Psalm 42 Essay

This essay has a total of 4615 words and 13 pages.

Psalm 42

If the book of Psalms be, as some have styled it, a mirror or looking-glass of pious and
devout affections, this psalm in particular deserves, as much as any one psalm, to be so
entitled, and is as proper as any to kindle and excite such in us: gracious desires are
here strong and fervent; gracious hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, are here struggling,
but the pleasing passion comes off a conqueror. Or we may take it for a conflict between
sense and faith, sense objecting and faith answering. I. Faith begins with holy desires
towards God and communion with him (v. 1, 2). II. Sense complains of the darkness and
cloudiness of the present condition, aggravated by the remembrance of the former
enjoyments (v. 3, 4). III. Faith silences the complaint with the assurance of a good issue
at last (v. 5). IV. Sense renews its complaints of the present dark and melancholy state
(v. 6, 7). V. Faith holds up the heart, notwithstanding, with hope that the day will dawn
(v. 8). VI. Sense repeats its lamentations (v. 9, 10) and sighs out the same remonstrance
it had before made of its grievances. VII. Faith gets the last word (v. 11), for the
silencing of the complaints of sense, and, though it be almost the same with that (v. 5)
yet now it prevails and carries the day. The title does not tell us who was the penman of
this psalm, but most probably it was David, and we may conjecture that it was penned by
him at a time when, either by Saul's persecution or Absalom's rebellion, he was driven
from the sanctuary and cut off from the privilege of waiting upon God in public
ordinances. The strain of it is much the same with 63, and therefore we may presume it was
penned by the same hand and upon the same or a similar occasion. In singing it, if we be
either in outward affliction or in inward distress, we may accommodate to ourselves the
melancholy expressions we find here; if not, we must, in singing them, sympathize with
those whose case they speak too plainly, and thank God it is not our own case; but those
passages in it which express and excite holy desires towards God, and dependence on him,
we must earnestly endeavour to bring our minds up to.To the chief musician, Maschil, for
the sons of Korah.

Verses 1-5
Holy love to God as the chief good and our felicity is the power of godliness, the very
life and soul of religion, without which all external professions and performances are but
a shell and carcase: now here we have some of the expressions of that love. Here is, I.
Holy love thirsting, love upon the wing, soaring upwards in holy desires towards the Lord
and towards the remembrance of his name (v. 1, 2): "My soul panteth, thirsteth, for God,
for nothing more than God, but still for more and more of him.'' Now observe, 1. When it
was that David thus expressed his vehement desire towards God. It was, (1.) When he was
debarred from his outward opportunities of waiting on God, when he was banished to the
land of Jordan, a great way off from the courts of God's house. Note, Sometimes God
teaches us effectually to know the worth of mercies by the want of them, and whets our
appetite for the means of grace by cutting us short in those means. We are apt to loathe
that manna, when we have plenty of it, which will be very precious to us if ever we come
to know the scarcity of it. (2.) When he was deprived, in a great measure, of the inward
comfort he used to have in God. He now went mourning, but he went on panting. Note, If
God, by his grace, has wrought in us sincere and earnest desires towards him, we may take
comfort from these when we want those ravishing delights we have sometimes had in God,
because lamenting after God is as sure an evidence that we love him as rejoicing in God.
Before the psalmist records his doubts, and fears, and griefs, which had sorely shaken
him, he premises this, That he looked upon the living God as his chief good, and had set
his heart upon him accordingly, and was resolved to live and die by him; and, casting
anchor thus at first, he rides out the storm. 2. What is the object of his desire and what
it is he thus thirsts after. (1.) He pants after God, he thirsts for God, not the
ordinances themselves, but the God of the ordinances. A gracious soul can take little
satisfaction in God's courts if it do not meet with God himself there: "O that I knew
where I might find him! that I might have more of the tokens of his favour, the graces and
comforts of his Spirit, and the earnests of his glory.'' (2.) He has, herein, an eye to
God as the living God, that has life in himself, and is the fountain of life and all
happiness to those that are his, the living God, not only in opposition to dead idols, the
works of men's hands, but to all the dying comforts of this world, which perish in the
using. Living souls can never take up their rest any where short of a living God. (3.) He
longs to come and appear before God, —to make himself known to him, as being conscious
to himself of his own sincerity,—to attend on him, as a servant appears before his
master, to pay his respects to him and receive his commands,—to give an account to him,
as one from whom our judgment proceeds. To appear before God is as much the desire of the
upright as it is the dread of the hypocrite. The psalmist knew he could not come into
God's courts without incurring expense, for so was the law, that none should appear before
God empty; yet he longs to come, and will not grudge the charges. 3. What is the degree of
this desire. It is very importunate; it is his soul that pants, his soul that thirsts,
which denotes not only the sincerity, but the strength, of his desire. His longing for the
water of the well of Bethlehem was nothing to this. He compares it to the panting of a
hart, or deer, which is naturally hot and dry, especially of a hunted buck, after the
water-brooks. Thus earnestly does a gracious soul desire communion with God, thus
impatient is it in the want of that communion, so impossible does it find it to be
satisfied with any thing short of that communion, and so insatiable is it in taking the
pleasures of that communion when the opportunity of it returns, still thirsting after the
full enjoyment of him in the heavenly kingdom. II. Holy love mourning for God's present
withdrawings and the want of the benefit of solemn ordinances (v. 3): "My tears have been
my meat day and night during this forced absence from God's house.'' His circumstances
were sorrowful, and he accommodated himself to them, received the impressions and returned
the signs of sorrow. Even the royal prophet was a weeping prophet when he wanted the
comforts of God's house. His tears were mingled with his meat; nay, they were his meat day
and night; he fed, he feasted, upon his own tears, when there was such just cause for
them; and it was a satisfaction to him that he found his heart so much affected with a
grievance of this nature. Observe, He did not think it enough to shed a tear or two at
parting from the sanctuary, to weep a farewell-prayer when he took his leave, but, as long
as he continued under a forced absence from that place of his delight, he never looked up,
but wept day and night. Note, Those that are deprived of the benefit of public ordinances
constantly miss them, and therefore should constantly mourn for the want of them, till
they are restored to them again. Two things aggravated his grief:— 1. The reproaches
with which his enemies teased him: They continually say unto me, Where is thy God? (1.)
Because he was absent from the ark, the token of God's presence. Judging of the God of
Israel by the gods of the heathen, they concluded he had lost his God. Note, Those are
mistaken who think that when they have robbed us of our Bibles, and our ministers, and our
solemn assemblies, they have robbed us of our God; for, though God has tied us to them
when they are to be had, he has not tied himself to them. We know where our God is, and
where to find him, when we know not where his ark is, nor where to find that. Wherever we
are there is a way open heaven-ward. (2.) Because God did not immediately appear for his
deliverance they concluded that he had abandoned him; but herein also they were deceived:
it does not follow that the saints have lost their God because they have lost all their
other friends. However, by this base reflection on God and his people, they added
affliction to the afflicted, and that was what they aimed at. Nothing is more grievous to
a gracious soul than that which is intended to shake its hope and confidence in God. 2.
The remembrance of his former liberties and enjoyments, v. 4. Son, remember thy good
things, is a great aggravation of evil things, so much do our powers of reflection and
anticipation add to the grievance of this present time. David remembered the days of old,
and then his soul was poured out in him; he melted away, and the thought almost broke his
heart. he poured out his soul within him in sorrow, and then poured out his soul before
God in prayer. But what was it that occasioned this painful melting of spirit? It was not
the remembrance of the pleasures at court, or the entertainments of his own house, from
which he was now banished, that afflicted him, but the remembrance of the free access he
had formerly had to God's house and the pleasure he had in attending the sacred
solemnities there. (1.) He went to the house of God, though in his time it was but a tent;
nay, if this psalm was penned, as many think it was, at the time of his being persecuted
by Saul, the ark was then in a private house, 2 Sa. 6:3. But the meanness, obscurity, and
inconveniency of the place did not lessen his esteem of that sacred symbol of the divine
presence. David was a courtier, a prince, a man of honour, a man of business, and yet very
diligent in attending God's house and joining in public ordinances, even in the days of
Saul, when he and his great men enquired not at it, 1 Chr. 13:3. Whatever others did,
David and his house would serve the Lord. (2.) He went with the multitude, and thought it
no disparagement to his dignity to be at the head of a crowd in attending upon God. Nay,
this added to the pleasure of it, that he was accompanied with a multitude, and therefore
it is twice mentioned, as that which he greatly lamented the want of now. The more the
better in the service of God; it is the more like heaven, and a sensible help to our
comfort in the communion of saints. (3.) He went with the voice of joy and praise, not
only with joy and praise in his heart, but with the outward expressions of it, proclaiming
his joy and speaking forth the high praises of his God. Note, When we wait upon God in
public ordinances we have reason to do it both with cheerfulness and thankfulness, to take
to ourselves the comfort and give to God the glory of our liberty of access to him. (4.)
He went to keep holy-days, not to keep them in vain mirth and recreation, but in religious
exercises. Solemn days are spent most comfortably in solemn assemblies. III. Holy love
hoping (v. 5): Why art thou cast down, O my soul? His sorrow was upon a very good account,
and yet it must not exceed its due limits, nor prevail to depress his spirits; he
therefore communes with his own heart, for his relief. "Come, my soul, I have something to
Continues for 7 more pages >>