Psalm 42 (1): When?

In Psalm 42, three questions are asked. The first of these is “when?” This question can arise from very different hearts. There is the “when” of murmuring and complaining. It arises out of a heart of unbelief. But there is also an entirely appropriate “when.” It is the “when” of ardent hope and godly desire. We will talk of both in connection with Psalm 42.

“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?”

Psalm 42:2

The psalmist cries in verse 2, “When shall I come and appear before God?”

The psalmist uses the figure of the panting hart to more fully describe his need. In the hart, we too can find an example of our own lives. The hart must live its life on high alert, ever watchful for the predator. It is weak, without fang or claw, and utterly unable to fight its own battles. Therefore, its life is one of flight, of running from the lion who seeks to devour it.

And so the hart needs water to sustain its life. It needs cool, refreshing water to give it strength to continue to run, day after day. Apart from that water, there is no life. If it cannot quench its thirst by finding a brook, it will be an easy meal for the hungry lion. Like nothing else, water is absolutely necessary for the deer to live.

Water is the most basic necessity for human life. Thirst is one of the most potent desires built into our nature, and there are few more naturally satisfying experiences than to drink refreshing water after a long period of work or exercise in the hot sun. It is also worth noting that dying of thirst is one of the worst ways to die. We need water.

The psalmist likens this thirst for water unto his own desire to see God. Just as the hart pants for the life-giving waters, so does the psalmist thirst after God. It is in our own renewed natures as Christians to also have this thirst for God. All our lives we are hunted by Satan, that roaring lion, who seeks to devour us. All our lives we must flee him and his servants as they seek to destroy us and the spiritual life that is in us. He is far beyond our power to defeat. We desperately look to God, knowing that on our own we are easy prey. We understand that only in the living God can we find life for ourselves.

Do we really have this desire? Imagine for a moment that the hart, rather than seeking out the refreshing water brooks, runs directly toward the lion and into its waiting jaws. This would surely be a strange sight, and even a perversion of nature. It is unheard of in the natural world for the prey to run to the predator.

Yet is this not what man does in his folly? Ungodly man seeks out his own destruction, running eagerly to the waiting lion, every one to be devoured by Satan. The wages of sin is death, and everyone that shuns God in favor of a life of sin is responsible for seeking out his own destruction. How often are we in the midst of the world, running after the same pleasure? Is our thirst for the next beer, or the next Netflix episode, or perhaps our next vacation? If we honestly examine ourselves, we can each find the idol to which we run, neglecting the refreshing water that is ours in Christ. Are you asking when your next drink is?

When God shows us the folly of our sin and causes us to thirst after Himself, the question still stands. When?

“Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts: all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me.”

Psalm 42:7

The psalmist expresses his continued anguish poetically in verse 7, and it rings true for us because in our weakness we often do doubt. The weight of our sins, and the attacks of our enemies may cause us to doubt that we will make it into the presence of God ever again. Perhaps you have had the opportunity to confront the massive waves of the ocean in all their power. If so, you likely understand that if caught unawares, these waves can cause you to tumble, head-over-heels, completely helpless, down onto the ocean floor. They can crush your head mercilessly into the rough sand below and leave you gasping for breath. Perhaps you’ve never been to the ocean. And if you have, maybe you made sure to avoid the larger waves. But have you experienced the waves and the billows of life, which cause you to tumble breathlessly head-over-heels until you seem to hit new lows? There are no Christians who do not know from experience that this life involves much suffering. And these trials can tempt us to say, not with a proper zeal, but with a doubting heart, “When?”

Perhaps this word has a new meaning for you now. We desired to appear before God in His house like never before, because never before were we barred from that privilege for so long. We thirsted after the public corporate worship in which we are used to partaking every Lord’s Day. We missed worshipping with all our brothers and sisters in Christ. We missed the praying, the singing, and the sermons. We long for the Lord’s Day because it is then that we appear before God and behold Him. Jesus Christ, as the revelation of God, is presented to us in the preaching. It is then that we respond, as the psalmist in verse 4, with the “voice of joy and praise, with the multitude that kept holyday.” But so long were we left to “remember these things,” and to “pour out” our souls.

“When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday.”

Psalm 42:4

Yet notice the confession of the psalmist even in his own misery. Acknowledging the sovereignty of God over even these things, he attributes them to God by calling them “thy waves and thy billows” (verse 7). It is this faith that in verse 8 shows us the answer we most desperately need to our question of “When?”.

“Yet the Lord will command his lovingkindness in the day time, and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer unto the God of my life.”

Psalm 42:8

When? “The Lord will command his lovingkindness in the daytime.” When? “And in the night his song shall be with me.” Day and night, we confess with the psalmist that God is with us. There is no time that we cannot lift up our prayer unto the God of our life without knowing that He is listening. We remember the words of Jesus, that he “will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever” (John 14:16). God dwells with us in the Spirit of Christ and nothing can separate us.

With this we are content, but never satisfied. We long for the Lord’s Day because we understand that going to church is the closest we get to heaven on this side of death. And so ultimately, we thirst after God in that we desire to be with Him in heaven. We look forward to that time when it will not be only one day out of seven, but all eternity. We love to sing praises in the midst of our friends and family at church, and how much greater will it be when we will sing God’s praises with all the multitude of his elect? We long to be rid of these our sinful natures which so often mar communion with our God. Only when we behold our God in the person of Jesus Christ our Lord will we stop asking, “When?” Until then, our confession will be, “As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness” (Psalm 17:15).

“Yet athirst for thee I cry,

God of life, O when shall I

Come again to stand before Thee

In Thy Temple and adore Thee.”

Psalter 416:1b

Bruce Feenstra

A Written Prayer

From the moment we could put sounds together to form real words, our parents helped and encouraged us to say something that, although another human might not understand, your heavenly Father could. It was a prayer; a prayer of blessing and of thanksgiving, a prayer of sorrow and defeat, of longing and of peace. Prayer is the line of communication to our Father. It is part of the bond that we experience as His precious sons and daughters. In order for our relationship with our Lord and Savior to grow, we must “pray without ceasing” as we are instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:17. This means that prayer is a regular occurrence and should have a special part in our personal devotional life as well.

All too often as I am praying at night right before laying my head on the pillow, my mind drifts off to the events of the day, or I find myself drifting into sleep before ending my prayer. This is a serious mistake because prayer is so serious. Not only am I talking to a friend, but the Friend that sticks closer than a brother. Not only am I talking to a father, but my heavenly Father. Not only am I talking to a God, but to my God and my Redeemer, the One who laid down His life for me at the bitter and shameful cross. And I thank Him by falling asleep as I try to muster up enough energy to repeat the all too familiar lines of previous prayers. I struggled with this for a while until a good friend of mine suggested something that has changed my prayer life and has helped me think deeply about what I am saying to my Father.

She suggested that I write a prayer journal. At first, I thought that would take too much time but that’s exactly the point! Sitting down with a notebook and a pen and actually writing every word out does take longer, but that is the blessedness about it! You get to spend more time talking to your heavenly Father! When I started writing a journal, my prayers felt more personal as I thought harder and longer about how the Lord had blessed me and what I was thankful for and who I wanted to pray for. It was as if heaven was brought down, closer to me in those late hours of my day as I poured out my heart to my Father in the pages of my journal. Sometimes, I even look back and read my previous prayers. There is joy as I see the prayers that God has answered and how He used every individual person and situation to mold me into the person I am today.

Writing my own prayer journal has helped me with my prayers, and I strongly encourage you to try it out too. None of us will be perfect with our prayers, but I firmly believe that this can help us think more about what we say when we enter into the presence of our Father and to mean every single word of that written prayer.

Arianne VanUffelen

What’s the Best Network?

There is nothing as commonly used today as the internet. You are on it right now! I used the internet to research and write this blog post. Over 55% of the entire world’s population have frequent interaction with the internet (1). Jim Gilliam, founder and CEO of Nation Builder, an organization devoted to giving everyone opportunity to become leaders through the internet (2), said that “god is just what happens when humanity is connected…the truth is we all owe every moment of our lives to countless people we will never meet”(3). He believes that the internet has given man power to be god because it connects billions of people. I believe that the true triune God is the only One that can beautifully network people. I think we can take value from analyzing the internet’s role in the world and God’s church throughout all nations in regards to the connection of the world through the internet and the shortcomings within these networks.

The internet connects the world in a way nothing ever has before. Distance, language, and culture is becoming less and less of a barrier between people. These things certainly still play their part, but it is much easier to get past them through web applications to translate, instantly connect, and learn about one another. The scary truth is who has the most influence on the internet. Often, leaders on the internet are not good examples. The world does not pick leaders based on ethical rightness but follow as a flock, and all “like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). Consider Judges 21:25: “In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” Today, the internet has made it easier than ever before to follow that which is right in their own eyes. One can sit in the cover of his or her screen and enjoy sinful pleasures only wealthy men such as King Ahasuerus, who summoned all the women for a beauty contest, once had. The internet can quickly connect us with wickedness. 

However, this first point is not to say the internet is awful and should never be used. The internet has many benefits and we rejoice in this truth as well. The internet has opened many doors for spreading the gospel. Tools are accessible to study the Bible, it is easier to communicate with other believers near and far, and social media provides an opportunity to let our light shine. In our current situation with the coronavirus, the internet provides us some connection with others even when we remain home. It is not the same, but we rejoice we can still talk with one another and have some semblance of a worship service on Sunday. The connection the internet provides can be a great blessing when used properly for God’s glory.

While billions are connected through the internet, God’s remnant is also connected through one Spirit and one mind in the service of Him. This connection is far superior. In our network, we seek God’s glory. We do not seek our entertainment or sinful pleasures as many do through the internet. We do not walk after the flesh in this bond, but all together “we live in the spirit” and “walk in the spirit” (Gal. 5:25). In this bond, we are called to minister one to another and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 6:10, 10:24). When Jesus speaks to God he prays, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21). I have heard from those around me who disregard the network of faith ask, “How do you have so many friends in so many places?” They are puzzled at the fact I have friends in the Philippines, Canada, Ireland, and all across America. I have made many friends in only a week at convention. Other friends I have only met over social media. It is because of the bond of faith that draws all God’s people together that I can be confident of my friendship with these friends abroad. When we speak of Christ with one another we quickly grow in friendship and the true union that can only be found in Him.

These networks at times have their errors and their faults. Though it is amazing that so many are connected and can share information through the internet, this freedom allows for many to spread false information. As information rapidly flies around, it can be hard to know what information is real and what to trust. There is also the issue of connection. At times one can lose connection to the internet or have poor service. In God we will never be taken from his covenant because it is “an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:7).

As God’s people we have perfect union with God and with one another as saints. However, while we are still on earth sin often sets a barrier to this union. Sin is all that prevents perfect fellowship. Sin is often referred to as transgression, rebellion (Ps. 32:1). When we sin we distance ourselves from God and say, “I do not want to follow Your way for me.” In our sin, we might hold grudges towards one another rather than forgive each other’s sins. However, we can forgive one another of these sins and the perfect unity in the spirit can be enjoyed again. We find greater comfort in God who has forgiven our sin and compasses us with songs of deliverance (Ps. 32:7). We see here how even though sin might at times make us feel bitter toward one another or make us feel distant from God, the unity in the Spirit is far greater than the connection found on the internet. We look forward to the day God will unite us all in heaven where sin will no longer hinder our union with Him and with one another. 

It is amazing how connected the world has become through the internet. As God’s people, there are many benefits we can enjoy in this connection. In current times, we may not be able to gather physically as brethren in God, but we can be thankful too for the connections we have through the internet. We thank God especially that we have an everlasting covenant of perfect union with Him and our fellow brethren in Christ. In our place within these networks, may we always be mindful of our unity with God and serve Him by our use of the internet and through our relationships with one another.

 

Luke Christian Potjer

 

Sources

  1. World Economic Forum, 2020: “https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/04/coronavirus-covid-19-pandemic-digital-divide-internet-data-broadband-mobbile/#:~:text=Globally%2C%20only%20just%20over%20half,in%20the%20past%20two%20decades.
  2. Nation Builder Mission: https://nationbuilder.com/mission
  3. Jim Gillian, “The Internet is my Religion”, 2011: https://www.jimgilliam.com/pdf11