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TThe scripture reveals much about King David’s life, but only things conducive to telling the biblical narrative. Of his forty-year reign as King, we know just a small percentage of all that transpired in that time period. The point is there are many instances in the Psalms where he described BAD TIMES, times of spiritual perplexity, spiritual drought, that cannot be definitively linked to a historical event.
Psalm 42 appears to represent such a time. David was experiencing a severe spiritual drought in stark contrast to the GOOD TIMES (42:4) of spiritual rain he enjoyed as God’s man. In Psalm 42, the one who seeks to walk with God, but runs up against a brick wall, can find hope. There are a few recurring themes.
First, his soul is “disquieted” (42:5,11). The word speaks of “commotion, noise, a roar.” It’s the difference between a placid lake at sunrise and the same lake experiencing a heavy chop in the midst of an afternoon squall. It’s restlessness instead of rest; chaos instead of calm. Secondly, his soul is “cast down” (42:5, 6,11). The word means “to be sunken, depressed, to be crouched down.” The Psalmist is carrying a ‘heavy load’ brought on, for the most part, by his enemies, both political and spiritual. Men of God don’t always walk with head held high!
Thirdly is the question: “Where is thy God?” (42:3,10). When your “tears” and the tongues of your “enemies” are asking the same question about the location of your God, you know things are bad. Then there is a unique juxtaposition between what David says he “will remember” (42:6) over against what he feels God has “forgotten” (42:9). It’s “remember thee” in contrast to “forgotten me.”
In so many words, the Psalmist affirms he will ‘hold up his end of the log’ by remembering all the times God came to the rescue of his people “from [the time of crossing the] Jordan [river]” (42:6). Then he questions whether/when his God will start holding up his end of the log by remembering him in his time of disquietedness. It may sound disrespectful of the Almighty, but in reality it’s the bold query of a man in the midst of spiritual drought who's accustomed to experiencing intimacy with his God.
We need only consider the Cross of Christ to understand how living in a body of flesh can make perception feel like reality. When Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34), should we assume for a moment the Father forsook his Son? The Father might have answered: “No, my Son, it’s not PERSONAL; it’s just the BUSINESS for which I sent you into the world. And that business will be done before the sun goes down!”
When you’re Jeremiah or Daniel, there could be a miry pit or den of lions in your future. Neither of these men, however, was ‘forgotten’ by God in the midst of their trial even though they might have perceived otherwise.
The Psalmist began by describing his current spiritual drought: “As the hart [deer] panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” (42:1-2). In seasons of normal rainfall, deer don’t have to go panting after the water brooks. It’s only when drought causes rivers and creeks to dry up that deer begin to pant for and thirst after water that was once in plenteous supply.
Even as he questions WHY his soul is cast down, he answers his own question: “HOPE thou in God: for I shall yet PRAISE him for the help of his countenance” (42:5, 11). Translation: No matter how bad things may seem at the present, I’m going to EXPECT God, in his time and for his purposes, to pick up his end of the log. Therefore “I will YET PRAISE him” for the HELP of HIS countenance (42:5), which is the HEALTH of MY countenance (42:11). Nothing puts a smile on the face of a believer quite like knowing there’s a smile on God’s face concerning him!
When a spiritual drought comes, it is the firm expectation of HOPE mingled with PRAISE that sets the stage for a good spiritual rain!