Summary: The animal’s need for water, however, is the primary message emphasized in our text. The deer-like creature must have accessible and adequate supplies of water.
Panting After God
“As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God” (Psa. 42:1).
According to The Zondervan Pictoral Bible Dictionary, the “hart” of Bible times was “similar to the American elk but somewhat smaller.”
Harts are stags or male deer whereas hinds are female deer. A single hart may weigh as much as three
hundred pounds. Their six-prong antlers are shed annually. The habitat of the hart differs from that of the gazelle as the hart must have more water.
From the Old Testament Scriptures we learn that the hart moved from pasture to pasture for food (Lam. 1:6). Also, as is true with deer, the hart intrigued its human observers with its unusual leaping ability (Isa. 35:6).
The animal’s need for water, however, is the primary message emphasized in our text. The deer-like creature must have accessible and adequate supplies of water.
Several streams of truth issue out of these water brooks.
I . As a deer recognizes that water is a necessity for his health, so we must understand that God alone is a must for our HEALTH! (verse 11)
What place does the brook fill in the program of the deer? Is it a great luxury, or is it an absolute necessity?
What place does God fill in the life of an individual? God is an absolute necessity. There is simply no getting on without Him. “All my springs are in thee,” Psalm 87:7.
No man can be satisfied by any well of his own designing. No water that this world has to offer can meet the needs of man.
Remember the prodigal son. He went into a far
country searching. He did not find what he expected to find. Instead of winning satisfaction he only found the opposite. He was reduced to utter want. In his dire poverty he was forced to accept the lowly position of tending a swine herd. The hogs that he tended were quite contented. They were well satisfied with the husks that he fed them. But no such satisfaction was possible for himself. He had hungers that these husks could not satisfy. He had thirsts that no fountains of the far country could shake.
His very hungers and thirsts brought him back into his father’s arms.
The claim that God can satisfy every man’s need becomes, if possible, even more emphatic upon the pages of the New Testament. It reaches its climax in the magnificent and daring appeals of Jesus. With what sublime audacity he flings out this invitation, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink" (John 7:37). If any man - there is no single exception. He claims to be able to meet every man’s need regardless of who that man is or what his circumstances may be.
II. As a deer goes to water to escape the dogs on its trail, so we must recognize that God is our HELP (5)
Sometimes, when attempting to evade its agitators, the deer enters a stream, goes some distance with the current, then gets out on the other side. While the dogs are going up and down the bank trying to decide which way to go, the deer smiles as it escapes again.
When being chased by dogs or alarmed by the gunshots of hunters, a weary deer makes its way to a stream of water from which it finds renewed strength.
Likewise, the individual who runs to God finds safety when attacked. God is our refuge!
The brook offered everything to the hart. It
offered escape from the deadly foes that were thirsting for his blood. It offered rest for his body that was wearied by long hours of desperate running. It offered satisfaction for his burning thirst. It offered life itself. "If I can only reach this brook," he might have said to himself, "I shall live.” No wonder, therefore, that this poor, pursued hart was panting for the water brook.
Now the psalmist tells us that his own pathetic plight is close akin to that of this hounded deer. He, too, is being pursued by bitter foes. They have chased him into exile. Even now they are taunting him with the derisive question, "Where is thy God?" (Psalm 42:3)
The Psalmist pants for God knowing He only can HELP him.
III. As a deer finds in water a means to comfort and stop its bleeding wound, so we must be aware that only God alone is our HOPE amid the wounds of life! (5,11)
Not only does cool water clot the flowing blood,
but it refreshes the deer’s pain-ridden body. There is hope if the hart can get to the water. With the Psalmist,
who likened his seeking soul to a panting deer, may we pant after God for true satisfaction of soul, deliverance from our enemies, and spiritual and inner healing.