“As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, my God. (Psalm 42:1)”
No one knows who actually is the author of this psalm, nor just what the actual setting is. Many believe it may be David during one of the times he had to flee from either king Saul or his own son Absalom.
It appears that psalms 42 & 43 may have been originally one single psalm and in the Hebrew, the superscription could read “A Maskil of the sons of Korah; which means this may have been written by a son (descendant) of Korah and not by David.
Who ever wrote this psalm, they are no longer in Jerusalem; but they are about 125 miles to the north and they are now near mount Hermon longing to be able to return so they can go to the tabernacle of God.
There are at least two reasons why a deer would pant for water. One, a natural thirst brought on by the heat of the day; two, a thirst brought on by it fleeing from a predator; where it knows that if it can just find a stream, the water can satisfy its thirst and it can help to cause the predator to lose its scent. (The latter seems to fit the context of this psalm better.)
As the Psalmist thirsts to again be back in the tangible presence of the Lord, (God is omnipresent, so he’s looking for something more than just the ease of worship), also, he seems to be harassed by those near him; as they say, “Where is your God?”
These people reminds me of Job’s friends who accused him of sin; where these seem to be questioning the Psalmists’ promises from God, by saying “where is your God?”
“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me. (Psalms 42:7)”
The Hebrew says, “Abyss calls to abyss”; where each abyss represents a large volume of water. The Psalmist likens his turmoil much like a ship on a stormy sea, where each mighty wave crashes against him and just as one strikes him, it’s as if one wave calls for another wave. The word translated ‘noise’, actually is the word for ‘voice’; where the storm is speaking (calls) for discouragement to come against the Psalmist.
The wording could also be a flash flood, where the waterspout is a cloud burst; and the Psalmist is likening his turmoil like one who has fallen into the swift moving Whitewater of a raging river; where he is helpless in the direction the flow takes him and the whitewater is beating him without mercy.
From the very first moment that Samuel anointed David to be king, there was very few things that points to that ever becoming a reality, especially once he had to leave all of his familiar surroundings to hide from Saul.
This Psalm has been called “a psalm for the backsliding Jew”, but I feel it’s much more like the book of Job; where part of the Psalmists’ problem is his friends, those who once followed him in song and dance in worship, but now they question him! (Possibility doubting that God is working in his life.)
As David fled from Saul all of those years, it couldn’t have been easy on him or his people. David knew that Samuel was a true prophet of God and he had been anointed to be king, but the present reigning king was seeking to kill him, and nothing was manifesting from the word of God.
The Psalmist seems to have his own inner struggle with his own soul or feelings also; his soul is discouraged, almost to the point of coming in agreement with those who are saying, “Where is your God?” Or, “How can God be with you?” Questioning if he really was anointed to become king.
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. (Psalms 42:11)”
If this is David, then his trust in God’s character and God’s promises to him was what carried him through the loud storms he was going through; the storm from Saul, the storm of time and discouragement, even the storm of those who no long believed in the word of the prophet Samuel.
The voice of the prophet or the voice of the storm, which was David going to give ear to; he was looking for something from God like a gentle stream to confirm his destiny, while everything around him was like a raging flood denying it.
This psalm probably fits a lot of people, who knows that God has revealed a path that they are to follow; however, everything on the path seems to say,”God is not with you in this!” Or, it questions you, “Where is your God?”
Are you thirsty? David’s solution was to continue in praising the God of his destiny, knowing that the tangible proof will eventually manifest.