For I Shall Again Praise Him

Psalm 42 and 43

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
    for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember,
    as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng
    and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise,
    a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
    therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
    from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
    and at night his song is with me,
    a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
    my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
    “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
    against an ungodly people,
from the deceitful and unjust man
    deliver me!
For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
    why have you rejected me?
Why do I go about mourning
    because of the oppression of the enemy?
Send out your light and your truth;
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
    and to your dwelling!
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God my exceeding joy,
and I will praise you with the lyre,
    O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
    and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
    my salvation and my God.

The psalmist is enduring oppression and persecution, taunted for his faith in a seemingly absent God, and where does his mind turn? To the gathering of God’s people to worship. He reminisces of walking to the temple in procession shouting and singing together with the voice of a multitude. And yet he is unable to be there. From far away, the land of Jordan and of Hermon, he longs to be in Jerusalem gathered with the people of God, so much that it feels as though he’s drowning beneath waves and waterfalls.

I never really knew how to identify with this psalm until March 22. Now I get it. I know what it feels like to ache for the gathering of the church. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you felt the same way. Maybe you still do. There are countless churches that even still are unable to meet together, and many among our own congregation are still unable gather with us on Sunday mornings, and for good reason. A livestream is better than nothing, but it’s no replacement for the real thing.

This is because church isn’t a building for which you can see a video of what happens within its walls. Neither is it a content to be produced and consumed. The church is a people, called out from the world and gathered in the name of Jesus. It is we who “like living stones are being built up into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). We as a people are being built into the house of God, that he may dwell in us and that we may together be the center of his worship as was the temple of the old covenant.

Scattered and disjointed from one another we may find ourselves in despair; soul downcast and in turmoil. But when we gather together we are a microcosm of the Kingdom of God, a part, a picture of the whole as it will be in eternity: God’s people living in relationship with him. Our gathering is a sanctuary from worldly troubles where we experience rest in the expression of our relationship with a God who gives of himself to his people. Because that’s what our worship really is. Even when we giving of ourselves, our sacrifice of praise, we are receiving from God, because he doesn’t actually need anything from us. He doesn’t need our praises, but he knows that we need to give ourselves to him.

And so it’s in the gathering of believers, the company of the saints, that we are reminded we are not alone, that God has not forgotten us. Hope in God; for you will again praise him, your salvation and your God.

Instead of reflection questions and a written prayer. Read this psalm again and pray it as your own prayer. If you find that you can’t relate, think of someone you know who may feel alone, isolated, and cut off. Pray the psalm for them.

Taylor Whitson, October 6, 2020
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