“There are two easy ways to die in the desert: thirst and drowning,” says naturalist Craig Childs. We depend on water for life! In the second “book” of Psalms, our longing for God is compared to thirst. Chapters 42 and 43 were originally one Psalm—as evidenced in several manuscripts, as well as in the repeated refrain (42:5, 11; 43:5). In this lament, the Psalmist feels cut off from God’s presence (42:4). He is surrounded by enemies who taunt him, asking: “Where is your God?” (vv. 3, 10).
The Psalmist uses water as a metaphor in both a positive and negative way. He longs for God “as the deer pants” for life-giving water (42:1). He drinks his own tears (v. 3). By contrast, he experienced God’s judgment, which he describes as God’s “waves and breakers” sweeping over him (v. 7). The Psalmist’s sense of abandonment by God and the presence of enemies led him to despair. He tries to remember when times were better, when he had experienced God’s presence and blessing at the temple or in the “land of the Jordan” (vv. 4, 6).
All through Psalm 42, he is speaking to himself. A shift takes place in the first verse of Psalm 43. He addresses God directly, asking Him for help, begging for His “light” and “faithful care” to guide him (43:3). This allows him to see hope for the future when he “will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God” (v. 4). Finally, he addresses himself, saying, “Put your hope in God,” taking some positive steps in that direction (v. 5).
>> Today, we do not have to travel to a temple to experience God’s presence. Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit, “the temple of the living God” (2 Cor. 6:16). When God seems far away, pour out your heart to God, and know that He cares.
As we begin this study, Lord, we ask that you speak to our hearts through the words of the Psalmists and show us what we need to learn from them in our day and age.