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Commentary » Psalms 42:1-Psalms 42:8 »

Longing For The Living God

A shepherd, who had spent many years with flocks on the hills of Scotland, asked me if I had ever seen a sheep eat while lying down. When I confessed that I had not, he told me that no one had ever seen a sheep eat in that position. “If a sheep is lying down,” he contin … More


We can’t be absolutely sure who wrote this psalm, but whoever he was, he certainly was discouraged and expresses his deep longing for God. Many Bible scholars are of the opinion that this psalm was written by David on the occasion of his flight from his son Absalom (II Sam. 17:24). He had crossed the Jordan River near Jericho and taken refuge in Mahanaim (II Sam. 9:32) near the mountain ridges of Mount Hermon. In the Psalmist’s estimation, he is facing a severe drought. After a tiring, yet lifesaving run David compares his yearning for the living God to the thirsting of a deer for water (vv. 1-2). The animal’s need for water to sustain its life is like the soul’s need for the living God. While in hiding David was separated from the formal place of worship in the Temple which to him meant being shut out from the Old Testament presence of God. He remembers his joyful par­ticipation in the festive activities of the house of God and the frequency of his attendance there (vv. 3-4).

Depression is one of our most common emotional ailments. One antidote for depression is to meditate on the record of God’s goodness to his people (vv. 5-6). David’s distress is figuratively compared to the billows and waves of the sea (v. 7). Trouble has come over him like one wave after another but all he needs to do is call on the Lord to deliver him (v.8). It is reported that there are 2000 suicides a day around the world and most of these are caused by depression. As you read this Psalm it doesn’t take long to discover that the writer was discouraged. The personal pronoun I, me and my are used 51 times in Psalms 42 and 43. Depression has various causes, some physical, but basically it is selfishness. The psalmist is so busy looking at himself that he forgets to look at God!

It is a dangerous thing to look at ourselves too much. However, because we are human, it is natural for us to think mainly of our self when we are going through difficult times. That is why we must remind ourselves to always see God in the picture and not just our self. He is in command.


When is the last time I thanked the Lord for sending the Holy Spirit to live in me, guide me and comfort me? It is so easy for me to just take Him for granted.

Psalms 42:1-8 (English Standard Version)

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?" These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

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