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Why Do You Despair (reprise)

“Why do you despair, my soul?

And why do you groan?

In regards to me you must hope in God,

Because again I will confess him—

Salvation is before me by my God.”

(Psalm 42:12 [verse 11 in English translations])


Once again we find the psalmist echoing the words of his soul’s despair. The Hebrew word used here literally means to melt away or to dissolve. Indeed, how it seems that our spirit does tend to melt away within us—to fade into nothingness—when the world seems to bear down against us. How easily most of us are discouraged when things seem to be falling apart around us, yet, like the psalmist, we must ask, in whom do we hope?

If our hope is in God, why then do we complain and worry? Is he not the creator of the universe and has he not said that he will provide all of our needs? What then is there left to worry and gripe about? Our ills have no power of him. Worldly powers cannot sway or God to cease believing in himself or to cease existing. No, God is and he will always be—and he will always care for his own. What then is left to fear? Are not all of our worries irrational? Indeed, beloved, place your hope in Him, for He will deliver you from the second death.

But notice what the psalmist connects with the idea of hope—confession. The term that is employed here is the word, hådÎy (yadah). This word is often translated as “to praise,” which is one of the senses of the term, but the idea that is conveyed is that we are praising God publicly by our public confession of his glorious name and wonderful works. Indeed, we are to believe in our hearts and confess with our lips that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) if we are to be saved. How often confessing Christians have bought into the lie that their faith is a personal thing and thus never praise God through their living and ongoing profession of his name. Indeed, the faith by which we walk in the world is a clear testimony that he lives and rules over our days.

This psalm closes with the great and glorious reminder that salvation comes from God and from God alone. Loved ones, there are many in this world who would suggest that they can offer you salvation. There are none, though, other than Jesus Christ who has risen from the grave and has thus promised that he will do the same for those who trust in him as Lord and Savior.

Praise the Rock of our salvation!
Praise the mighty God above!
Come before His sacred presence
With a grateful song of love.

Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
He is God, and He alone.
Wake the song of adoration—
Come with joy before His throne!

-Fanny Crosby



A Slaughter in My Bones

“By a slaughter in my bones,

those who are hostile toward me continually taunt me.

Saying to me all the day, ‘Where is your God?’”

(Psalm 42:11 [Verse 10 in English Translations])


“Where is your God, now!” is the cry that so many of God’s people have heard, when tormented by their accusers. Even the accusers of Christ tormented him with similar words—“He saved others, let him save himself!” (Luke 23:35). “He used the power of God at other times, where is that power now!” is essentially what they were saying. Oh, how often we hear that taunt from the ignorant and the wicked around us and oh, how often we are tempted to believe their words and fear that God has left us or abandoned us to a fate of empty loneliness. Over and over they raise their horrid taunt and how the words echo in our ears and feed the fears that we have.

The psalmist will soon close this psalm with the words we are desperate to hear…that God indeed hears and is with us and will bring that salvation we so desperately long for into our day. Yet, beloved, in the midst of the darkness, God promises over and over again that he will neither leave us nor forsake us and that even during those times when we don’t see or feel his hand moving in our lives, he is still there. He says to us:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will not fear evil, for you are with me—

Your rod and your staff, they continually bring me comfort.”

(Psalm 23:4)

“Having gone , therefore, make  disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to keep  all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you every day, until the consummation of eternity.”

(Matthew 28:19-20)

“Also, I give to them life eternal, and they will surely not perish—for eternity—and no one will snatch them from my hand.”

(John 10:28)


Often people have despaired, wondering where God is during their time of crisis, yet our ability to feel God’s presence does not limit God’s ability to be with us. Indeed, sometimes the perceived distance is designed to teach us trust and patience. Beloved, the answer to the question posed by the mockers is, “God is with me; he has neither left nor forsaken me.” How we can find our courage in those words and that great reminder. Indeed, even though death may come to us in this life, Jesus has promised to preserve us from the second death—the Father’s judgment. Indeed, what a glorious gift we are given in Christ!



God, My Rock

“I shall say to God, my Rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me?’

Why do I go about darkened with respect to the torment of the enemy?”

(Psalm 42:10 [Psalm 42:9 in English translations])


The term “rock” is one that is often attributed to God. Why is that? Is God cold and unmoving? No, of course not! God is described as a rock in terms of his safety and security as well as his strength. In the torrents of trouble that flood our lives in this world (remember verse 7), God provides the strength and stability that we so desperately need. He gives us shelter in times of trial and persecution and herein the psalmist takes comfort—even in the destruction wrought by God on Korah and those who revolted with him, God preserved these Sons of Korah for his purposes in the life of Israel and in his redemptive plan. As Peter writes, God certainly does know how to rescue the godly while at the same time destroying the wicked (2 Peter 2:9-10).

In addition to God being referred to as a “rock” in scripture, it should be noted that his Word—the scriptures—is also described in the same way (Matthew 7:24; Exodus 32:15-16). Not only is he the rock to cling to during the trials and torrents of life, but his word provides for us the rock foundation upon which our lives are built sure. If you want to live a life that is reckless and swayed by the winds of change, then avoid this rock with all your power, but if you wish to know a life of sublime pleasure, then God gives us a foundation upon which to build…his most Holy Word.

How often, though, like the psalmist, we go about either saying or wanting to say that God has forsaken us. It is as if God had said that in Christ all things in life would be trouble-free. Yet, this is the gospel of the charlatans, not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Instead, Jesus said:

“If the world hates you, know that it hated me before you. If you were from the world, the world would love as one in the same. But because you are not from the world—rather I chose you from the world—for this, the world hates you. Remember the word which I spoke to you—a slave is not greater than his lord. If they drove me out, they will also drive you out. If they treasure my word, they will also treasure yours.”

(John 15:18-20)

In other words, Jesus is reminding his Apostles and us how if we are faithful to him, the world will treat us as it treated him. The world put Jesus to death; why do we feel that we should expect to be treated differently?

The psalmist, understands this, I believe, and he continues by asking himself the rhetorical question, “why do I go about darkened…”—”why am I depressed and downcast” is what he is saying to himself as he looks at the torments of his enemy. For indeed, we know that our God is a great redeemer and a rock and if we rest in him we will be held secure from all eternal dangers. One may destroy our bodies but they cannot destroy our eternal souls. Beloved, why is it that so often we lament over the trials we face, for our God is with us and he has promised us that he will use such trials to strengthen us and to mature our faith (James 1:2-4). There is indeed a time to come when we will enjoy the bliss of being in God’s presence eternally, but for now, we remain in this world for a singular purpose—to glorify God by working out the Great Commission…that of making disciples of all of the nations—a program that begins in our neighborhoods, in our homes, and in our own hearts.

I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

-John Newton



Yahweh Continually Commands His Chesed and His Song is With Me

“By day Yahweh continually commands his chesed

And at night, his song is with me—

A prayer of supplication to the God of my life.”

(Psalm 42:9 [verse 8 in English translations])


How deep it is that this verse is when we come to terms with its language and sentiment. To begin with, do not miss the wonderful title that is applied to God on high. He is called by the psalmist, “God of My Life.” Indeed, what wonderful thoughts come to mind when we apply this title to our great God and King. He is the originator of each of our lives and he numbers our days (Psalm 139:16). He orders all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11) and promises to work all things out for good for those who love him and are called according to his purposes (Romans 8:28). He has the right to take me here or there for purposes revealed or known only to him and he has the right not only to use me for those purposes but also to expend my life for those purposes. Indeed, every inch of my life is at his disposal from beginning to end and every ounce of my being and my day must be dedicated to his glory alone. Indeed, he is God of my life.

And as God of me life he responds with his dRsRj (chesed) and his song. Our Bibles translate dRsRj (chesed) in a variety of ways, trying to capture the essence of the word, but the idea of dRsRj (chesed) is reflected in God’s covenantal faithfulness toward us even when we fail to be faithful to his covenant. God indeed commands that towards his own. We wander and we stray, we often choose sin, and much like sheep, we can be cantankerous and difficult to keep moving in the same direction. Yet we are never forsaken. What a wonderful promise that is given in that simple principle. When Jesus utters the words, “I will never leave nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, also reference Matthew 28:20), that reflects the consistent testimony of God’s word throughout the Old Testament towards his people:

“It is Yahweh leading before you—he will be with you, he will not let you go, and he will not forsake you.”

(Deuteronomy 31:8)


“Blessed is Yahweh, who has given rest to his people, Israel, according to everything he continually promised. Not one word failed from all his good word which he spoke through the hand of Moses, his servant. Yahweh our God is with us as he was with our fathers. May he not abandon us; may he not give us up. He will stretch our hearts toward himself to walk in all of his ways and to guard his commandments, his regulations, and his judgments that he continually commanded our fathers.”

(1 Kings 8:56-58)


Even in redeeming his own from sin, God speaks through his prophet Hosea:

“And I will sow her myself in the land and I will have mercy on Lo-Ruhamah and I will say to Lo-Ammi, ‘you are my people.’ And he will say, ‘My God.’ “

(Hosea 2:23)


Yet, the promise does not end there. God also gives to us a song in our heart.

“My strength and melody is Yahweh,

He is to me salvation;

This is my God and I will glorify Him—

The God of my fathers, and I will exalt him.”

(Exodus 15:2)


“Praise Yahweh!

Sing to Yahweh a new song—

Songs of praise in the assembly of the faithful.”

(Psalm 149:1)


And indeed, when John sees the vision of heaven, one of the things he witnesses is the elders and the 144,000 still singing a “new song” to praise our almighty God. Indeed, the words of humanity could never exhaust the praise that is due to our God for what he has done for us, let praises continually fill our hearts and flood from our lips. My our life be a constant praise and witness to the goodness of God and may the song of our hearts not be the songs of this vulgar world, but ones that speak of the glory of the world to come…a subject of infinitely greater worth and beauty.

And thus we come before him with a prayer of supplication, not only asking for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, but also humbly asking God for the needs of the day to come. Indeed, did not our Lord himself teach us to pray for such needs as daily bread (Matthew 6:11)? Not only must we not forsake the privilege of coming before God’s throne, we also must never forget what a gracious gift it is to have been given such a great privilege. Indeed, our almighty God has shone his dRsRj (chesed) into our lives and filled our nights with his song—what more could we desire?



From Hermon to Mizar

“My God, my soul dissolves over me,

thus I remember you from the land of the Jordan—

From Hermon to Mount Mizar.”

(Psalm 42:7 {verse 6 in English Translations})


The psalmist is looking to the north (Hermon) and to the east (Jordan) and realizing that while enemies surround him, particularly coming from these two directions, God will be with him and will redeem him from sure destruction. Note the language that the psalmist employs—his soul “melts or dissolves” over him. The concept of the soul in Hebrew encompasses the entirety of the person’s being, physical and spiritual.

What is interesting about the language that the psalmist uses here is that while Hermon here represents the desolation of the edge of the promised land, it is the likely location where Jesus would take his disciples and be transfigured before their eyes. As with so many other things in Jesus’ ministry, he took what was considered outcast and desolate and redeemed it to the glory of God His Father. And how he also does the same in our own lives. He takes the mess that we bring to him and not only heals us, but he makes that mess holy. It is like what takes place when the master pianist sets down beside the young student of piano. While the young student diligently plucks away at a few keys, the master fills in the sounds adding life and depth and color to what is heard and such becomes a masterpiece. The student participates but the life of the piece comes from the master. Such is true in our lives as well, often in the midst of our greatest weakness.

Loved ones, how quickly, when things go badly, we tend to fall into despair. Yet, the glory of the scriptures is to point out to us that in Christ Jesus there is no reason to despair or faint for your life. God is in control and Christ will redeem his own! That is good news, for if you are trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, that means that Christ will redeem you and that means he will never let you go and that as messy as your life is, he will make it into something that glorifies his name. What more could one desire than that? What greater hope is there, Christian, than to know that God has you in the palm of his hand and that powers and principalities of any magnitude can do nothing to pluck you out. Indeed, our God is good—remember his good works.



Why Do You Despair, Oh My Soul?

“Why do you despair, my soul, and groan?

In Regards to me, you must hope on God,

for again I will confess him—

Salvation is before him.”

(Psalm 42:6 [verse 5 in English translations])


What is your attitude when things start going bad and our plans fall apart? Is your first response to groan in despair? Is your first inclination to lament your misfortune? Yet, is not God in control? Does he not reign from on high in the heavens? Is not God the one who orders all things according to the counsels of his will (Ephesians 1:11)? Doesn’t our God own the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10)? And does he not care for his children more than the birds of the air (Matthew 6:26)? How often our lives are marked by worry, groaning, fear, and complaint.

The psalmist is reminding us that such is not to be the mark of our life. He is looking inward and saying to himself, “Why am I griping—why do I despair—do I not belong to God?” And indeed, we do belong to God if we are trusting in Christ as our Lord and Savior, so why do we despair? Why should we worry? It is the lot of the unbeliever to worry, but not of the one who is held in the hand of the almighty God of the universe. He has promised us salvation and he has promised us that he will work all of the events in our life out for good (Romans 8:28).

Thus, Christian, with the Psalmist, I call you to wait on God, trust him to work out the events of your life. When the way before you is dark and unclear, know that he is ordering your steps and will guide you; you shall not stumble and fall while resting in Him. And know, too, that salvation comes with him and with him alone—there is no other name by which man can be saved than by the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12). And if this great promise belongs to us in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20), then where is there room to gripe and groan, oh, my soul?

Call Jehovah thy salvation, rest beneath th’Almighty’s shade.
In His secret habitation dwell, and never be dismayed.
There no tumult shall alarm thee, thou shalt dread no hidden snare.

Guile nor violence can harm thee, in eternal safeguard there.

-James Montgomery



The House of God

“These things I remember

And I shall pour out my soul before me;

For I pass over and into a refuge and walk slowly as far as the house of God.

In a great voice and with thanksgiving

The multitude celebrates.”

(Psalm 42:5 [verse 4 in English translations])


The “these things” refers back to the taunting of the enemies of God’s people found in the previous verse, and here, then, is the psalmist’s response to such taunting…he pours out his soul before him. Often, the idea of pouring out is associated with a drink offering that is made, but we also find it in connection with the idea of prayer, with one’s heart and life laid before God. As Jeremiah writes:

Arise! And cry out at the beginning of the night watches!

Pour out your heart like water before the face of God!

Lift the hollows of your hands toward him over the soul of your children—

Those who are feeble from hunger at the beginning of every street.

(Lamentations 2:19)

How it is that one of our great privileges is that we can pour out our souls before God, lay the cares of our hearts before his throne and know that he hears and will answer. What comfort there is, beloved that we have a God who hears and can empathize with us in our sorrows. Thus, from the depths of his very being, the psalmist cries out before God, pouring out the depths of his life before the throne of our Great God.

The words that follow are a little vague, but they seem to be a reflection upon the various celebrations that take place during the Jewish year. During the year, there were three festivals (Passover, Booths, the Day of Atonement) where it was required that all Jews present themselves in Jerusalem if at all physically possible and then there were a variety of additional festivals where, while not mandated by Jewish Law, it was encouraged that faithful Jews come to the Temple as well. These were times of great corporate celebration and were times when the population of Jerusalem would swell to the bursting point.

The most cryptic point of the passage is the language of taking refuge in a place while slowly walking to the Temple. Some have suggested that this is a reference to the Festival of Booths, where Jews would set up tents or booths on their roof to live in for a week as a reminder of the Israelites’ years living in tents in the wilderness. At the same time, while the word I translated here as “refuge” can be translated as “tent” or “shelter,” it is not the same word that refers to the shelters that are made during the Festival of Booths. Most likely, the best way to see this is as a more general reference to the various times the psalmist has en given the privilege of worshiping in the Temple courts.

In the end, the psalmist celebrates. And this, beloved, is something that should grab our heart. How easy it is for things that are regularly done in our lives to become routine and commonplace—even good things. How often our time of Sunday worship simply becomes a matter of going through the motions—the thing we do on Sunday because it is what we have always done. Yet, the worship of God should never be stale to the believer—it should be the thing we look forward to all week long. We are quick to pour out our hearts in lamentation, let us indeed be even quicker in pouring out our lives in the celebration of the mighty God we serve.

What a mighty God we serve,

What a mighty God we serve.

Angels bow before him;

Heaven and earth adore him,

What a mighty God we serve.

-Hezekiah Walker



Where is Your God?

“My tears have been to me my food, by day and by night;

Saying to me, ‘Where is your God?’”

(Psalm 42:4 [verse 3 in English translation])


Troubles will come our way in this life, there is no doubting or arguing against that premise. We cry after we are born and those who love us cry after we have died. Troubles follow us around, even, in this world of sin and grief. And when that takes place, it is easy for us to look around and ask where God is or why he has abandoned you to such a fate. In the midst of our tears we often cry out, “Where are you, God?” Yet, often there is no answer. C.S. Lewis, as he was grieving the death of his wife, initially described this experience as a shutting of a door and then a “bolting and a double bolting.” Later, as God was dealing with his heart, he realized that the “no answer” he was getting from God was not a cold, impassionate gaze, but was a sort of a, “Peace, child, you don’t understand.” How we must learn to rest in God before the sorrows and even the joys of our life will take on full meaning.

Savior, like a shepherd lead us,

much we need thy tender care;

in thy pleasant pastures feed us,

for our use thy folds prepare.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!

Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

Blessed Jesus, blessed Jesus!

Thou hast bought us, thine we are.

-Dorothy Thrupp



My Soul Thirsts For God

“My soul thirsts for God;

To God, the living one, when shall I come?

I shall be seen before the presence of God.”
(Psalm 42:3 [verse 2 in English translations])


Again, we see the language of thirsting for the living water of God. And again, it is essential to put before our hearts and eyes the question, is this the song and cry of our heart? Do we genuinely long for the things of God or do we flee from them? Sadly, professing Christians often flee from the presence of God (in practice, not in word) because drawing near to God exposes sin, it humbles, and it demands that we submit to another’s authority in our lives. At the same time, drawing near to God fills and floods our soul with grace that can be lived out in a community that desperately needs to experience the grace of God in their lives.

Note, too, the idea of the soul in Hebrew notion of the soul is not so much a spiritual element as it is the entirety of our existence. In other words, it is not just our mind or our passions that are to long for God, but everything about us! Even our flesh is to long for God—every aspect of our person! Is this, indeed, how you live? Is this longing something that marks your life not only in church, but also in the community, in your family, and in your idle time. You could even translate this as “My life thirsts for God.” The question we must ask is, “Does our life really reflect this thirsting for God? Indeed, such thirsting is not only a mark of a believer (Matthew 5:6) but it is also the source of water that will flow from God and never cease to fill our lives (John 4:14).

The psalmist now adds to the imagery of the quest for water by referring to God as “the Living One.” This language has double significance in this context. First, in the context of one’s thirst being filled, the ancient Jews referred to running water as “living water.” It is moving and it can sustain life—it is fresh and not stagnant or bitter. As a result of this, “living water” was not only desirable to the people (and reminiscent of the language of the stream in the previous verse), but it was considered spiritual as well, and it was only with living water that baptisms and other purification rituals could be performed. Hence, for example, we find John the Baptist standing in the Jordan River, a source of living water to use as he baptized the people that came to him in droves (most likely through the process of dipping hyssop in the water and sprinkling it on those that came for baptism—Psalm 51:7).

The second level of significance is that God is the living God (Daniel 6:26) and the God of the living, not the dead (Matthew 22:32). God is not like the lifeless idols crafted by men, nor are his followers left to the depths of the grave—indeed, our God will redeem his own and not abandon us to the fires of Judgment. Indeed, God is the God of the living—the spiritually alive, that is, for when he enters our sin-dead hearts he gives us new birth and then lives eternally in our hearts. Indeed, God, the living God, not only makes his people alive, but he so fills them with living water that it flows from their lives into the lives of those around them (John 7:38).

Loved ones, and know that it is because of this work of God, we have not only the hope of life here, but also the hope of eternal life in the presence of God. No, Christian, he will never leave nor forsake you—even to the ends of the earth. Indeed, there is no God like our God—the living one; beloved, quench your thirst in Him.



As the Deer

“As a deer longs for streams of water, so my soul longs for you, God.”

(Psalm 42:2 [verse 1 in English])


While we typically envision deer to be more of a European and North American species of animal, the Roe Deer and the Fallow deer are common to Israel. And much like dogs, deer do not sweat, but instead kind of pant when they are hot and need to cool down. Hence the imagery. The deer is not just casually thirsty for cool, refreshing water, but if the deer is panting, the deer is hot and will overheat if it does not get water to help cool it down. If we take the analogy to its logical end, we would expect panting to be taking place after some exertion, a run perhaps away from a hunter.

While it is true that sometimes when we dig deeply into a metaphor, we lose the meaning of the metaphor, I don’t think that such is true in this case. We must not only appreciate that the psalmist’s soul longs after God, but we must ask why it longs after God and as to the nature of this longing. Is God something that simply adds some refreshment to an otherwise pleasant afternoon, or is God one to whom we desperately flee, knowing that our only hope of survival is the water that flows from the throne of His grace, lest we be destroyed by those who seek our life in this world. Indeed, as we delve deeper into this psalm, we will realize that much of the language centers around God’s preservation of his own people in the face of great oppression much as a deer spends much of its life being pursued by a hunter.

But what does it mean to really long for something? The Hebrew word, gOrÍo (arog), means to crave for or desire something with every fiber of your being. It is the knowing that if you do not get that which you are striving for, you indeed will perish and wither away. I wonder, sometimes, whether we really think that way about God. Do we really long for him? Do we really crave his Word or are both an afterthought—a convenient solution to the ills of the day or a tradition by which we feel good about ourselves? Beloved, feel the spirit and desire behind these words, understand the necessity by which the psalmist is seeking God’s presence, and know, given that its author is a son of Asaph, that these brothers knew trouble and grief—but they knew the mercy of God as well and clung to it. Will you?

As the deer panteth for the water

So my soul longs after You

You alone are my hearts desire

And I long to worship You.

You alone are my strength, my shield

To You alone may my spirit yield

You alone are my hearts desire

And I long to worship You.

-Martin Nystrom



A Maskil of the Sons of Korah

“To the Director: A Maskil of the Sons of Korah.”

(Psalm 42:1 [superscript in English translations])


Psalm 42 begins what we typically refer to as the second book of Psalms. The psalm that precedes this one ends with the great refrain:

“Blessed is Yahweh, the God of Israel—

From eternity unto eternity, Amen and Amen.”

(Psalm 41:14 [verse 13 in English translations])

This refrain shows up in essentially the same form at the end of chapter 72, 89, and 106. Of course the entire psalm 150 carries with it the same kind of language of this refrain. These refrains have traditionally marked the end of one book of Psalms and the beginning of the next book. While book one contains Psalms that have traditionally been attributed to David, this second book also contains a number of psalms by the Sons of Korah as well.

We will discuss these Sons of Korah further when we look at Psalm 49, let it suffice to say that Korah was one of those who rebelled against Moses in Numbers 16, yet God, in his mercy, preserved Korah’s sons and set them to work in the Tabernacle. As we look at these psalms by the Sons of Korah, I think that it is worth remembering that sometimes people are resentful when they receive God’s discipline; yet these Sons of Korah recognize the grace of God in the discipline and what we have in these psalms are great words of praise, salvation, and trust in the Almighty God of Israel. What a wonderful testimony for us!

The term Maskil is probably derived from the Hebrew verb lkc (sakal), which means, “to understand.” Typically, this has been seen either as a liturgical term or a musical tune or beat to which this psalm would be sung. Some scholars have thus understood these Maskils to be memory verses and others have suggested that it is simply a designation for wisdom literature put to music (though there are certainly other wisdom psalms that are not described as Maskils).

However this psalm is to be sung or categorized, it is clear that this psalm contains a model for us in terms of how we approach God and his Word. Jesus said in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are the ones who are hungering and thirsting for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” Indeed, this psalm gives us a tremendous picture of what it looks like in our lives when we do hunger and thirst for righteousness. My prayer is that we are not only hungry for the righteousness that comes from God and is expressed in his Word—just as the deer pants for the water, may we indeed long for God and his Word.