Psalm 42

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, April 29, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

We know that the psalms are the songs of the Old Testament, but many of them (or at least verses from them) have been turned into songs we sing today as well. From what I recall, my first experience with Psalm 42 was actually singing a song based on verse 1 in church when I was in grade school, called As the Deer. While the beginning of this psalm starts out with longing for God, it’s a rather back-and-forth psalm, switching often between lament and hope.

The psalm starts with a lament in verses 1-4. The psalmist longs to experience God’s presence, using the metaphor of a deer longing for water. He has an appetite for being in God’s presence. It looks as though the psalmist is getting more and more depressed, while those around him question where God is and much time has passed since the last time he was able to be in God’s presence in the temple.

Verse 5 is an interesting one, because the verse starts as a lament but then turns to hope: “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.” The psalmist realizes that his soul is saddened, but then he reminds himself that he has no reason to feel that way - his hope is in God who saves him! The same is true for us. It can be so easy to get caught up in the things of this world that are so negative - diseases, death, the worldly self-focused culture, poverty, the negativity of the media, etc. But our hope can always (and should always) be placed not in those things but in the God of the universe, for He is always our Savior and our God!

In spite of that hope, the psalmist returns to lament in verses 6-7. The psalm started with the imagery of being desiring God like water to drink, and now it moves to imagery of waterfalls, waves, and breakers. Instead of calm and serene waters, the psalmist now feels the torment of rough waters in his life.

But again, there is hope! Verse 8 says, “By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life.” The psalmist remembers that God is always with him, always loves him, and is the God who in fact gives him life. God’s continual presence and love is a comfort to the soul, both for the psalmist and for us today.

In verses 9-10, the psalmist remembers that God is his rock, but he still cries out to Him in lament. Because of the circumstances going on in his life (which we as the readers don’t know the details of), the psalmist still feels as though God has deserted him. He is feeling oppressed by his enemies, he’s experiencing pain, and he’s being mocked. Even though God is still with him, it can be easy to forget that in times of great distress.

But in verse 11, the psalmist repeats the realization and hope that he experienced in verse 5. He truly can praise God in all situations and circumstances, because God truly is his savior!

That’s technically the end of Psalm 42, but many scholars believe that Psalm 43 is actually a continuation of Psalm 42. It’s 5 more verses and it continues the same pattern of a few verses of lament followed by a verse of hope. Psalm 43:5 is actually the same wording as Psalm 42:5 and 11, which makes a strong case for these psalms actually being one.

Whether these two psalms should be together or separate, the meaning is clear: we all go through times where life is hard and we question God. God may feel very far away and it may feel like he’s forgotten us, but we can be assured that God is always present with us and always loves us, no matter what. We too can say with the psalmist that even when our soul is downcast and disturbed, “I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God!”

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