LESSONS FROM PSALM 42

Psalms 42:1-11 NKJV  To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the Sons of Korah.

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. (2)  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (3)  My tears have been my food day and night, While they continually say to me, “Where is your God?”  (4)  When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, With the voice of joy and praise, With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast. (5)  Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope 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 I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. (7)  Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls; All Your waves and billows have gone over me. (8)  The LORD will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, And in the night His song shall be with me—A prayer to the God of my life. (9)  I will say to God my Rock, “Why have You forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (10)  As with a breaking of my bones, My enemies reproach me, While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”  (11)  Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; For I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.

This is a great psalm! The only problem is that not many really know it. It’s not a famous one, like Psalm 23 or 91. Those who do know Psalm 42, probably know the first verse, because it was popularized in song, years ago. Some may also know the chorus repeated in verses 5 and 11. In it, David agonizes over the state of his soul and provides a biblical script for “positive self-talk.” However, much of the rest may be lost in obscurity or simply glossed over in our three-chapter-a-day reading program. This is too bad because the middle can give us great insight into our current situation.

No one really knows who actually wrote this psalm, but commentators seem to think it refers to David running for his life from Saul or Absalom. No doubt, this was a difficult situation, full of outward affliction and inward distress. However, the real problem emerges in verse 4, answering David’s question in verses 5 and 11, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?” Check it out; there was a condition that made a bad situation much worse…

Psalm 42:4 NKJV When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go with the multitude; I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.

Running from his enemies basically put David into quarantine – where access to corporate gatherings were cut off. Sound familiar? Combine this with his overwhelming need for God, and we can see why he was depressed! Surely, he had problems in his life, but the isolation – especially from meeting with fellow believers – put him over the edge into depression. That is why he had to take aggressive measures to speak to his soul, to encourage himself and keep his faith!

The pressure from the outside is obvious; he was running for his life. However, the pressure from within is what is revealed in the Psalm. The temptation to believe that God had abandoned him was much more of an issue without the strength and encouragement of corporate gatherings. David was vulnerable – politically, physically, yes. However, he was even more vulnerable spiritually, because his access to encouragement was interrupted by his isolation.

This lesson about spiritual isolation is an important one. David was no slouch when it came to his personal relationship with God! In fact, God, Himself testifies, I have found in David, son of Jesse, a man who always pursues my heart and will accomplish all that I have destined him to do.” (Acts 13:22 TPT) No doubt he knew how to pursue God on his own, much like he must have done, growing up in the Judean hills tending his father’s sheep. David was a man who knew how to connect with God, personally and intimately, especially in worship! He wrote songs and had a powerful ministry in music even before he was king. David was a man who loved God and definitely knew how to express his love for Him. However, that is not enough. It was not enough for David – and is not enough for us. We will never have what God has provided for us if we isolate ourselves from the Body of Christ. God did not create us to walk alone on the narrow road!

Scripture tells us that we grow three ways: Through what we personally receive from God, from “holding fast to the Head” (Col 2:19), from what we receive from the leaders who equip us for ministry (Eph 4:11-14) – and from “what every joint supplies.” (Eph 4:15-16) Even if we have an active relationship with the Lord, sit under amazing speakers, in person or doing “couch church” via the internet – we are missing a vital element in our growth! We need each other. More specifically, we need authentic and intimate fellowship of believers who can speak into our lives (and vice versa). If we don’t have this, we are missing that which only the “joints” can supply. We are without the supply of the Spirit of God that comes from the relationships we have with others in the Body of Christ. After all, that is what a “joint” is; it’s where two body parts come together.

Surely, this pandemic has interrupted the church going habits of many. Which makes me wonder… Was that all it was, a habit? If so, the shaking has done a good deal of pruning – and ultimately, that may be good. However, right now, it seems that some may have developed another habit, one that Scripture frowns upon…

Hebrews 10:25 CEV  Some people have gotten out of the habit of meeting for worship, but we must not do that. We should keep on encouraging each other, especially since you know that the day of the Lord’s coming is getting closer.

At this point, most churches I know have seen their numbers depleted. When those who closed reopened, a good third (or more) of their attendees were MIA. On the other hand, many who have developed an on-line presence have seen a substantial growth in attenders (not members) via the web. The question, however, remains: Is that enough, to related to God personally and do “couch church” on the web? Will we become the people God intends, if we exclude ourselves from personal relationships with other believers?

Before the pandemic, after the pandemic, in good times and bad – the truth is the same: WE NEED EACH OTHER. God has provided more for us than what we can get over the Internet or sitting in a meeting looking at the back of someone’s head and shaking a hand or two! Even a wonderful relationship with the Father isn’t enough; it wasn’t for David! We need it all; we need all the nutrients to be healthy, spiritually. We need an active and intimate, one-on-one personal relationship with God. We need to be enriched and challenged by great teaching – and – we need authentic and honest relationships with our brothers and sisters that lead to acting on our faith in purity. We need all the food groups our Father has provided for His children to grow into disciples who bring Him glory! If you haven’t had each of these elements in your life, before or after the pandemic, you don’t know what you are missing!

So practically speaking, here’s what we can learn from Psalm 42:

  • Being cut off from corporate gatherings can make us spiritually vulnerable to the enemy’s lies, accusations, and depression.
  • If this hits home, do what David did. Pour out your soul to God and speak His Words to yourself!
  • CHANGE your situation. David was running for his life; you probably still have choices.

If you have been “shook out” of Church; go back. You can still receive from the great preachers on the Internet, but nothing can actually take the place of meeting together and belonging to a local assembly. If your church never provided “that which every joint supplies,” find a new one. If it did, and you didn’t understand how valuable the small context can be, try one! If that one doesn’t work for you – try another one, until you find someplace to call home. If none of that works, maybe you know others who also need real fellowship; invite them over and see what happens! We never know what God may do, until we obey Him…

Hebrews 10:23-25 TPT  So now we must cling tightly to the hope that lives within us, knowing that God always keeps his promises! (24)  Discover creative ways to encourage others and to motivate them toward acts of compassion, doing beautiful works as expressions of love. (25)  This is not the time to pull away and neglect meeting together, as some have formed the habit of doing, because we need each other! In fact, we should come together even more frequently, eager to encourage and urge each other onward as we anticipate that day dawning.

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