: when I sit in darkness , the Lord shall be a light unto me.” If we earnestly seek Him, He is there for us, and he will see us through these troublesome times in our lives. Now we can see that the wording in 2nd Samuel 17:14 were not harsh words for Absalom. The words are from our God Who seeks His best for our lives.
Let’s go now to Psalm 42, where the writer of Psalm 42 was in exile from his homeland and from God’s house.
The Psalmist describes the time of exile, and he compares himself in this situation to that of a hart, and in the Hebrew, the word speaks of a muscular male deer, and he suffers from the loss of water brooks in his habitat in the drought.
In Psalm 42:1, the Psalmist says, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks,”
Deer, like all living things, need water to survive. And water requirements increase with the deer’s body mass. A time of drought takes its toll and depletes their energy. Deer also get most of their water requirements from the vegetation that is high in water content. But during a drought the vegetation disappears. The deer then suffer from lack of nourishment, that has been a source for water, and now that rainfall is scarce, there is lack of water brooks, and even remaining puddles dry up, and any stagnant water remaining becomes a breeding ground for disease, and the deer succumbs to an insatiable thirst for water, and it becomes a great struggle to survive the drought, even for the strongest.
“so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” David is described, along with his men, as mighty and valiant, a man of war, yet his circumstances, drove him to have a deep yearning for God, a yearning that would not be satisfied.
Let’s look closer at these verses in Psalm 42. In Psalm 42:1, the Hebrew name of God is Elohiym, the plural name for God, depicting the triune God. The Psalmist had an insatiable thirst for his triune God.
and then in Psalm 42:2, “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? We see again the Hebrew name, Elohiym, for the triune God, then the name for “the living God” in the Hebrew, He is chay El, meaning living, the revived, the almighty. The soul of the Psalmist was thirsting for the triune God, the living, revived God Almighty.
The thought of God as a living God, the almighty, was especially vital to the Psalmist during this time. He was in exile, away from home, his people, and place of worship, and the surrounding people worshipped Gods of wood and stone, and he expresses his deepest yearning. He knew God was with him. He spoke to God in verse 1. But then in verse 2, as if God was not with him, he spoke of God. His soul was in turmoil, with emotions tossing his thoughts back and forth.
3 “My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, ‘Where is thy God?’ The question that was to instill hopelessness within his soul was constantly thrown at him. We can assume his tears day and night were figurative as the term ‘lehem’ for meat was figurative. Inwardly he was continually crying to God in such a state that his soul was feeding on the emotional turmoil day and night, allowing no let up.
4 When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day. Let’s look first at what the Psalmist was remembering, what he was missing out on during his exile, away from his homeland and the house of God.The Psalmist looked forward to the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week. It was a day, appointed by God, a day of rest for His people and worship.
Then there were 7 other celebrations throughout the year when the Psalmist gathered with God’s people for commemorating what God had done for His people.
In the book of Exodus, we read of the Israelites greatly multiplying in numbers of their people, while living in Egypt. In Exodus 1:9,10 we read, “And he (the king of Egypt), said unto his people, “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: 10 come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.” Then begins the slavery of the children of Israel in the land of Egypt.
Now would be a good time to read through Exodus 1-11 to see how God works wondrous in the lives of His people to bring them out from the bondage in Egypt. In chapter 12, God institutes the holiday, The Passover, an annual holiday, the tenth day (this was the tenth plague that God brought upon the Egyptians) through the fourteenth day of the first month, a celebration of when the angel passed over the homes of the Israelites, which were identified by the blood of a lamb sprinkled on the doorposts, sparing their firstborn, and delivered God’s people out from the bondage of the Egyptians. This period of time in the lives of God’s people depicts sin holding us in bondage, enslaving us, and God the Son, God in the flesh, second person of the Trinity, dying in our place, a propitiation, an atoning sacrifice, that we might be free from the grips of sin, and brought into a right relationship with God, and that we might not perish, but have everlasting life. Exodus 12, Leviticus 23:5-8, Numbers 28-16-25, Deuteronomy 16:1-8, John 3:16, Romans 3:25 and Hebrews 9:22.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread followed the Passover, lasting seven days, the fifteenth through the twenty-first day of the same month, reminded the people of their rush to leave Egypt, with no time to let their bread rise, they left out the fermenting dough with the yeast. This reminded the people what sin does to people, it works its way through us fermenting the whole person, giving rise to sin and death. Leviticus 23:5-8. Along with The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Festival of First Fruits, lasting one day, probably occurred on the 16th day of the month. The Feast of First Fruits celebrated the first crops of the barley harvest. The purpose for this feast was to bring to the remembrance of the people how God provided for them. Leviticus 23:9-14. And it looked forward to the resurrection of Jesus, traditionally viewed as on the 16th day of the month, on Sunday, the day of The Feast of First Fruits. Jesus rose as the first fruits of them that sleep (1 Corinthians 15:23). For God’s people, the first ripe grain was their assurance of the harvest to come. The resurrection of Jesus is our assurance that we will raise from the grave also.
1st Corinthians 15:23 “But every man in his own order: Christ the first fruits: afterward they that are Christ’s at His Coming.”
The Festival of Pentecost, lasted one day, and was celebrated seven weeks from the festival of the Passover and Unleavened Bread. It celebrated the end of the barley harvest and the beginning of the wheat harvest. During this celebration, the people expressed their thanksgiving to God. Leviticus 23:15-22. This festival looked forward to the day, which was spoken of in the Book of Acts, chapter 2, when on the day of Pentecost, seven weeks following the resurrection of Jesus, on the 50th day, the Holy Spirit of God came and filled many believers, preparing the believers to share the news of Jesus, and on that day about 3,000 souls received the Word that was spoken to them, and were baptized, and added in among the believers. And the harvest of believers didn’t stop there. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to the church daily, such as should be saved.”
The Feast of Trumpets, lasted one day, the first day of the seventh month, and celebrated the beginning of the seventh month. During the celebration, the people rested, and the purpose for the rest was to prepare God’s people for the events of the rest of the month. The Day of Atonement came ten days later, and the Feast of Tabernacles came on the 15th day of the month. Leviticus 23:23-25. The Feast of Trumpets was to herald in what would follow in the rest of the month. And looking to Jesus, this celebration heralds in the day, for each one of us, when we accept Jesus as the propitiation for our sins, an advocate with the Father, that we might be cleansed all sin, made righteous before the Father, and we are one on one in our relationship with the Heavenly Father. Can anything get any more glorious than this?
The Day of Atonement, lasted one day. Following The Feast of the Trumpets, it came in the seventh month on the 10th day, and celebrated the removal of sin from the people and the nation. This was a time for the people to celebrate restoration into fellowship with God. Leviticus 23:26-32. The celebration of The Day of Atonement looks forward to Jesus, 1 John 2:1,2 “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous, 2 and He is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” John, at the time of this writing, was up in age, and could have been the only one living of the apostles, and this would explain why he addresses his readers as “My little children.” He would have been old enough to be an aging father or grandfather to his readers, and he uses an affectionate term to address his readers. He introduces Jesus Christ as an advocate to the Heavenly Father. Jesus is at our side, as our intercessor with God the Father. He has the credentials to plead our cause. He Himself is righteous, and He is the propitiation for our sins. Jesus is the means by Whom God shows His mercy towards us, who believe in Him, bringing us into a one on one relationship with the Heavenly Father. In John 4:10, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Jesus Christ is the Greatest Expression of love known to man. There is no greater love.
Feast of Tabernacles lasted seven days, and occurred on the 15th day of the month. On their way to the land God promised to them, God’s people dwelled in small booths or tabernacles as they travelled through the wilderness, and this celebration was to commemorate those days. The Israelites prepared small booths or tabernacles in which they would dwell during their celebration of God’s guidance and watch care after He had delivered them from the bondage of Egypt. Leviticus 23:33-43. In the book of John we read where Jesus, God in the flesh, God the Son, the divine being of the Triune God, of Whom this celebration was all about, He made His appearance to the Feast of Tabernacles. John 7:2, 37. During this celebration, the priests brought water from the pool of Siloam and poured it out at the alter to commemorate how God supplied them water in the wilderness. Towards the end of the celebration, “Jesus stood and cried, saying, ‘If any man thirst, let Him come unto Me, and drink.” The eternal God was still in the business of supplying water to any man that thirst. In John 7:38, 39, the writer of the book goes on to clarify what Jesus was saying, “He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” The one that believes on Jesus will not only get his fill of living water, but this living water from deep down within his being, he will richly share the word of Christ with others. Further clarification is in the following verse, John 7:39 (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given: because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) He had not yet ascended into heaven. After His ascension, He sends His Holy Spirit to those that believe on Him, that they may from deep within their being, have the riches of the Word of God to share of Christ with others. Read Acts 2 for the glorious occasion of the Holy Spirit ascending down on man, and today the Holy Spirit lives within all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
Throughout the year, the Psalmist was with a multitude of likeminded believers, family and friends, each sharing praises and thanksgiving, joyous times as they made their way together to the same meeting place, the house of God, and throughout the year, there were special occasions that they looked forward to, made preparations for, and commemorated all that the Lord God had done among their people for past generations, so much to look back on, wondrous things that had the people marveling over all that God had accomplished in the lives of their people in past generations, and even then, and what God was going to do, so much to look forward to, marvelous things that built and strengthened their faith, and now all of that was behind him, his soul was filled with agitation and anguish; questions flooded his soul,…
Psalm 42:5 Why are thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance. The Psalmist felt like his world had bottomed out, he felt low, his soul was drowning in anguish; his heart, filled with agitation, was crying out for answers, and then he answered his own questions with answers that were of His God, but at the same time, the answers were spoken of God, as if God was not present. He gives himself the answer, “hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” He spoke as if he were looking forward to be again in the presence of God. He was feeling distance between him and His God.
Psalm 42:6 “O my God, my soul is cast down within me, therefore will I remember Thee from the land of Jordan, and of the Hermonites, from the hill Mizar.” Now his speech changes. God, in His marvelous way, made His presence known to the Psalmist, and now he does not speak of God, but he prays to God and pours out how he feels to God, “I feel low, my world has bottomed out, my soul is drowning is anguish and agitation,” he laid it all out before God how he felt, what he was going through. Then he makes a statement of commitment to God, “I will remember you from where I am,” and he was basically saying, no matter where I am.
Psalm 42:7 “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts: all Thy waves and billows are gone over me.” The Psalmist here still realizes the presence of God, and that what was going on was of God: Thy waterspouts, Thy waves and billows. The words “Deep calleth unto deep” speaks of an echo the Psalmist hears through it all. This could speak of his own repetition, repeating himself, asking the same questions over and over, and then repetition of praise and prayer to God, as he goes through this storm.
Let’s look at another storm that will shed light on the words of the Psalmist in 42:7. Psalm 107:25,26, 28, 29. The author of this Psalm is unknown, but he speaks of a storm, but the language is figurative of the storms of life, that is of God, and when God is called upon, He calms the storm. “For He commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. 26 They mount up to heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. 28 Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
The words in these verses speak of an inexhaustible source of water. These are the storms of life, that sometimes seem there is no let up, but in the end we find God is in control of the storm, and he is not going to let us drown, and though we may be exhausted, and ready to throw in the towel because of the onslaught of the waves of tauntings and ridicule washing over us, God is faithful and brings about calm and refreshing in our lives, and will satisfy our thirst for Him.
Psalm 42:8 Yet the Lord will command His loving kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life. Here the Psalmist acknowledges to his reading audience, that he knows the heart of God, and is assured of the Lord’s loving kindness, and when darkness falls upon his life, a song of God stays within him, and his prayer will be to God. Even though the storm has not passed over, he is reassured that God is in control of the storms of life.
Psalm 42:9,10. I will say unto God my rock, ‘Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 10 As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me; while they say daily unto me, ‘Where is thy God?’ Here the Psalmist is sharing with his reading audience his questions for God. He refers to God as my rock, his personal rock, a support on which he will firmly stand, and God will be his personal defense against the enemy. Yet he feels God has forgotten him, so again he does not feel the presence of God, and he says he will ask God why he was still mourning because of the oppression of the enemy. Then he shares that daily he hears the ridicule and taunts of the enemy ‘Where is thy God?’
Psalm 42:11. Why are thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance.
The Psalmist concludes his Psalm with questions for himself, “Why am I cast down, why do I feel so low, why do I feel my world has bottomed out? and then he asks himself, why am I agitated and in anguish? Then he advises his readers then, and us today “Hope Thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance.
The Lord Jesus Christ erases from us all scars, stains and traces of sin that Satan hurls at us in our everyday lives, and others will look upon us to discover the glowing countenance of the Lord Jesus Christ shining through in our lives.
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