Psalm 42 - overcomer - My soul does thirst for God
This is such a beautiful psalm. Every one of the 11 verses is a gem.
This is the first psalm of Book II of the Psalms.
It is the first of 11 psalms by or for the sons of Korah (Ps 42, 44,45-49, 84-85, 87-88). The LXX & KJV translated all 11 as "for the sons of Korah" meaning that they were written by someone else for the sons of Korah to sing. Most translations including NKJV say "of the sons of Korah" meaning that they were written by the sons of Korah. Ps 88 lists another author in addition to the sons of Korah, so Darby translates just Ps 88 as "for the sons of Korah".
Korah led a rebellion against the Lord and Moses (Jude 11; Num 16), but his descendants went on to become wonderful psalmists. We are all like the redeemed sons of Korah.
This song is the 2nd Maschil (giving understanding) psalm, and the 1st Maschil psalm for the overcomer. The 1st Maschil was Psalm 32, which has a brief explanation. Psalm 32 gave understanding on confessing our sins and being forgiven. This psalm gives us understanding on how to take care of distress in our soul by seeking God.
This psalm was easy for me to do. I started with the 1650 Scottish Psalter, memorized it by singing, and made changes. This song is about 70% from the Scottish Psalter.
v1 - This short psalm mentions "my soul" 6 times and "God" 13 times.
The word translated as "yearn" appears only here and in Joel 1:20. KJV "pant", meaning "short heavy breathing" is not a good translation of this word. .
To say, "my soul yearns", means it is, at this point, involuntary. It is the fruit of living a life with God. It is not something I will to happen.
This psalm was a great favorite with the early Christians hunted to the catacombs, where the deer is a common emblem on the walls. - F. B. Meyer
v2- To come and appear before God occurs in the gatherings of God's people in v4 (Exo 23:17).
"the living God" means that God actually leads me and converses with me.
This thirst for God proves the very being of God; for all natural appetites must have their perfect satisfaction. - F.B. Meyer
In other words, the human thirst for God proves the existence of God.
v3- What is so painful about people saying to him, "Where is your God?", which is repeated in v10? I think it is because he has no answer, and this is causing him to doubt God. He does not suppress his doubts, but confronts first his own soul and then God about it.
"Where is your God?" can be asked from 2 points of view. One from an unbeliever, who does not believe in God, or another from a person who is religious without an expectation that God is living (2Tim 3:5). The 2nd view is more likely to make me doubt, thinking that I am wrong to make God the center of my life.
v4- "my soul is poured out over me" means he is holding nothing back from himself by not letting himself think about or question what is going on in him.
The phrase "over me" or "upon me" is repeated 5 times (vv 4-7, 11). Most translate it as "in me", but that would be a different Hebrew preposition. It means that it is a burden upon me.
It seems at this time the psalmist is not able to attend the gatherings of God's people. Why, we don't know. It may be a legitimate reason such as being in captivity, but that doesn't seem to be the case. He might have been exiled for being faithful to the Lord such as David was in the land of the Philistines during the reign of King Saul.
Or it may be a not so good reason such as when Ruth's husband sojourned in Moab because there was a famine in Israel. It may be a bad reason such as Jonah running away from the Lord's calling because he did not agree with the Lord having mercy on Israel's enemy. There is a link to Jonah in v7.
When he remembers the past, how he led a multitude to the house of God with joy, he recalls how happy he used to be, and that experience seems like it was that of a different person.
His being deprived of meeting with the saints has caused him to yearn and thirst for God, especially in the gatherings.
"When I come with the multitude to the house of God, when I enter His house, when I am in His presence, that is the time I appear before Him. ... Let me check with you. Where is it that you sense most deeply that you are in God's presence? I believe that you must answer that you sense God's presence the most when you are in the local churches. I cannot tell you how many times when I was in the meetings of the local churches, I was just before God. ...
Even before we enter the house, there is joy and praise. I believe that this is the best verse to tell us the way to come to the meetings. Firstly, we must come with the multitude - it is better not to come by ourselves. Secondly, we should come with the voice of joy and praise. While we are on the way, either walking or driving, we may start the praising. ... I hope that one day, when Christians are going to the church meetings, everyone around will realize that they are on their way to the meeting because they are praising. Even in ancient times the Old Testament saints came to the house of God in such a wonderful way. How much more should we!" - Witness Lee
Love for the sanctuary without the love of the God of the sanctuary is meaningless. Love for God which does not result in love for His house is unnatural. - Leupold
v5 - If his soul is himself, who is talking to his soul? Is it his mind or his spirit? I do not think it is his spirit because the part of him that is doing the talking has a will (also v11). A human being has a spirit, but he is not a spirit, but a soul. Paul purposed in his spirit (Acts 19:1), but his spirit did not purpose. It seems that the psalmist's mind and will are talking to his soul, which is his mind, emotion and will joined together. This is strange to explain, but it is all our experience.
His soul and his mind are not in harmony. His mind wants to be joyful with the Lord, but his soul is cast down. He inquires of his own soul what is wrong and tells his soul what is its state.
We should tell our soul to trust God, and we should praise God even if our soul does not feel like it.
Sing, though just now your feet may be bound in the stocks (Acts 16:25). - F.B. Meyer
v6 - lit "my soul is cast down upon me"
In v5 he asks his own soul what is wrong. Here he tells it to God. Surprisingly to me, after telling God that his soul is cast down upon himself, he does not ask God to do anything. Instead he tells God that because his soul is down, he will remember God from where he is.
These 3 locations are a little strange:
"from Jordan's land" - Out of 164 instances of the Hebrew word for "Jordan" in the Bible, 155 times it is used with the definite article ("the Jordan), but here there is no definite article. The only times the definite article is not used are 7 times in Numbers for "the Jordan of Jericho", which refers just to the part of the Jordan river by the city of Jericho, not to the river itself. The other exception is Job 40:23, where the meaning is any fast descending river or waterfall, not the Jordan river particularly. The Hebrew word for Jordan means "descender". The meaning may mean "descending land" or valley experiences.
"Hermon's mounts" is literally "Hermons", the plural of "Hermon". This is the only plural instance of Hermon in the Bible. This seems to refer to the 3 peaks of Mt. Hermon. This may imply high experiences.
"little Mizar hill" is literally Mount Mizar. There is no other mention of this place in the Bible. "Mizar" means least, last or little. (Rom 12:3).
From the structure of the sentence, Mizar hill is in apposition to "Jordan's land and Hermons". I think the psalmist is on insignificant Mizar hill, from which he can see the low land of the Jordan and the peaks of Hermon. I like to go to places with a view like this to commune with God.
v7 - I think from where he is on Mizar hill, he is near a waterfall. I think it was during the night because of the next verse. He hears the beautiful echoing roar of the waterfall and feels that the roars and echoes are the wordless communication of deep unto deep (Psalm 19:1-4). This resonates with his communication of his mind with his soul and of himself with God.
Also it seems that all the beautiful breaking waves are troubles which the Lord has lovingly measured out to him.
The 2nd sentence of this verse is an exact quote from Jonah 2:3 or vice-versa, where Jonah turned to the Lord and prayed in the fish's belly. Jonah also mentions turning to God's temple in 2:4, 7 and the deep in 2:5. Jonah had run away from the Lord and His people. Jonah's soul was extremely disturbed (Jonah 4:1-4, 8-9). I do not know how to tell whether Jonah quoted this psalm in his prayer within the fish's belly, or if the psalmist quoted Jonah's prayer.
The Hebrew word for "waterfalls" is used only here and in 2Sam 5:8.
In 2014, my wife and I stayed at beautiful Letchworth State Park in western New York state. There are 3 giant waterfalls and scores of small ones. We stayed at Mr. Letchworth's former mansion, which is now a lodge, situated right beside the largest falls. (It was not expensive.) The sound of the falls was so soothing, especially at night. I took this short video of the falls at night from the lodge library. If you go there, be sure to also do the white water rafting. The waves are huge.
v8 - Among the many great verses in this psalm, this verse is my favorite.
The "day" will come, when the LORD will send forth His mercy (Ps 30:5). This is my hope. Now, during the night, the LORD's song is with me (Job 35:10).
Oswald J. Smith says this on how he wrote the hymn, The Glory of His Presence: "Sometimes in the darkest moments of life God gives a song - a song in the night. It was so with David, the sweetest psalmist of Israel, and it has been so with me. For it was in just such an hour that The Glory of His Presence was born. Despair had driven me to God. Day after day, in the midst of heartache and disappointment, I stole away and walked alone with Jesus, and oh! how real He became! From the depth of the valley to the mountain height above, I journeyed with Him until the vision of His glory flooded my soul." - Hymn Stories by Oswald J. Smith.
"God, my living" is the same in Hebrew as "the living God" in v2, except with a yod suffix, which means "my".
This is the only mention of God's name, Jehovah, in this psalm. It mentions "God" 13 times: Elohim 10 times + El 3 times.
v9 - I like this honesty with God.
"God, my Rock" means that God is the unchangeable one you can depend on.
v10 - This continues v9, what he will say to God his Rock.
v11 - The simple conclusion of this instructive psalm:
When your soul is cast down or anxious:
Hope in (or trust or wait on) God.
Praise God, who is the health of your mood.
This is the same as v5. It takes repetition for this simple thought to sink in.
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