Imagine a day in early August. A healthy deer runs through the wilderness. He may be escaping from a predator that seeks his life. We do not know the exact reason why this deer is running, but we do not need to know either. We do know that the deer of which we read of in Psalm 42:1 is a thirsty deer. He is a deer that is panting for something to drink, looking for water brooks where he can relieve his thirst. This is the kind of thirst that the Psalmist speaks of in Psalm 42:2. “My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”
Any living creature needs water to sustain daily life. Water is a popular example in Scripture to bridge a connection between the physical and the spiritual. We learn here that water is absolutely necessary for life. Without water, any living thing dies. Without spiritual water, the believer dies.
As previously mentioned, water is a popular analogy in Scripture. David speaks about his thirst for God in Psalm 143:6: “I stretch forth my hands unto thee; my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land.” Jesus spoke of this water in John 4:13 b, 14 as he talked with the Samarian woman by Jacob’s well. “Whosoever drinketh of this water (referring to the water in Jacob’s well) shall thirst again: but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” The prophet Isaiah speaks of living waters in Isaiah 55:1 a. “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters…” These are only a few of the many passages that speak about spiritual water in Scripture.
There is a problem in all of this. You and I do not thirst for God in and of ourselves. By nature we thirst for all kinds of worldly things. The lusts of our flesh turn our thirst away from God and his kingdom, and place it rather on sinful things. Indeed, it would be very sinful for us to claim that we thirst for God by ourselves. Only through regenerated hearts are we able to thirst for the true living waters. This is the only possible way that we can come to know God and thirst after him.
This thirst is shown in the life of the believer. It manifests itself in an eagerness to read the word of God, and in an excitement to hear that word preached from Sunday to Sunday. This thirst drives the child of God to love personal devotions, family devotions, and societies that he or she may attend. The regenerated child of God realizes that Monday through Saturday are not spiritual “days off,” but that a thirst for God is something that consumes him or her day and night, seven days a week. Even though you and I are not perfect, but only have a beginning of that thirst, yet the life of the Christian is characterized by a striving to drink of the spiritual water, and a battle against the temptation to drink of worldly waters.
This thirst may become especially strong at certain times in our life. One of these instances may be a trial that God sends us. Another instance may be that we are in an environment that does not love God and his word. You may experience this in a godless workplace. As students at college, some of my friends and I have experienced the lack of Christian atmosphere at college. At a place where the homosexuals gather to sound forth their religion, or where some professors express their hate for Christianity, the child of God may have an increased thirst for the living waters of God. It was quite a shock for me to leave a godly high school atmosphere only to be greeted by the world, a desert land without the living waters of God and his word. David experienced this same isolation in Psalm 63:1 as he was hiding from his enemies in the wilderness of Judah. “O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is.”
We have observed so far that the living waters of God and his word are so vital for our spiritual lives. This water is so vital for our spiritual existence that God promises terrible punishment for those who do not thirst for spiritual things. In Amos 8:11, God speaks words of judgment against unfaithful Israel. God declares this judgment in verses 11 and 12. “Behold the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: and they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it.” God declared in verse 13 that the fair virgins and young men would fail for thirst. What a terrible judgment upon the nation of Israel! We must be careful to thirst for things that are spiritual. The Israelites, like us, enjoyed a time of prosperity in that day, and it was easy for them (and is easy for us) to thirst for so many other things of this world.
By God’s grace, David was able to set his focus on God, and was able to thirst for spiritual waters. David longed to appear before God in his sanctuary. At certain points in David’s life, he was relentlessly pursued by his enemies, and was therefore unable to worship God in the sanctuary. It is no wonder that he then cries out “when shall I come and appear before God?” David speaks of those who scoff at him in his seemingly hopeless state in verse 3. “Where is thy God?” His tears are his meat day and night.
However, the victory of hope never fades in the child of God. The gloomy clouds of this Psalm break up in the presence of the glorious words that we read of in verse 5. “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” Hope thou in God! David well knows his salvation in the coming Messiah. David is confessing here that his hope is not earthly, and his thirst is not quenched by the work of men’s hands. Amidst desert isolation, persecution, and scoffers, he has hope!
That same precious hope is ours! This is the same hope that drives every Christian to an excitement to know more about God’s word and his promises. This is the same hope that puts a smile on the face of the dying saint who is ready to meet his Savior. A hope that tells us that our thirst will be perfectly satisfied in the courts of our God where there will be no sin and tears! This is the same hope that sheds bright light into the darkest regions of the saint suffering from a terminal illness, or the family trying to cope with the death of a loved one. This is the hope that Job speaks of in Job chapter 19: 25, 26. “For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”
May God use his word in this Psalm to comfort our souls. God will preserve us until we reach that final resting place of which we read in Revelation 7:17. “For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” All is well! What wonderful words for the weary pilgrim nearly failing for thirst in this desert wasteland! Our thirst will be perfectly satisfied!