Psalms and Cool Waters


Beachfront at Cassis, France
Psalm xlii: 1  

As a deer longs for a stream of cool water, so I long for you, O Lord.

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.

There is a lot of truth to that realization, and one that defines the whole idea of “depression”.  If you think that God has rejected you and is no longer listening, that actually is a major flag that you are depressed; even today with the DSM.  It is not considered a healthy belief and in #6, there is the reminder that from the mighty mountains of the Hermonian mountain range to the little hillocks of Mizar, God is with us and loves us because He created all this wondrous majesty for us, to give us succour and happiness; to remind us of the beauty around us and fill our hearts with delight.
Instead in verse 7 the mighty Deep, always the poetical form for the great ocean, calls emptily to itself and so like a ship at sea, hears only its own foghorn.  No one else is answering.  That seems to be the turning point in the psalm, because by #8, King David takes heart and realizes he needs patience and prayer because in reality God is a Rock and though David thinks God has abandoned him, in reality it is just man (in this case King Saul whom he loved like a father), this is not true though the reproaches of our fellow man are cutting and may even be tormenting, they unfortunately are the lot of those who believe in our Lord, because this world is so filled evil.
Verse 10 harkens to verse 3.  Where is thy God? As David torments himself  like those who are friends of Saul torment him, ignoring the sun and the stars and the life about him and instead concentrating on vicious words but this time in the finale he answers himself, and realizes that God is all about, he has just to stop ruminating about other’s ill words and look up and see.

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.