First Off…read Psalm 42!
We have transitioned into “Book 2” of the Psalm bracket! Whereas the first 41 chapters of the Book of Psalms focused on the relationship and need for a redeemer and really take a “Genesis-type” focus…so Book 2 (psalms 42-72) now brings us to the Exodus-type focus and become more “group” focused than the individual. What we’ll find are psalms that were meant to be used and sung at the Tabernacle and Temple. Songs that focus on God’s rescue of his people.
When the Israelites left Egypt and began their journey as God’s chosen people – they did so in the desert. For 40 years they wandered (in their minds and vision they wandered…but with God they never did). 40 years of understanding who they were and who God was and not only why they needed him…but WHY THEY NEEDED HIM AND HE ALONE. This all makes sense when we read the opening verse (which has become one of the most popular verses and images out there).
There are two different focuses coming into this psalm that are extremely important (something that it took the Israelites 40 years to understand) to not only see but understand. WE, you and me, have a need. We do. Be it water, be it food, be it clothing and shelter – but every single one of us has a need. The problem we have, however, is that those “needs” are all temporary. Food only lasts us a little while and we’ll need more, clothing eventually wears out or we eat too much and need more OF the material, shelter eventually needs to be replaced, and water is the most important of them all…but even that can only go so far because our bodies use it.
The image we get in verse 1 is of a dear that is “panting” for water. And not stale water, not stagnate water…but STREAMS of water. Moving water, healthy water, fresh water. So why would a deer “pant” for water? Because they have a thirst that needs to be quenched. Because they are parched and of dry mouth. Because they are in the desert and are dying of thirst (the word “pant” means a state of exhaustion). The only thing that will keep the deer alive…is water. The only thing that keeps us alive while in the desert…or wilderness…is water.
Or is it?
The image with water takes us right into verse 2 where the psalmist declares that just as the deer does all this for water…so too does the believer’s soul thirst for the only thing that can quench IT? God. This takes us to the second “need” we have – God.
The psalmist knew and understood that the only REAL thing we need in life is God…and yet they also fully understood that the only provider of that need is God. So God is technically the “need” and answer for both – for all things in life.
What is it we TRULY need in life? God – and only him.
- How do you go from dying to living? God (verse 2)
- How do we move from pain and sorrow to joy and happiness? God (vs 3)
- Where does protection come from? God (vs 4)
- Where is hope? God (vs 5)
- Where is pure good and perfect love? With and from God (vs 8)
It took the Israelites 40 years to learn that everything they needed was given from God. It took them 40 years to understand that all things should be placed IN and BEFORE God. And why? Because when WE try to do things or when we try to put those “hopes” in other things…they fail.
For the Christian we see, declare, and proclaim that this all comes from God, as given to us by the love and work of the Son upon the cross, and is continuously poured out into us by the Spirit.
We, especially in the United States, like to fill our lives with things we think we need (as did the Israelites – funny how things don’t change). When we don’t have new clothes or shoes and we see that others have it we then take out credit to buy them…or somehow find the cash to make sure those new kicks make it to my feet. WE NEED THEM. New gadgets, new technology, new toys – all these things that we even convince ourselves that they make our lives easier (trust me…I’ve used all the excuses in the world for them too).
But honestly – what DO you need in life? It’s like the first question of the Heidelberg Catechism: What is your only comfort in life and in death? The answer: That I am not my own but belong in life and in death to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s not shoes, it’s not tablets, it’s not Xbox or cars or anything else BUT Jesus. He is our “living water” (John 7:37). And HIS water never ends…and those who drink will never thirst again (John 4:14).
It took the Israelites 40 years to learn this lesson…and that seems like a long time…but take it from someone who turns 40 this year…I still haven’t fully learned it. Let me take that back. I have learned it but it’s the practicing it each and every day that seems to be the struggle.