Where Can I Go To Meet With God- Psalm 42:1-5

We must begin our examination of this Psalm (and any Psalm) by providing an explanation of exactly what Psalms are and what we must know about them in order to interpret them properly. As we examine the heading of this Psalm, we find that it is “For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah”. Psalms were written for the director of music becauser they were put to music and sung in the synagogue services. The reason they were sung is because those who attended the services did not have a bible of any kind, with most being illiterate. The singing of the Psalms made them thus easier to memorize, which what those who heard them had to do in order to pray them themselves, since most Psalms are actually prayers. Most of us are familiar with the fact that we have trouble remembering what we read thirty minutes ago, while we have no trouble remembering song lyrics from thirty years ago. Also, when we teach our children the alphabet, we put it to a song, which makes it easier for them to memorize. This particular song is classified as a maskil. The root of this Hebrew word (mkl) essentially means “to be wise”, so this is classified as a wisdom Psalm, it is a Psalm with a lesson, a Psalm meant to teach us something. Since Psalms are poems, they must be interpreted as poetry rather than as prose. Therefore they are not to be interpreted literally, for they make use of imagery, painting word pictures for us, which are designed to help the reader enter into the experience of the Psalmist, which makes his message and lesson much more vivid and impactful upon the reader. The key, then, to properly understanding any Psalm is to properly interpret the imagery used and what the writer intends to communicate through it. We will examine today the first five verses of Psalm 42, in order to become familiar with exactly how this imagery is used and what the writer wants us to learn from it. The Psalm begins with an image, of a deer panting for streams of water. The use of panting here presents the picture of an extreme thirst and an urgent need to have it satisfied. This is a deer which is about to die if it does not find water soon. To this image then, the writer compares his current need for God, he has an intense and extreme thirst for God and will die soon if his thirst is not satisfied, his need for God to sustain his life is just like the need of the deer for water to sustain its life. God is his source of life just as much as water is the source of life for a deer. His problem is then intensified in verse two, where we learn that he longs to “meet with” God, but is not able to do so. The reason for his dilemna is that Israel is currently in exile in a foreign land, and he is being held captive and not able to get to the temple or synagogue, which is where he was accustomed to going to meet with God. Like a deer dying of thirst who cannot find a source of water and may soon die, he is desperate for a “drink” (a meeting with God), does not know how to find one, and fears he may soon die. He then intensifies his desperation in the next verse with another image, saying “My tears have been my food day and night”. What he means by this is that he is in a state of severe depression, to depressed even to eat, to the point where the tears he cries are the only thing he swallows. His state is made worse also by the taunts of his captors, who taunt him with the question “Where is your God?”, a question he is beginning to ask himself. He then looks back to the past, back to when he used to meet with God, and reaches a turning point, doing so only as he “pours out his soul”, another image, portraying one who is completely open and honest before God, as one who holds nothing back. He remembers back before the exile to the time when he would joyfully meet with God, and through this remembrance of the past God begins to get through to him, God uses his remembrance of the past to break through the darkness of the present. As he remembers the past and what God has done previously, he remembers just who God is and that God is still on the throne even in the midst of his exile, that God is still his “savior and his God”, and he praises God for this, for this fact of who God is and that God has not changed serves to help pull him out of his depression, he has learned something. And what has he learned? That he can meet with God anywhere and anytime, that he does not need to go to the temple or the synagogue to meet with God, that God can meet him wherever and whenever He is needed. What he has learned then leads him to the refrain of this Psalm, which is repeated three times, at the end of each “section”. He begins the refrain with a question to himself: “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me”? This expresses his change of attitude after meeting with God here, for he is now bewildered as to why he was depressed the way he was. God was still God, his hope was still in God, and he expresses faith here in the fact that he will praise God no matter what the circumstance, for God was in charge of the circumstance and would come to him anytime he was needed, no matter where he was or what state of mind he was in. Now that we have seen what the Psalmist learned in this section of the Psalm, what does he want those who read this to learn from his experience? He wants us to learn that we also can meet with God anywhere and anytime, no matter what our state of mind may be. We do not have to go to the church building to met with God, for he does not live there, He lives inside of every one of us, and is ready to “meet” with us anytime and anywhere we need Him, no matter how far away from Him we may feel we are, and no matter how fragile our mental and emotional state may be.

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