Lent Day 35

Day 35: Monday, 15 April

Psalm 42

For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah.

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
      so my soul pants for you, my God.
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
      When can I go and meet with God?
3 My tears have been my food
      day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
      “Where is your God?”
4 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.

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

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

8 By day the Lord directs his love,
      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 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 Saviour and my God.

NIV

We enter Holy week. Intense activity in a short space of time. Over the next seven days we see the expectation of triumph turn to abject defeat, but with a glorious and unexpected twist a short time after. I think we can get quite maudlin over Holy Week, as commemoration can turn so easily into rather solemn ritual. The psalms over the following days are psalms of ascent – more about that tomorrow.

Today’s psalm speaks of the desire and longing of the worshipper to be where God is. Hymns like ‘As the deer longs for the water, so my soul longs after you’ can possibly hit a positive note of desire and confirmation, but the psalm itself is a little darker than that.

The writer laments for the presence of God. There are times when God seems far away. I’ve not suffered with depression, but I wonder if the sentiments being expressed here have any resonance with that condition. The writer is lamenting the loss of the good times when he would joyfully go to God’s house, but now it seems as if he can’t bring himself out of his own house. Verse 3 suggests that the writer is fasting as a penitential response.

Verses 5 and 11 are like a refrain of hope to the verses of despair. Why are you upset, my soul? Put your hope in God! For many people in the dumps, a cheer up call might not be what they want to hear. The writer does not switch from lament to rejoicing just like that, but God calls his people to rejoice. A second reminder is needed at the end. Perhaps rejoicing even when you do not feel like it can still make a difference to your state. If God hears your rejoicing might he not want to come closer to hear some more?

How would you describe your spiritual walk with God? Is it a walk in the park, a roller-coaster ride, submerging and surfacing, or something else?

How close is your walk with God?

Father God, despite my condition, You are constant, ever ready to listen, to guide, to admonish and ever-present through your Holy Spirit within me. It’s probably in my dark times that I see You least, but You are closer than ever. Amen.

Two contemplative takes on Psalm 42:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGgsmCEgf4w

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cG-_fHEjygU

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version (Anglicised Edition) Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 by Biblica (formerly International Bible Society). Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, a Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. "NIV" is a registered trademark of Biblica – UK trademark number 1448790.

Paul