Praising God as the Grand Savior

Psalm 42 depicts for us the circumstances of a Levite, one of the offspring of Korah, who found himself in exile. His inspired words can be very beneficial to us in preserving thankfulness for friendship with fellow Christians and continuing steadfastly while going through hostile conditions.

Thirsting for God as a Deer Thirsts for Water

The psalmist stated,

Psalm 42:1-2 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

42 As a deer longs for flowing streams of water,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?[1]

A female deer cannot survive long without water. If water is low, the deer will risk its life going out of cover to get at the lifesaving water, even though she knows that the prey could attack at any moment. Like the deer that longs for water because it is a matter of life or death, the Psalmist longed for God. The word “pants” in the Hebrew means “to have a keen, consuming desire for.” His driving passion was not for people, possessions, or prosperity but for God.”[2]

The Bible lands are a dry country, where the vegetation wastes away rapidly throughout the dry season, and water is a very valuable commodity, as it is limited in the extreme. That is why the Psalmist says that he was a ‘soul thirsting for God.’ He had been going without his essential spiritual needs being satisfied, that is the freedom of going to the sanctuary; therefore, he asks when he might again “appear before God.”

He had been confined because of persecution, which prevented him from having contact with his fellow believers, which resulted in intense sadness, unhappiness, and hopelessness, as verse three indicates.

Psalm 42:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

My tears have been my food
day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

Because of this hostile situation, the Psalmist was depressed to the point of being unable to eat. Therefore, his ‘tears were his food.’ Yes, “day and night” tears would roll down his cheeks into his mouth. His isolation and distress were not enough, as his enemies aggravated his wounds by provoking, ridiculing, in a hurtful or mocking way, as they would say all day long, “Where is your God?” He needed to find a way to reassure himself during this time of difficulty, to not be overrun by sorrow and heartache.

Why am I in Despair?

Psalm 42:4-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with a voice of joy and thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
for the salvation of before him. O my God, within me my soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and the heights of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.

Here we find the Psalmist not living in the moment of suffering, but rather remembering a time before he was in exile. He ‘pours out his soul,’ reaching the depths of his inner self with such passion, as he reminisces within about the former days. The Levite recalls in his mind what life was like when he was in his land, as he lived and worshiped with his brother and sister Israelites, as they walked “to the house of God,” to celebrate the festival. Initially, these memories did not bring joy, but the pain of knowing they were a thing of the past, deeply missed.

Then, he asked himself, “Why are you cast down, O my soul and why are you in turmoil within me”? At that moment, he realized that his hope of salvation was not in himself, but in God. Therefore, the sweet memories indeed brought him relief! He knew that if he patiently waited, God would act on his behalf. He then knew that his unfavorable conditions were not going to define his faith that, in time God would aid him in his time of need. When that moment would happen, he would “praise him” for ‘his salvation’ and being ‘his God.’ He might have been far removed from the sanctuary, but the Psalmist kept his God at the forefront of his mind.

If we ever find ourselves in difficult times, unrelenting times, we need to follow the pattern set by the Psalmist. We need to remember that God is well aware of our circumstances, and he will not forsake us. We must realize that the issues that were raised by Satan in the Garden of Eden, the sovereignty of God, the rightfulness of his rulership, and the issues raised by Satan to God in the book of Job, the loyalty of God’s creatures, are greater than we are.

Proverbs 3:25-26 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

25 Do not be afraid of sudden panic[3]
or the storm of the wicked, when it comes,
26 for Jehovah will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.

Before delving into the rest of Psalm 42, let us take a moment to establish what these verses do not mean. Should we understand that these verses or any others in Scripture teach that because we are wisely walking with God that he will miraculously step in to protect each servant personally from difficult times, diseases, mental disorders, injury or death? No. These sorts of miracles are the extreme exception to the rule. Of the 4,000 plus years of Bible history, from Adam to Jesus, with tens of millions of people living and dying, we have but a few dozen miracles that we know of in Scripture. Even in Bible times, miracles were not typical, far from it. Hundreds of years may pass with no historical record of a miracle happening at all.

If we are wisely walking with God, we can be confident that bodily disease, mental disorders, injury or early death is far less likely than if we were not. Moreover, we can draw on the resurrection hope. Does God miraculously move events to save us out of difficult times or miraculously heal us? Yes, he certainly can, but it is an extreme exception to the rule. He miraculously heals those who are going to play a significant role in his settling of the issues that were raised in the Garden of Eden.

What God’s Word teaches us is this, that if we walk by using discernment and exercising sound judgment from Scripture, unless unexpected events befall us, we can be sure that we will not stumble into the difficulties that the world of humankind alienated from God faces every day. Conversely, the wicked do not have this protection as they reject the Word of God as foolish. In other words, Christians live by the moral values of Scripture, which gives them an advantage over those who do not. Therefore, God answers our prayers by our faithfully acting on behalf of those prayers, by applying Scripture in a balanced manner. If we have not taken in a deep understanding of God’s Word, how can we have the Spirit-inspired wisdom, the very knowledge of God to guide and direct us in our ways? Just because we are not being rescued when we feel that we should, this does not mean that we have lost faith, or that God is displeased. Even though the Psalmist had no doubt that Jehovah God was coming to his aid, he still experienced grief.

Psalm 42:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.

Yes, the Psalmist’s surroundings of his exile were very beautiful; however, they brought him back to the reality of his difficulty! Verse 7 may very well be describing the snow on Mount Hermon when it melts. Marvelous waterfalls are fashioned, which pour into the Jordan, causing it to increase in size. It is as though one wave is speaking to another wave. This extraordinary spectacle of power brought to the Psalmist’s mind that he had been consumed by distress as if being overcome by a flood. Nevertheless, his faith in God does not waiver.

Psalm 42:8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

By day Jehovah commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

There is no doubt in the Psalmist’s mind that Jehovah God will engulf him with his steadfast love, freeing him from anxiety. This will empower him to praise God in song and to offer a prayer of thanks ‘to the God of his life.’

The Korahite Levite thinks,

Psalm 42:9-10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
10 As with a shattering of my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”

Then, it seems that the Psalmist slips, even though he views God as ‘his rock,’ a place of protection from one’s enemies. Yes, he now asks, “Why have you forgotten me?” Yes, the Psalmist was allowed to remain in his circumstances of sadness, feeling depressed, as his enemies took pleasure in what appeared to be a victory. The psalmist speaks of himself as being criticized in an unbearable way. So malicious was the mockery and disdain that it could be likened ‘as with a deadly wound in his bones.’ However, the Levite again comes to himself with self-talk, challenging his irrational thinking with rational thinking.

Wait for God

Psalm 42:11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

11 Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disturbed within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

It is not the troubles of the Psalmist, which actually caused him to feel bad. It is what he told himself that contributed to how he felt. Self-talk is what we tell ourselves in our thoughts. In fact, self-talk is the words we tell ourselves about people, self, experiences, life in general, God, the future, the past, the present; it is specifically all the words we say to ourselves all the time. Destructive self-talk, even subconsciously, can be very harmful to our mood: causing mood slumps, our self-worth plummeting, our body feeling sluggish, our will to accomplish even the smallest of things is not to be realized, and our actions defeat us.

Intense negative thinking of the Psalmist led to his feeling forsaken, resulting in painful emotions, and depressive state. However, his thoughts based on a good mood were entirely different from those based on his being upset. Negative thoughts that flooded his mind were the actual contributors of his self-defeating emotions. These very thoughts were what kept the Psalmist sluggish and contributed to his feeling abandoned. Therefore, his thinking was also the key to his relief.

Every time the Psalmist felt down because of his irrational self-talk, he attempted to locate the corresponding negative thought he had to this feeling. It was those thoughts that created his feelings of low self-worth. By offsetting them and replacing them with rational thoughts, he actually changed his mood. The negative thoughts that move through his mind did so with no effort, and were the easiest course to follow, because imperfect human tendencies gave him that way of thinking, a pattern of thinking. However, the Psalmist challenged those irrational thoughts of being forsaken with rational ones, saying that he would hope to God and that he would continue to praise him as in the end God is his salvation, even if that salvation comes in the form of a resurrection.

The centerpiece of it all is our Christlike mine. Our moods, behaviors and body responses result from the way we view things (fleshly or spiritual). It is a proven fact that we cannot experience any event in any way, shape, or form unless we have processed it with our mind first. No event can depress us; it is our perception of that event that will contribute to intense sadness, even depression. If we are only sad over an event, our thoughts will be rational, but if we are depressed or anxious over an event, our thinking will be bent and irrational, distorted and utterly wrong.

 If we are to remain rational in our thinking, we need to grasp the fact that God does not always step in when we believe he should, nor is he obligated to do so. As was stated earlier, he has greater issues that need resolving, which have eternal effects for the whole of humankind. There are far more times that when God does not step in, meaning that our relief may come in the hope of the resurrection. However, for his servants that apply his Word in a balanced manner, fully, God is acting in their best interest by way of his inspired, inerrant Word.

[1] Some mss read see the face of God

[2] Anders, Max; Lawson, Steven (2004-01-01). Holman Old Testament Commentary – Psalms: 11 (p. 224). B&H Publishing.

[3] Or fear, dread, terror