Don’t you love it when, after years of reading the “Old Book” passages become alive, reinforcing old teachings or simply warming your heart.
This is the book of Psalms, and it is rich.
I pray I can communicate a portion of the blessing we receive from this wonderful book.
To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, 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 say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
How often I have heard the beginning verse of this psalm, thinking of the privilege of coming before God and spending time with Him, of the joys of being in His presence. The lyrics of the song “As The Deer Pants For The Waters” by Martin Nystrom addresses the first phrase of this psalm, where a desire to be before God is spoken of, where he confesses his complete reliance on the Lord.
It is a wonderful song, yet the psalmist veers into a sadder, somewhat darker & less hopeful expression of his inner being. The psalmist is hurting, and frustrated, far from God and not able to approach Him in His temple.
A Saint’s Need.
Such a popular well known introductory verse to begin a psalm that introduces a true saints desire to be with God, quickly moves into some troubling issues a saint may likely experience in this life. This introductory portion of psalm 42 provides a description of a saint’s felt need for God. I say “felt need”, since in actuality, our need of God is very real each and every day of our pilgrimage on earth. The psalmist’s statement describing this felt need is also his prayer, and is so required in the saint’s life.
The psalmist is blessed to be so thirsty, even though it hurts!
As believers, we truly are desperate for the living God. And yet, would you not agree that our experience is not reflective of this reality? Through diversions, distractions and deceptions, our realization to this actual need is not met. We spin our wheels with worry and short term goals, “keeping busy”. All the while we are missing out on aligning our experience with reality.
A Saint’s Salvation
The saint is not one who can be satisfied with still water, water that is available yet not alive, not moving, not active! Oh to have that desperation for the Source of Living Waters. The mention of living water reminds me of a two different of verses in the Gospel of John.
Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” – John 4:10
In this passage, we find the Lord giving the offer of living water to the Samaritan woman, and describing Himself as the originator and provider of this living water. Might I suggest this is the same living water that is being panted after by the deer in our Psalm.
A wee bit later, in a different setting, Jesus described the living water as a river, and not simply a personal possession. The believer becomes a conduit for this living water to gush out from. The believer!
Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'” – John 7:38
Jesus was speaking to His disciples regarding their ability to provide living water out of their own lives to those around, contingent on their belief in Him. Rivers of living water, my friends. Some may experience rivers as mighty as the Amazon river, and some may have rivers not unlike Turkey Creek (a tiny creek I know of), but nevertheless, those who trust in Him shall have rivers of living water flowing from his heart.
What a tremendous promise for the believer, and yet those satiated by this river of living water exuding from a believer may never know from whence it came. The influence of the river is up to the One who guides the flow, and we are not to force who or when the effect of the living water may impact. Our promise given is to be simply be a conduit, for the ultimate source is God Himself. We are simply conduits, a channel for God to use in order to bless others and provide a glimpse of His nature.
The fact that moving waters requires an unending source of water is part of the beauty of this word picture. A water well, or a pond may have a gazillion gallons of water, but the pond has a measurable volume. Living waters never end. By definition they continue to flow. Continue to be available. Continue to be active. Continue to be cleansing.
A well or pond may have no visible activity, and can easily become stagnant, “stinky” and a source of death and sickness. Without movement, water can become a source of contamination and death. In contrast, living waters, moving and active, actually has the ability to cleanse itself, to be improved by it’s very activity.
This truth came home to me while I was in engineering school. A sanitation course I took required the class to analyze the effects a “babbling” river has on the waste produced from cattle grazing near a river, upstream from a population’s only water source. Could the movement of the water naturally “treat” the waste material seeping into the river upstream form the town?
We were required to calculate the distance needed to ensure water quality was safe for the population. I pulled my calculator out, found the appropriate formulas, calculated a distance, and provided an answer. (If my memory serves me right, it was much closer to the town than I expected, but I digress!)
But as I walked out of the class, it occurred to me that living, moving, active waters are self-healing, and may be part of the image spoken of in the Word.
Self healing waters, are also cleansing waters for others. The Psalmist may be considering the cleansing power of living (fresh) waters spoken of in the law, such as in Leviticus 15:13
“… And he shall bathe his body in fresh water and shall be clean. – Lev 15:13 ESV
In summary, in God we find our only source of living waters waters that cleanse and provide life. Because of God, we have the opportunity to provide living water, waters that are continuous, cleansing and healing to others.
Let me ask you a question before moving on. Are you seeing evidence of a continuous cleansing and healing spirit about you as you interact with family friends, coworkers and strangers? If I am honest with myself, I simply stop short and join with the Psalmist in admitting my need for Him.
How about you?
The Psalmist admits his need and desire for God, and as we venture through this psalm, we find he is in desperate straights, a great distance having accumulated between himself and his God. He looks for a chance to come and appear before his God, to find a closeness he had at one time. He desires to enter into the presence of God, at His temple and before His throne.
Yet his current experience is far from his deep desire. He is in the midst of those who mock him, taunting him of his allegiance to “some god out there”, experiencing weakness and ridicule, and apparently without support from God.
What a seeming contradiction, where our inner desires are not realized, and our outer conditions are beating us down, causing us pain and distress. Why put up with this emptiness and abuse? Why live a life that actually becomes a target for others, and in the midst of ridicule and mockery, find a loneliness and seeming abandonment at our time of greatest need?
Yet this is the very environment in which faith is required, exercised and tempered. But take note, it is not some faith in a religious teaching or a general truth all may agree to, but faith in the Son of Man, who is
…the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2
The reality we experience is full of contradictions, for we are, as believers in the crucified One, raised to heights of privilege no others have ever been granted. Yet also, at times we experience to varying degrees, depths of inner turmoil that is inexplicable and full of pain, doubt and self absorption.
At these times we must consider our Founder and Perfecter of our faith. He is good, and at times of loneliness or inner turmoil, remember His cross and the love He has proven to us.
Thanks again for coming to visit. I hope you found something of interest in this post and would appreciate a comment, to begin a discussion. If you know someone this post may bless, send them a link so they may join us.