Psalm 42-43

Psalm 42

As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.


Psalm 43

Vindicate me, my God,
    and plead my cause
    against an unfaithful nation.
Rescue me from those who are
    deceitful and wicked.
You are God my stronghold.
    Why have you rejected me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?
Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.


While these two Psalms are separate in our Bibles, it is likely they were unified at one time. Read together, they create one discourse using the same refrain in 42:5, 42:11, and 43:5. This is a writing of distress and longing. The Psalmist recalls times of celebration, of worship in the sanctuary, and longs for that time of security and peace again. Ultimately, however, the Psalmist is grounded in God’s ongoing love and relationship with him. This undergirding allows the Psalmist to question, doubt and stand strong in his trust of the Lord.


The writer used the imagery of a deer’s thirsty longing for water to demonstrate the longing for a fresh encounter with God. The Psalmist refers to the “soul” throughout this text. While we, in the modern/post-modern world, tend to equate the “soul” with the spiritual part of ourselves, separate from the rest of our being, the Hebrew understanding of this word, “nephesh” holds a broader understanding. It is translated “soul” but encompasses more than just the spiritual aspect of humanity. When the Psalmist talked about the soul, he was talking about the whole being - the living, breathing, mental, physical, emotional and spiritual aspects all rolled into one. To say, “my soul thirsts for God” is to say, “my whole being is desperate to connect fully with God.” There is a depth there that does not apply just to spiritual life because all of life is spiritual to the Psalmist. As it should be to you and me today.


Is all of life spiritual for you, or do you compartmentalize your faith from the rest of your being?


Dear Lord, teach me to hear, lead me to see and guide me to heed your words. Let these words from the Psalms infuse my soul. I trust you, Oh Holy One. I submit fully to your will for my life. Lead me on the path of righteousness and forgive me for the ways I fail. May your grace be born anew in me each day. Amen.