As we reach Psalm 42, we enter “book 2” of the collection of Psalms and here we see they are written by the sons of Korah. There is a pretty significant story about the sons of Korah and you can read about it here, but to sum it up: they were in charge of the choir when David was king. A maskil, as these psalms are classified, are best described as “contemplations” although it is debated how they were specifically used in worship.
In regard to the reading of Psalm 42, I think we have all felt this way at one time or another. If you haven’t, you are still young and will get your chance! There are moments, days, and even seasons where we feel down, oppressed, depressed, abandoned, and alone. Right now is the time when many people suffer from SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) because of the change in weather, amount of sunlight, etc. and we can easily feel depressed. We might cry out and say, “God, why have you forsaken me?” to mimic the words of Jesus on the cross. “I am here,” God whispers but His voice is drowned out by the noise of our own turmoil.
This is why the psalmist writes, “Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” Let’s look at this from a easier perspective: just because you can’t see or hear someone does that mean they don’t exist? Does it mean they aren’t speaking to you? Does it mean they don’t love and care for you? No, it just means that 1) you are too far away to hear and see them or 2) you aren’t paying attention. There are times my own wife is sitting right next to me and says something but it doesn’t register because I am focused on something else. We might even be having an active conversation with each other but because of my own emotions, something she says just doesn’t register in my brain and I don’t get it. She has to repeat it. Just because I didn’t hear those loving words while I am looking right into her eyes doesn’t mean she stopped loving me or isn’t there with me. It means my inner turmoil has caused me to not hear or feel that love.
Now read the psalm again. They write about turning to what they know about God instead of what they feel in the moment. They’ve heard God’s voice. They’ve seen His majesty and beauty. They know His goodness, love, grace, mercy, power, and authority. They might not be feeling it right now, but they know deep in their heart what is true.
Verse one is very popular but verse 2 qualifies it. We might suddenly think of a pleasant scene where a fawn trots up to a stream and bends over for water, right? Then we read, “when shall I come and appear before God?” Our mental imagery deceives us. This isn’t about a deer getting a fresh cool drink of water. It’s a deer frantically running around the woods looking for a water source! It is dry mouthed and thirsty, longing for that break of drought in its mouth, in its soul. When our tears have been our food day and night do we seek God or do we curse Him? Do we blame Him for our affliction or do we recognize why He has allowed it to happen to us? He wants us to seek hard and fast after Him, knowing that our communion with Him is how we are satiated.