Psalm 42: Hope in God
February 20, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The psalm begins with a beautiful, famous picture—“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God” (42:1)—but the reality behind that picture is rather starker than is often considered. The point that the psalmist is making is in the same way that a deer is desperate with thirst in a desert, so he feels desperate for God—and cannot find him.
Perhaps you feel like that this morning. Other people talk of their wonderful experiences with God, but to you at the moment he seems like such a stranger. What do you do about that feeling, that sense that God is distant from you? What do you do when your “tears have been your food day and night” (42:3)?
The first thing the psalmist does is “remember” (42:4). He remembers the good times he has had with God. That is key. When it seems that God is distant, when it seems that God is such a stranger, when his ways seem imponderable and his paths seem crooked, remember what you do know about God from the past. Interpret what you don’t know in the light of what you do know! This God is the God of the Bible, the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, the God of Jesus—the God who gave himself for sinners like us. Therefore, he can be trusted. Remember those times when that truth seemed crystal clear to you: how you would “shout” glad “songs of praise.” Remember that and interpret your present experience in the light of what you know about God.
But not only does he remember, he also asks the hard question: why? “Why are you cast down O my soul?” (42:5). He is speaking to himself, asking himself questions that will reveal the truth to himself. He is not passive about the experience he is having. He is examining it, searching it out, asking questions of it. And he speaks to himself hope: “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God” (42:5-6).
Perhaps you need to tell yourself to hope in God. You look back (“remember”), but then you also look forward (“hope”). He is not done with “remembering.” “My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you” (42:6). What a godly piece of reasoning! The psalmist does not say, “My soul is downcast; therefore I forget you.” No! Because his soul is downcast, therefore he actively remembers who God is, what God has said, what God has done, what God has promised.
Would you remember who God is this morning? The psalmist remembers the sheer depth of the experience of the presence of God. “Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls” (42:7). There is a depth of satisfaction in God that can be found in nothing and no one else. Remember that! And put your hope in God!
But still the psalmist wrestles. There is no quick fix solution. “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning…?” (42:9). There are things he does not understand about his own experience. All of us are too complicated to fully understand ourselves. And so he concludes with again calling himself to hope in God: “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” (42:11).
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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