Deep Calls Unto Deep: The Spiritual Implications of Psalms 42: Part One

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The history of Psalm 42 is quite the adventure. I learned that it used to be two separate Psalms, and was later joined. I learned that the authorship is disputed: some say because of its form and diction that David is surely the author, and yet strong arguments to the contrary are compelling. Regardless of the author with a little “a”, the Author with a big “A” comes through in a most beautiful way. In fact, the enigma of its origin makes Psalm 42 even more intriguing. I want to deal directly with what the Spirit is speaking to our deepest part; I want to see the picture under the canvas of this most extraordinary painting; and I want to see how the Psalm lives and breathes in the age of grace and the indwelling Holy Spirit in our modern lives.

The sheer power of the human emotions expressed here ushers the text immediately into the realm of divine utterance straight from our Father. Although acutely human, the Spirit is groaning through the man and consequently causing our spirits to flicker in His flame. When this happens, it simply melts our souls. To enter into this Psalm in prayer is to enter through a gate very few people find in their short lives. If we use this cry of thirst and hunger as a direct path into God’s presence, then we have found the treasure hidden in a field. The promise of knowing that every thirsting soul is quenched of thirst, the promise that every cry of spiritual hunger is fed, and knowing that we have all of these promises in Christ is astounding. So very human, and yet so perfectly divine is the 42nd Psalm of our collective hearts, that we stand in awe of its profundity. I will point out some immense truths contained within and hope that my exposition will spur you on into your own study of Psalm 42.

Let us begin by reflecting on the first movement:

1As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”

First we must consider the panting deer. In the Hebrew context, the psalmist is referring to a gazelle, translated “great ram”, meaning it had large twisting horns. The implication is that this is a mature stag; in the old English, this refers to a male deer that is at least 5 years old or rather a mature, male animal. The transliterated Hebrew word is ‘ayal and the word in old English is hart. But what is the significance? I believe one significant point is that deer don’t pant unless they are running from danger! The magnificent animal won’t expend the calories for any other reason. Knowing this fact helps put the psalmist’s heart in clear focus. Danger is present, fleeing from danger has made his soul pant for deliverance, and the only slake from thirst is the living God. So the Spirit is speaking through the psalm and conveys an empathetic cry for help, and every believer has been there!

Part of walking in the Spirit is the very real danger of the enemy. The lukewarm believer has no reason to fear the enemy because the lukewarm don’t pose a threat to the enemy. But once a person steps into the kingdom and begins to seek an intimate relationship with God by His Holy Spirit, the enemy takes note and will do all in his power to thwart spiritual maturity. So the hart refers to a mature Christian that has been under attack. Much to the chagrin of the half-hearted, if life is rosy and without spiritual attack, then you are probably marching in the wrong direction. Sorry for the bluntness, but it is what it is; I don’t remember reading about any apostles that “lived happily ever after”! Some teachers today will preach “health and wealth”, the “Abrahamic blessing”, the “name it and claim it” doctrine, and so on. Although there is much truth to these teachings, the truth is spiritual in nature and not intended by the Scriptures to be a recipe for rainbows and unicorns! Conditional and situational blessings are but vapors compared to the eternal blessings of God, and that is what we seek. And even mature Christians (spiritually speaking) can be led off track if only for a moment. And for a person chosen by God to do His work, the enemy is brutal, nasty, and the liar doesn’t play fair. We all need to be reminded that even great men and women of God need our prayers and grace when they are running like the deer from the accuser and back to the loving arms of the Lord.

Verse 2 speaks to the only Source for quenching his soul’s thirst, mainly, the living God. A question would be: “Why is the psalmist referring to the living God, rather than just God, Jehovah, YHWH, or any other name of God?” The answer is found in understanding that God has many names! A name is simply not just a name; it is the nature of God that is described. Over the years I have come to understand more of this concept. A name describes what one is, one’s identity; it is not a label but rather a description of one’s nature. This is evidenced in all the many descriptive “names” of God. Here the verse speaks to God “the giver of life”, to a God that “gives life”, to the God that delivers water to the thirsty soul. It surely must point us to Christ Jesus’ “living water” found in John, chapter 4!

In the dispensation of grace (also called the church age), or what we know as the present time, our souls are quenched of thirst by the “living waters”. This without doubt is the Spirit within. And this no doubt has everything to do with being in His presence. Notice that the English translation asks, “When shall I come and appear before God?” Following Masoretic Text and Vulgate; some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Syriac, and Targum read “I see the face of God”. (BLB footnote). So the same question can be phrased (and is by the above citations) as, “When shall I see the face of God?” The interesting and amazing fact is that this same phraseology is used throughout the Scriptures as “seeking God’s face”; God tells us to “seek My face”; the New Testament says “seek and you will find”, “He is a rewarder of them that seek”, and the entire Bible is clear in the beautiful promise that God will reveal (manifest) Himself to those that seek Him with all of their heart! The psalmist here in Psalms 42 seems to me as one absolutely committed to this pursuit.

The Apostle Paul tells us that we are changed glory to glory by beholding, by beholding Christ Jesus with our spiritual eyes and through the lens of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18). This is an astounding revelation. We don’t have to thirst any longer; we don’t have to go anywhere to be filled; we don’t need to be in a man-made temple to have audience with the living God. He lives within; He is the living water; His presence is our salvation; and we are His temple (1 Corinthians 6:19, John 4:24). Let that one soak in for a bit! To make it clearer, let’s briefly look at what Jesus tells the woman at the well:

“but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14

So the source is not just a cold glass of water to temporarily satiate us, but rather a fountain or in other translations a well of water with us always. And we are promised that we will never thirst again. Wow…really? How can that be? Notice the wording of the last part of this verse: “springing up into everlasting life.” In our traditions and doctrines and melee of religious blindness, we have confused what “eternal” or “everlasting” life really is. We think, and therefore limit the full meaning, that this means living forever in heaven. But let’s let Jesus define “eternal life” for us:

“And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” John 17:3

I doesn’t get any plainer than that; there is no wiggle room or “subject to interpretation” trump card to pull here! So let us connect the dots here. Jesus is saying that the living waters within us lifts us higher and higher into knowing our God. How important is this? It is the most important thing in our lives…period. But why? Notice this passage from Matthew:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23

The phrase “I never knew you” in context and meaning quite simply means that these never had intimacy with God. The word “knew” is the same as a man and his wife “knowing” one another intimately in the act of reproduction! To know Jesus is to be intimate with Jesus by His Holy Spirit. Paul expounds upon this concept in the Epistle to the Corinthians; Paul writes, “But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17). Paul is comparing our spiritual life through Christ and by His Holy Spirit as “becoming one with Him” as compared to the sexual act of “becoming one flesh”. That is mind blowing truth! Of course, because the message is in spiritual language, it should not be construed carnally.

Notice in verse 21 of the above passage, only those who do the will of the Father are granted entrance into the kingdom of heaven. So that begs the question: What is the will of the Father? So glad you asked. Jesus is not lacking in His answer to that question:

35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:35-40

So doing the Father’s will for Jesus is, 1.) That Jesus would lose none of those given to Him and 2.) That everyone who sees and believes in the Son will have everlasting life. We already pointed out that everlasting life is knowing God. So if we really get to the core of the issue, we can clearly see what the Spirit is saying: We need to know God! His will is that we know Him! For to know God is to love God, and obedience is a product of intimacy.

Don’t we most of the time get the order reversed? Do we not try to obey rules and regulations and try to clean ourselves up for God and then seek Him? Can we not see that just as Jesus responded to Peter when Peter refused to have his feet washed by Christ, that “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”? (John 13:8b) Notice, Jesus doesn’t expect us to wash ourselves; He expects us to allow Him to wash us clean! Our job is to submit to the washing, to drink from living waters, to eat the bread of life, and to allow intimacy; the product of this submission is love and love is the force that drives obedience, true obedience. We are scarcely equipped to obey on our own; we simply must be empowered to find even what obedience means.

Now watch this. Intimacy with the Father comes through the Son, and intimacy with the Son comes through the Holy Spirit. One simply cannot achieve knowledge of God through Christ without first achieving knowledge of Christ through the Spirit. Subsequently, one cannot have revelation of the Father without first having a revelation of Jesus; and one cannot have a revelation of Jesus until one has been enlightened by the Spirit. The Spirit points to Christ, and Christ points to the Father. This is a God-ordained progression; we simply cannot miss this! It literally screams through the pages of the New Testament. Knowing about God or knowing about Jesus is not what the Father wants; the Father wants you to know Him! And the narrow way to this is designed by God, just as described. In the simplest terms I can muster: you cannot know the Father if you don’t know the Son and you cannot know the Son if you don’t know the Holy Spirit. So what should we be seeking or rather, Whom should we be seeking? Another similar question would be, “How do I get from where I am to where the Father wants me to be?” The answer is given in bold, bloody letters; Jesus bought you and me entrance into His kingdom with His own blood and pleads with us to seek, knock, and ask for the Holy Spirit. (Luke 11:9-13)

Returning back to Psalm 42, we read in verse 3, “My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, ‘Where is your God?’” Oh, how many times in our lives have we wandered from God and when we come to the end of ourselves cry out like the wretches we are?! If we can come to understand that is just doesn’t have to be this way. If we enter into God’s Promise, then according to Jesus we will never thirst again. If that is the promise and we find ourselves thirsty, then there has been a breach of trust in us. The fault is with us, not God! The deer running from the enemy is panting; the deer is running back to God, but had the deer not wandered, then the chase would be a moot point! Can’t we see that these times of wanting can be eliminated simply by staying in communion with His Holy Spirit? Most of our woes come from tricks by the enemy, meant to lead us from the intimacy with God and into intimacy with the world. The enemy can be subtle and persistent. That is why I said initially that only mature Christians walking in the spirit can expect to be a target. I have survived on my own tears, I have learned true hunger in my lack of faith, and I totally feel the pain of the psalmist. But I also know that there is another way! And the answer is found in the next movement.

“4When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.”

The psalmist is remembering the “good old days” as he reflects upon how it used to be. What the Spirit is trying to tell us is the same thing Jesus taught; the news for us is that we don’t have to go to the “house of God” as a temple in Jerusalem, but rather are now physically the temple of God. The writer of this plea is not privy to the indwelling of the Spirit, as Christ had not yet come to earth and the Spirit had not yet been poured out at Pentecost. But the prophecy is there!

JESUS IS THE ANSWER

Note the last part of verse 5: “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” There is a hope for a future praise, for he is seeing “the help of His countenance”. That little phrase “the help of His countenance” is astounding. Do you know what the Hebrew word for this phrase is? You won’t believe me if I tell you, but here goes. That phrase is the transliterated word yeshua. That’s right, yeshua. And if you didn’t know, that is where we get the name Jesus! In fact, in Hebrew, our Savior is called Yeshua which literally means “Jehovah is salvation”. So if you can bear it, the final part of verse 5 says, “Hope in God, for I shall praise Him for Jesus.”

Now you may doubt the connection or have never heard of this before, but I assure you a little research will prove my point. And by the way, who named our Messiah Jesus? Was it Mary, was it Joseph, or was He named after a family member? No, the Father named our Messiah Jesus! As recorded in the gospels, an angel of the Lord came to Mary and in a dream to Joseph that His name will be Jesus. So there are no coincidences here my friends. Notice what happens when we replace the phrase yeshua with the name yeshua in the following verses. Watch them come alive!

Psalms 35:9

And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord;
It shall rejoice (in His salvation).

And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord;
It shall rejoice in (Jesus).

Psalms 62:1

Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes (my salvation).

Truly my soul silently waits for God;
From Him comes (Jesus).

Psalms 67:2

That Your way may be known on earth,
(Your salvation) among all nations.

That Your way may be known on earth,
(Jesus) among all nations.

Psalms 70:4

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
And let those who love (Your salvation) say continually,
“Let God be magnified!”

Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
And let those who love (Jesus) say continually,
“Let God be magnified!”

Psalms 78:22

Because they did not believe in God,
And did not trust in (His salvation).

Because they did not believe in God,
And did not trust in (Jesus).

Psalms 96:2

Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of (His salvation) from day to day.

Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of (Jesus) from day to day.

Isaiah 25:9

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in (His salvation).”

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in (Jesus).”

Isaiah 49:6

Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be (My salvation) to the ends of the earth.’”

Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be (Jesus) to the ends of the earth.’”

Isaiah 52:7

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims (salvation),
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”

How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims (Jesus),
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”

Isaiah 52:10

The Lord has made bare His holy arm
In the eyes of all the nations;
And all the ends of the earth shall see
(The salvation of our God).

The Lord has made bare His holy arm
In the eyes of all the nations;
And all the ends of the earth shall see
(Jesus).

And finally Isaiah 56:1

Thus says the Lord:

“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
For (My salvation) is about to come,
And My righteousness to be revealed.

Thus says the Lord:

“Keep justice, and do righteousness,
For (Jesus) is about to come,
And My righteousness to be revealed.

Is it just me or does that give you chill bumps! I learned a lesson long ago, and that is, don’t ever underestimate the power of the Word. Whenever I hear someone say that they are a Bible scholar, it scares me. Why does it scare me? Because I know that the well is so deep, that anyone who claims to be a scholar is claiming to be an expert in an infinite field we call divine revelation! The more I read and study the Bible, the more I realize that I know dangerously little. We need to embrace the truth that the Word will wash us, will transform us, and will empower us in new ways every day…forever! There is no limit to the power contained therein. I may read a passage one year and it speaks to me in a certain way or the Spirit uses the passage to pour into me a certain truth; however, when I read the same exact passage at a later date, the Spirit and the Word breathe a much different revelation. It is quite astounding. As Christians, we should never, ever grow weary of reading and studying the immeasurable beauty contained in the word of God. “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12

So in closing Part One of this teaching, let us contemplate the magnificence of Jesus. What He has bought for us is true freedom: freedom from thirst, freedom from hunger, and freedom to love. But we absolutely must make the connection that Christ teaches; mainly, that He is known to us today by the Spirit. Do you want to know more about Jesus? Then ask the Spirit. Do you want to know Christ’s nature? Then ask the Spirit. Do you want to walk in fullness and victory in your life? Then find it in the Spirit! Since the Spirit is the Author of the Word, Who better to walk us through it?! For the Spirit teaches us all things, empowers us to do His will, comforts us in trials, and is the living water that sustains the tree of our Life that bears His fruit.

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4 thoughts on “Deep Calls Unto Deep: The Spiritual Implications of Psalms 42: Part One

  1. Love this: “Intimacy with the Father comes through the Son, and intimacy with the Son comes through the Holy Spirit” and this: “For the Spirit teaches us all things, empowers us to do His will, comforts us in trials, and is the living water that sustains the tree of our Life that bears His fruit.”

    • Thank you Susan. This was a very time consuming affair, but worth the effort. By the way, you are so unbelievably blessed with your sweet daughter; she will prove to be a powerhouse in the kingdom! I know you both have been through a lot this year; you know I have and will continue to keep you both in my prayers.
      Bless you,
      Gideon

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