“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.” (Psalms 42:1, ESV)
This post will be a little bit different. It’s a part of my church’s focused blog series on the Psalms. We were given several Psalms and had the option of writing on one Psalm, one verse, or all of the Psalms in our chosen group. I hope you enjoy it.
I’m not certain how these chapters (42, 46, 47, 48, and 51) were selected, but I see the hand of God. I don’t have the space to explore all of the imagery or the connections within and between these psalms, but let us take a look, and see how God uses pain to draw us closer to Him, protects us, purifies us, and calls us to proclaim His power and grace.
The beautiful words of Psalm 42:1 strangely introduce a chapter that is filled with chaos and pain. The psalmist express a deep longing for God as his world is upended. In verses 3 and 10, he acknowledges the taunts of his enemies, “Where is your God?” He then uses water imagery to express his state of being. Verse one talks of a longed-for, life-giving stream; verse three speaks of demoralizing tears, and then the dams break! The sea, in particular, is often used in scripture to express chaos. And verse seven sees our psalmist buried by waterfalls and waves that leaves him searching for faith. It is interesting to note that after each of the “where is your God” taunts (vv. 3 &10) there comes a response where the psalmist tells himself that he will again praise God. His pain brought him low, but encouraged him to remain faithful through it all.
The psalmist uses evermore violent water imagery, not to describe his current state, but to describe situations that would fail to get through God’s protection. The imagery—likely the worst that he could imagine—is strong and violent, with landslides, mountains moved, and sea waters so violent that the mountains are afraid! God is his refuge and protection, which are illustrated by peaceful water imagery flowing into the place of God’s protection—the city of God. Psalms 47:9, and 48:3 add assent to God’s protection, tying directly with 46:11 (shield and fortress).
But Psalm 46 isn’t merely about God’s protection. It expresses His desire that the nations would surrender to His will. This relates back to the Abrahamic covenant in which God promised that all the nations of the world would be blessed through Abraham. The psalmist describes the rage of the nations and says the God’s voice melts the earth. Suddenly God breaks into the psalm and speaks, “Be still and know that I am God.” He is using His earth-melting voice to communicate to the nations that they need to surrender to Him!
Unlike the other psalms in the group, Psalm 51 is Davidic. However, like Psalm 42, David is crying out to God—not for deliverance from his enemies, but from his sin. Among other imagery, David petitions God to wash him, “and I shall be whiter than snow” (v. 7). While not explicit, wash is also water imagery, asking for God’s purification, and bringing us full circle to Psalm 42.
Finally, as God expressed His desire for the nations to come to Him in Psalm 46, and for the next generation to hear of God (48:13), David expresses that when God purifies him and gives him a new heart, He would “teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (51:13). God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). As we learn of God, and experience His grace we are entreated to proclaim Him with others. We are a part of God’s plan of redemption for the world.
As the psalmist says, Selah pause and think calmly on these things.
As always, these are the musings of a mindful disciple. Blessings on your week!
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