This is a very favourite psalm, and has many thousands of times cheered the hearts of the people of God.
As the hunted hart instinctively seeks after the river to lave its smoking flanks and to escape the dogs, even so my weary, persecuted soul pants after the Lord my God.
How he repeats and reiterates his desire! After his God, he pined even as the drooping flowers for the dew, or the moaning turtle for her mate. It were well if all our resortings to public worship were viewed as appearances before God; delight in them would then be a sure mark of grace.
His appetite was gone; his tears not only seasoned his meat, but became his only food. It was well for him that the heart could open the safety-valves; there is a dry grief far more terrible than showery sorrows. His tears, since they were shed because God was blasphemed were “honourable dew,” drops of holy water, such as Jehovah putteth into his bottle.
“I sigh to think of happier days
When thou, O God, wast nigh
When every heart was tuned to praise
And none more blest than I.”
As though he were two men, the psalmist talks to himself. His faith reasons with his fears, his hope argues with his sorrows. These present troubles, are they to last for ever? My absence from the solemn feasts, is that a perpetual exile? Why this deep depression, this faithless fainting? As Trapp says, “David chideth David out of the dumps;” and herein he is an example for all desponding ones. To search out the cause of our sorrow is often the best surgery for grief. Self-ignorance is not bliss; in this case it is misery.
He recalls his seasons of choice communion by the river and among the hills, and especially that dearest hour upon the little hill, where love spake her sweetest language and revealed her nearest fellowship. It is great wisdom to store up in memory our choice occasions of converse with heaven; we may want them another day, when the Lord is slow in bringing back his banished ones.
As in a waterspout the deeps above and below clasp hands, so it seemed to David that heaven and earth united to create a tempest around him. His woes were incessant and overwhelming.
Psalm 42:8, 9
To know the reason for sorrow is in part to know how to escape it, or, at least, how to endure it.
Psalm 42:10, 11
This sentence is peculiarly sweet. The enemies had said “Where is thy God,” and the persecuted one replies, “He is here, as my joy and my all.” Faith is not ashamed to own that God is her God even when he is greatly testing her. If we can keep our hold upon the Lord when in the midst of trial we shall come out of it safely.
For yet I know I shall him praise,
Who graciously to me
The health is of my countenance,
Yea, mine own God is he.