Meditation: Psalm 42

Reading: Psalm 42; John 7:37-39

Psalm 42 describes the human struggle of the author. We see it going back and forth: moments of despair, and then coming back to the refrain in which the author tells his soul to hope in God and to be certain that God is there and will redeem him, so that he can go up again and praise God.

Also psalm 43 can be seen as part of the entire psalm. Especially because Psalm 43 has no separate introduction like other psalms do, and the refrain of Psalm 42 we see again at the end of Psalm 43.

It is not certain when this psalm was written. It is clear that it was in a situation in which the author was in exile, away from the house of God. This could have been during the Babylonian exile, but it is also possible that this psalm was written by or on the time of David when David had to flee from Absalom. And there are other possibilities. It would be nice for us to know when this psalm was written, because then we could imagine in what kind of situation the author was. But the Bible doesn’t tell us and the Holy Spirit did not consider this to be important. The reason why this psalm is part of the Bible, is because God uses it to teach us. It speaks about God’s people, and it speaks about Christ, our Saviour.

The author describes his misery. In verse 1 he says that he pants for God. He is seeking God, but cannot go to God. In the Old Testament, the people came to the temple to come before God. Or if this was in the time of David, it was the tabernacle. It was together with the entire people that the author usually went up to God’s dwelling place. But now he is away from God’s people and away from the house of God. In verse 6 he speaks about the land of the Jordan, and of Hermon, and the Hill Mizar. This is the area east of the Jordan, probably north-east. This indicates that it is impossible for him to go to God’s house. It is too far away, but probably also because his enemies prevent him from going there. And he misses it, so much that he is miserable. Especially in the situation that his enemies are making life hard on him, he desires to come before God. But now, being away from God makes him deeply miserable, so much as if he is languishing and dying of thirst.

His soul thirsts for God. This reminds us of what we read in John 7:37-39, where the Lord Jesus Christ tells all those who thirst to come to Him and drink. And at many more places in the Bible God speaks about coming to God to receive the water of life. As Israel was thirsting in the desert, in Exodus 17, and God gave them flowing streams of water, so Christ gives His people living water. It is for God that the author thirsts, it is for God, that God’s people thirsts. If God doesn’t give water, living water, to our souls, then we will die, a miserable death, away from God.

He speaks about the waters of God’s wrath. Verse 7: Deep calls to deep, at the noise of your waterfalls; all your waves and billows have gone over me. Instead of refreshing flowing streams of living water, he now has to suffer under the waves of God’s wrath. It is like dying from thirst during a storm at sea.

What is most terrible for him is not so much what his enemies do to him. He doesn’t tell much about his own situation. If this psalm is from David, he doesn’t speak about Absalom, or other enemies and what they did to him. Or if it is during the Babylonian exile, he does not speak about the terrible deeds of the Babylonians. No, it is all about the terrible thing of being away from God. In that, we see the prophecy of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was for Him the deepest suffering and anguish of hell, not when the people mocked Him, but when He was forsaken by God. In verse 3 the author recalls the words of his enemies: Where is your God? And that is the question that haunts him. Where is God? We see that when our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified, in Matthew 27:43, there we read: ‘He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God’.” And later the Lord Jesus Himself cried oud: My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me? That is the real misery, about which this psalm speaks. This misery, which the author suffers, is a foreshadowing of the suffering and death of Christ. It is because the deepest anguish and misery of our Lord Jesus Christ which He suffered on the cross that the author can now say in response to his suffering and anguish: Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him.

Because Christ continued to love God and call on Him, even when He was forsaken by God, now God’s people may know that God will not forsake them and they will stand before God again and praise Him. Because Christ went under in the waters of God’s wrath and died eternal death, we will never be separated from the love of God, in Christ Jesus, our Lord.