Psalms 42

Psalm 42  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The experience of a godly man, expressing the confidence in God of the believing remnant of the Jews in the latter days, when cast out of Jerusalem.
The great theme of the psalm is the faith of the soul in God Himself. Cast out of the land, and cut off from the blessings of the sanctuary, the soul clings to God as its only resource, when all else is gone.
(vv. 1-2) The distressing circumstances create a soul thirst for God―the living God. As the water brooks revive the panting hart, so the soul looks to God as the life-giving One, to revive his soul; while waiting for the time when he will appear before God in His sanctuary.
(vv. 3-4) The sorrows of the godly man arise from his being surrounded by scoffers when cut off from his privileges. Scoffers take occasion by circumstances, in which the soul is apparently forsaken, to continually raise the taunt, “Where is thy God?” Moreover the soul is distressed as it sees the enemy in possession of the temple, where, in past days, it had worshipped God in company with His people. Privileges once enjoyed are valued more deeply now that they are lost.
(vs. 5) However, the memory of the enjoyment of past blessings leads the soul to rebuke its present despondency; and encourages it to hope in God for the future. What God is in Himself, not what we may chance to feel Him in this or that moment to be, that is our hope. “My soul...hope thou in God.” Looking beyond the present gloom the godly man can say, “I shall yet praise him for the health of his countenance.” The enemy is against him, but the face of God is toward him; and if God be for him who can be against him?
(vv. 6-8) Nevertheless, present circumstances are such that the soul is cast down, though it ceases not to remember God from the dreary mountain places beyond Jordan, to which it has been banished.
There his calamities are compared to floods and waves allowed by God to overwhelm his soul. Nevertheless the godly man looks on to the coming day when Jehovah will command His loving-kindness. In the meantime his night will be relieved by praise and prayer (cf. Acts 16:2525And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. (Acts 16:25)).
(vv. 9-11) In the assurance of the coming day, the godly man stays his soul upon God as his rock. He may have to meet storms of opposition from enemies that oppress and reproach him, as they continually say “Where is thy God?” but no storm can move or shake the Rock in which he trusts. The circumstances may lead him to cry, “Why past thou forgotten me?” Nonetheless, God being his rock, he can again rebuke the natural tendency to despondency by saying, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God.” Then with renewed confidence the soul can add, “I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” The favor of God’s countenance (vs. 5) becomes the health of the countenance of the godly man.