Thursday 31 October 2013

Bible Book:

“My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.” (v. 6)

Psalm 42 Thursday 31 October 2013


In Psalm 42, the psalmist expresses a deep and unyieldinglonging for God, whilst at the same time remembering better daysand wrestling with trying to comprehend how the sense of the Lord'spresence has been lost since those times.

The intense yearning for a taste of God's presence is vividlyexpressed in the simile of the deer, who looks for fresh livingwater and quenches its thirst (verse 1). It does so in order tolive. The psalmist recognises the same need for a fresh experienceof the living God and longs for it at the deepest level. At thesame time, the place to seek this experience of God is unclear(verse 2) and this bewilderment and the mocking of others bringsthe psalmist to tears (verse 3).

As is so often the case when spiritual life seems at a low ebb,the psalmist then remembers fondly former times in God's presence,looking back in remembrance, meditating on the pilgrimages to thetemple and the festive celebrations of the Passover, Firstfruits,and Tabernacles (verse 4). These memories are not, however, simplythe psalmist's equivalent of rueing how much better things were in'the good old days' but serve as a reminder that as God's presencehas been acclaimed in the past, so can it be celebrated once again.The psalmist's current downcast frame of mind is the catalyst forrecollection of where God felt most powerfully close: "My soul iscast down within me;thereforeI remember you from the land of Jordanand of Hermon, from Mount Miza" (emphasis mine).

Yet memories are often a mixture of emotions and it may havebeen a remembrance of the waters of the River Jordan as they rushdown from Mount Hermon that overshadows the psalmist'srecollections of times before with an underlying sense of innerturmoil, represented by rushing and falling waters (verse 7). In astate of restless turbulence, the psalmist clings to the solidityand dependability of God, "his steadfast love" (v. 8) and presenceby day and night and it is this affirmation of God's strength thatenables the psalmist to ask the hard questions. Knowing a powerfuland joyous experience of God in the past, and contrasting thisdependability with a personal experience of human weakness, thepsalmist asks these questions in faith, remembering who the Lordis: "God my rock" (v. 9). It is God's nature that makes thesequestions worth asking, but they are real and heartfelt questionsnevertheless: Why has this dependable God seemingly gone AWOL? Whywhen God is omnipresent, do enemies mock the seeming lack ofevidence for this in the psalmist's life (verse 10)? Why is there acontinuing sense of unrest and dejection in the very depths of thepsalmist's being (verse 11)?

These reflections bring the psalmist again to a point ofdespair, self-examination, and a confident affirmation of thefuture saving acts of God, knowing there is no greater hope. Thepsalmist bases this not upon current feelings but upon the firmerfoundation of experience and knowledge of God's character. AsAugustus Toplady's hymn says, "Rock of Ages, cleft for me, let mehide myself in thee" (Singing the Faith 434).

To Ponder

  • When God seems far away, what are the occasions, people orplaces, "these things I remember", through which you experienced astrong sense of the Holy Spirit in your life?
  • What questions have you asked God in times of disquiet andturmoil? What was the outcome of your questioning?
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