Thirsting for God (Psalm 42)
Topic: Thirsting for God Passage: Psalm 42
Summer in the Psalms
Grace Community Church
July 25, 2021
Thirsting for God (Psalm 42)
Let’s turn to to Ps. 42.
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my food
day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”4 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.
5 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 salvation6 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. 7 Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me. 8 By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”10 As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
11 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. Ps 42:1-11[Pray]
Psalm 42 is an intensely personal and honest confession of a man whose soul is in deep distress. Although it doesn’t say for certain who wrote it (the inscription probably means it was written for the clan of Korah to sing, not by them), many believe that it was written by David after his son Absalom rebelled against him and David had to run for his life. David is exiled from his people and the house of God, a son he loves is trying to kill him, and his enemies are taunting him the question, “Where is your God?”, a taunt that hits him even harder because he’s asking the same question, God, where are you? Have you forgotten me? Why is this happening to me?
All of this is crushing down on David. The sound of waterfalls roaring and waves breaking over him gives us a picture of circumstances that are sweeping him along and threatening to drown him. But David then says something that surprises us. He says these overwhelming circumstances are from God.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
David attributes to God the ownership of the waterfalls, breakers and waves. Your waterfalls, your breakers, your waves have gone over me. David knows that being exiled far from his home, having enemies laugh at him, and circumstances hit him so hard that he isn’t sure he’s going to be able to come up for air is ultimately something God has allowed into his life.
David knows God could stop it all in a minute if He chose to, but He’s not, so in some sense the breakers and the waves crashing down on him are God’s breakers and waves. And this leads to the emotional see-saw of Psalm 42:
- (Up) Why so downcast O my soul? Put your hope in God!
- (Down) Why have you forgotten about me O God?
- (Up) By day God commands His steadfast love over me.
- (Down) Why do You allow my enemies to oppress me saying “where is your God?”
- (Up) Hope in God for I shall again praise Him!
Psalm 42 lets us into David’s soul-talk. Sometimes his soul is pouring out in prayer to God (my soul pants for you O God), sometimes he’s talking to his soul (why are you cast down o my soul?). David’s asking honest questions: why is this happening? Why are you allowing this to happen, God? Why have you forgotten me? God doesn’t forget, but to David it feels like God has forgotten him.
It’s ok to be honest with God, in fact God wants us to be honest with him. There will be times in life when the waves and breakers of hard trials will hit you so hard and so fast that you don’t have time to catch your breath. When you will feel pulled under by the power of the waterfalls – deep calls to deep. People might talk about you behind your back, “did you hear about so-and-so? looks like trusting God isn’t working out so great for them after all!” You feel forgotten by God. You wonder why. And it’s ok to tell God that.
But David doesn’t leave it there. He fights for faith. He talks to his soul: Put your hope in God for I will praise him yet. God is going to help me. God is going to get me through this. God is going to set this right. This test will become a testimony of the faithfulness of God! Soul – put your hope in God!
And one of the testimonies that comes out of hard times and dark seasons of the soul is a deeper thirst for God. Ironically all these trials with their watery metaphors have left David thirsty for God in a whole new and desperate way, the way a deer pants for water in the midst of a drought.
Spiritual thirst is a universal human condition and a theme that runs throughout the Bible. From Genesis where in the garden God provided Adam and Eve with streams and a river to quench their thirst and water the grounds, to the closing invitation of Revelation: 17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. Rev. 22:17
When Jesus took our place on the cross, he also took our spiritual thirst upon himself. Among his last words were the words, “I thirst.” His thirst symbolized the parched and thirsty state that we live in because of sin. Jesus took our thirst so that he could be our thirst-quencher. Jesus said, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:37-38
What exactly is thirst? Thirst is a strong craving for something. When God created us He created us with a thirst for water because we need water to live. Thirsting for water isn’t the goal, drinking water is the goal. Thirst drives us to drink the water.
God created us to thirst for Him – the fountain of living water – but sin has hijacked that thirst towards things that can never quench our thirst. And that’s the story of the world – that explains so much of what we see around us…and in us. Thirst is that craving that drives us to do what we do.
Sin doesn’t bend all of our thirsts in the same way, but sin bends all of our thirsts in some way. Thirst can take the form of greed (a thirst for money), or manipulation (a thirst for control). One person can thirst for adventure, another person thirsts for safety. Thirst can make us people-pleasers with a thirst to be liked or perpetual victims with a thirst to be felt sorry for. Some people thirst for power, others for popularity. Sexual immorality is a form of thirst, and so is violence. Proverbs talks about those who drink violence like wine. One person might have a thirst for success, another person might have a thirst not to fail. Thirsts are powerful drivers in our lives.
Your thirst might look different than my thirst, but there is a common denominator: sin bends our thirst towards ourselves. Sin bends our thirsts towards pride, putting us at the center. Ironically sin bends our thirst towards things that, far from satisfying our thirst, makes us thirstier.
So how does this psalm help us with our misguided thirsts? How can we change our thirst from wanting people to like us, or a thirst for pleasure, to a thirst for God?
In 1971, Ronald Reagan, who was at that time the governor of California, was addressing the Boy Scouts of America on a scorching hot day, when he paused to take a drink of water. When he resumed he said, “If you remember one thing and one thing only, it should be this: Speeches are nothing. Thirst is everything. Always obey your thirst.”
When ad executive Donald Ritkin heard Reagan say this he knew he had the slogan he had been searching for the new Sprite drink campaign he had been working on. Their slogan became Image is nothing. Thirst is everything. Obey your thirst. It was a great marketing slogan, but it’s a lousy way to live because sin has bent our thirst in the wrong direction, away from God and towards mirages that promise water but don’t deliver. I submit to you that God’s word doesn’t call us to “obey our thirst” – it calls us to “choose our thirst.”
The psalmist not only describes his thirst when he says, as the deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…he’s also directing his thirst. In this lonely place of exile, where hard things are crashing on him so fast he can’t catch his breath, David doesn’t obey his thirst, he aims it right at God.
- Choose our thirst with faith
David is in a hard place, but he continually points his faith towards God: put your hope in God. David’s thirst for God is an expression of his hope in God.
When Jesus says, “if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink” the big question isn’t whether we thirst – everyone thirsts. The question is what we will choose to quench our thirst. Let him come to me and drink. That’s an invitation and a call to choose to thirst for him. Aim our thirst at God as an act of faith.
38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” John 7:38
Obey your thirst implies that thirst is on the drivers seat taking us wherever it wants to take us. That’s why this world is as messed up as it is. Choose your thirst with faith means we choose to believe that our thirst for material things can never fill our emptiness. Our thirst for security can never make us safe. Our thirst for control can never give us control. Our thirst for being popular can never make us feel loved.
Only Jesus is the thirst-quencher. Like David, we can be in a dark season of the soul, we can feel alone and far from those we love, we can feel like life is coming at us so fast we can’t catch our breath, and our souls can still feel safe and loved and meaningful because Jesus is our fountain of living water.
- Choose our thirst by asking God to give us a greater thirst for Him
David opens the psalm with a prayer: as a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. He’s praying about his thirst. That’s a good thing for us to do too, especially when our thirst for God is small and our thirst for other things is big.
Thirst can be a powerfully driving force in our lives – sometimes much more than we know. And our flesh doesn’t really want to thirst for God. So you’ve got powerful channels of thirst going in the wrong direction, and built in resistance to thirsting for God. We need God’s help, we need to ask God to give us a greater thirst.
When Jesus asked a father if he believed, he answered, “Lord I believe, help my unbelief!” James 1 says if we lack wisdom, ask God and He will give it to us if we believe. If we can ask for more faith, and more wisdom, I think we can ask our heavenly Father for more thirst for Jesus too.
- Choose our thirst by seeking the Lord
Thirsting for God produces people who are seeking God and people who seek God find Him. He promised.
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. Jer. 29:13
God responds to thirst. Seeking God with all our heart is being thirsty ground crying out for rain. David declares his thirst for God and says in verse 2 when shall I come and appear before God? He’s not being mystical, he’s being practical: he’s thinking of when he could go to the house of God with God’s people and worship there. Practical ways that we seek God is by doing the spiritual disciplines like reading God’s word, praying, worshiping with other believers, stepping into new opportunities for ministry, sharing Jesus with others. God isn’t looking for us to be fancy, He just wants us to be all in.
Thirsts are powerful drivers in our lives. God created spiritual thirst to drive us to Him, the fountain of living water. Only Jesus can satisfy fully and forever the longing and craving and thirsting of our soul. As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.