As the deer longs for streams of water,
so I long for you, O God.
2 I thirst for God, the living God.
When can I go and stand before him?
This passage was written from the Sons of Korah. You may remember Korah who rebelled against Moses and tried to lead a revolt. Korah and the leaders were sure they were on the right side and Moses had gone to far. In the end Korah and his followers were destroyed. Generations later, his descendants end up writing many psalms that make it into the Book of Psalms. And, although Korah was prideful, rebellious, and lacked the fear of the Lord, the “Sons of Korah” had a spiritual depth of understanding and a lot of wisdom that weaves throughout their writings.
Sometimes when we come from a great multitude of sin and recognize the wrong that we or our ancestors have caused, it gives us a balance of understanding and reflection that breads a deeper knowledge of the truth. In this Psalms, we see just that. Here is a deep desire to get closer to God than this person already is. From my perspective, as soon as someone prays to God, they are not far off. If one is pursuing God then they have a desire to know him. But, like perhaps your favorite food dish, a few bites does not satisfy.
In verse 2, the Psalmist wants to stand before God. The Complete Jewish Bible says “When can I come and appear before God?” If the Psalmist is asking the question then he must be waiting for something. This could be to stand before God literally perhaps in the after life. But, the concept of heaven was not well cemented in the Old Testament which makes this unlikely. Instead, the Psalmist probably was referring to being in the Synagogue because in verse 5, the Psalmist talks about missed opportunities gathering with others in the House of God. Why would this person be waiting? That is uncertain. But, it is clear there is a real desire to be back in the Synagogue where he can worship God once again.
If you have ever been truly thirsty, you know you don’t stop until you find water. Because you know that once you do, your thirst will be quenched. I think that is why it is mentioned that this thirst is not just any god, but the living God (verse 2). Only the living God can quench the thirst of a spiritually hungry man.
This passage is full of highs and lows. We often think it wrong to question God or question our own faith but God built us to have a relationship and not to be simple mindless soldiers. We ask out of genuine curiosity regarding the state we find ourselves in and in this passage, the state is very dire.
First this person starts off with a longing for a deeper relationship as the deer pants for the waters. Again, it is mentioned in verse 7. A deep relationship that is based on meat rather than milk. Perhaps this longing stems from the deep depression that is felt in verse 5, “My soul, why are you so downcast? Why are you groaning inside me?”
However, this low is contrasted with hope in God. The reason for this hope is that salvation comes from God’s presence (verse 5b). And to cement this feeling, the Psalmist does a simple thing. He stands on the hill of Mizar and looks out at Mount Herman. Mount Herman separates Palestine and Israel and is a cluster of mountain peaks. Here, the Psalmist sees the majestic mountain and remembers God’s awesomeness. And, the following verse sums up the feeling felt from this grandeur, “Deep is calling to deep at the thunder of your waterfalls; all your surging rapids and waves are sweeping over me.”
This is the essence of wanting more meat rather than going back to milk after being confronted by hardship. This is the true heart of a Christian who seeks for deeper answers after living with the Word in his or her heart. It is trying to match up Biblical truths to this World which is like trying to match a round peg in a square hole but finding peace after hard soul searching.
What hardships have you confronted that make you feel like throwing in the towel? If you are honest, even a seasoned and heavily indoctrinated Christian feels like this more than he would care to admit. Feeling like giving up and actually giving up are two entirely different things. That is why it is important to note that here is a man that felt deep conviction for God but couldn’t shake the feeling he felt in his soul. A deep groaning that would not stop nagging at his faith. I can’t help but think that looking at Mount Herman, the Psalmist felt like he was standing before God just as he desired in verse 2.
This is why it is important to take a breather and have some time with nature. Enjoy the night sky, view a majestic mountain, or marvel at the gift of humanity. It may just put things in perspective for you. In the end, you will always come back to an affirmation that you will put your trust in the Lord.