Psalm 421NIV New International Version Translations
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. 9 I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.
To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. Dedicated to the Master of Music, this Psalm is worthy of his office; he who can sing best can have nothing better to sing. It is called, Maschil, or an instructive ode; and full as it is of deep experimental expressions, it is eminently calculated to instruct those pilgrims whose road to heaven is of the same trying kind as David’s was. It is always edifying to listen to the experience of a thoroughly gracious and much afflicted saint. Although David is not mentioned as the author, this Psalm must be the offspring of his pen, it bears the marks of his style and experience in every letter.
It is the cry of a man far removed from the outward ordinances and worship of God, sighing for the long loved house of his God; and at the same time it is the voice of a spiritual believer, under depressions, longing for the renewal of the divine presence, struggling with doubts and fears, but yet holding his ground by faith in the living God. Most of the Lord’s family has sailed on the sea which is here so graphically described. It is probable that David’s flight from Absalom may have been the occasion for composing this Maschil.
The structure of the song directs us to consider it in two parts which end with the same refrain; Ps 42:1-5 and then Ps 42:6-11.
Verses 1 – 2: The hart, or male deer, is thirsty. It is in a desert place where there is no water. It cries while it looks for water. The psalmist says that he is like the hart. The psalmist is the person that wrote the psalm. His enemy has taken him through a desert where he saw the thirsty animal. The psalmist is thirsty too. But he is not thirsty for water, but for God. His body is not thirsty, but his soul inside him is thirsty. He is a hostage so that he cannot go to the temple and see God. In the psalm, “not seeing God” means “not worshipping God”. He did not really see God, he only saw the place where he believed that God lived.
Verses 3 – 4: His enemies laugh at him and ask, “Where is your God?” They are saying, “God is not with you now”. The psalmist remembers how he worshipped God in the temple. There were crowds of people there. They all worshipped God with singing and dancing. It was like a great party or festival. But now he thought that his enemies were right: he had left God in Jerusalem.
Verse 5: The psalmist tells his soul that although he is sad and restless he will still hope in God. Our soul is that part of us that makes us feel happy or sad. It will still live when our bodies die. Jesus repeated some of these words the week before he died. They are at the top of the psalm. They are not quite the same because Jesus repeated words from the Greek Old Testament, not the Hebrew Old Testament. People made this about 200 years before Jesus came to the earth. Many Jews lived in Egypt where they spoke Greek, not Hebrew. So they translated their Bible (our Old Testament) into Greek. This is the Bible that most of the New Testament quotations are in. A quotation is when someone repeats words from another book. The words are not always the same in the Greek and Hebrew Bibles. Both sets of words are true!
Verses 6 – 7: In verses 1 – 5 the psalmist was in dry country, what we call a desert. Now, in verses 6-11, we are in a different country. There is a river and mountains. Where are we? 200 kilometres north of Jerusalem is a group of mountains called the Hermons. Maybe they called one of the hills Mizar, we are not sure. But we do know that the River Jordan started in the Hermons. When it rained a lot the river ran over the rocks and made waterfalls. In places, it was very deep. When he saw the deep water, it made the psalmist think of his life. He felt that his enemy was pushing him along like the water would push him if he fell in! The Hermons were in Israel, where Jehoash was king. Jehoash may have taken the psalmist hostage in Jerusalem. Then he took him through the deserts of Judah to the hills of Israel.
If this is true, an interesting thing may have happened. In the chapter of Kings that tells us the story of Jehoash (2 Kings 14) we read about a man called Jonah. Maybe Jonah knew Psalm 42. He repeated a bit of verse 7 when the fish swallowed him. You will find it in the book of Jonah, chapter 2. Did Jonah learn the psalm from the hostage? Jonah did live in Israel!
Verse 8: This is the turning-point of the psalm. A turning-point is when something changes. You will see two important changes in this verse. First, he calls God by the name LORD. Only God’s friends did this in the Old Testament. What happened to make him do this? Everywhere else he used the name God. We believe that what happened was this. He found God was with him in the Hermons. God did not only live in Jerusalem. God was everywhere!
Verses 9 – 10: But there were still questions. (A question is something that you ask.) He asked why God had forgotten him and why he was so sad. He asked why God let his enemies hurt him. And the enemies asked the same question as in verse 3, ‘Where is your God?’ But things are different now. The psalmist is sure that God is with him and he hopes that things will get better.
Verse 11: So he repeats verse 5. But this time we think that he said it with more belief that it was true. Another way to say this is that he was more sure of it.
Verses 5 and 11 and verse 5 of Psalm 43 are all exactly the same. We think that this is a good reason for thinking that they are really two parts of one psalm.
Items for Discussion
- What are the things that mankind longs for, like the “deer for water?”
- Of those things you can think of, which ones are really satisfying?
- Have you ever really missed worship so much that you could see yourself as “panting like a deer?”
- Why do many in the modern generation of Christians miss the experience that David is expressing in this psalm?
- Where do you see the connection between worship and faith?
1 In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4 So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
There is much discussion over the authorship of Hebrews. Traditionally, it is given to the Apostle Paul. Many scholars believe the letter was written to prevent apostasy. (Apostasy is the abandonment of a political or religious belief.) Some have interpreted apostasy to mean a number of different things, such as a group of Christians in one sect leaving for another more conservative sect, one in which the letter’s author disapproves. Some have seen apostasy as a move from the Christian assembly to pagan ritual. In light of a possibly Jewish-Christian audience, the apostasy in this sense may be in regard to Jewish-Christians leaving the Christian assembly to return to the synagogue. In light of Pauline doctrine, the epistle dissuades non-Jewish Christians from feeling a need to convert to Judaism. Therefore the author writes, “Let us hold fast to our confession” (Heb 4:14).
Hebrews affirms special creation. It affirms that God by His Son, Jesus Christ, made the worlds. “God…hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son…by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2). The epistle also states that the worlds themselves do not provide the evidence of how God formed them. “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear” (Hebrews 11:3).
Items for Discussion
- How has your view of Jesus changed over your life?
- What does “made the universe” imply about the Son?
- In the OT, how much of God’s glory were we able to see? Why is it important to us that Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory” and “exact representation of God’s being?”
- How was purification of sin accomplished in the Jewish tradition? Why is Jesus’ role as one who provides “purification for sin” so important?
- What are the attributes mentioned in Hebrews about Jesus?
- What aspect of Jesus Christ discussed in this passage is the most meaningful to you?
- How can our church offer the fulfilling of the “thirst” that David so longed for?
- 1NIV New International Version Translations