This verse, starts off a whole psalm (poem or song of worship, dedicated to the Lord) that is called a Maschil, a song enforcing a lesson of of wisdom or piety. What is interesting is that “Maschil” was originally the chief musician for King David during his exilic years, and when a Maschil appears it should be executed with great skill. I guess Maschil was the Franz Liszt of his day.
There are 13 such Maschil Psalms: 32,42, 45,44,45,52-55,74,78,68,69,142. This, the 42nd, is a short one. The deer which is rather vague actually is an adult (over 5 years of age), red stag, complete with a complement of antlers. The 3rd verse is very poetic: my tears are my meat, meaning that’s all he can eat or drink, he has lost his taste for life because he, King David, and by proxy us, are without our Father’s love. The 4th verse is about going out and about with people to the Temple, and trying to be part of holy festivities but still feeling separate and apart from those filled with faith and His grace. This in the 5th verse he realizes is a bad thing and he realizes he is too much preoccupied with himself and perhaps it is not that God has removed himself from him but that he has removed himself from Him.
As the hart panteth for the water brooks, so panteth my soul for Thee, O God.2 My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear before God? 3 My tears have been my meat day and night, while they continually say unto me, “Where is thy God?”
4When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me, for I had gone with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.5 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.
6 O my God, my soul is cast down within me; therefore will I remember Thee from the land of Jordan and the Hermonites, from the hill of Mizar. 7 (The) Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of Thy waterspouts; all Thy waves and Thy billows have gone over me.8 Yet the LORD will command His loving kindness in the daytime, and in the night His song shall be with me and my prayer unto the God of my life.
9 I will say unto God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”10 As with a sword in my bones, mine enemies reproach me, while they say daily unto me, “Where is thy God?” 11 Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God, for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance and my God.