Summary: A sermon of comfort in the midst of a coming epidemic.
3.22.20 Psalm 42:1-5
As a doe pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and appear before God? My tears have been food for me day and night, while people are saying to me all day, “Where is your God?” I am overcome by my emotions whenever I remember these things: how I used to arrive with the crowd, as I led the procession to the house of God, with loud shouts of thanksgiving, with the crowd celebrating the festival. Why are you so depressed, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I will again praise him for salvation from his presence.
What Are You Thirsty For?
There were three major festivals in the Old Testament: the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and Pentecost. They were celebrated in Jerusalem at the heart and center of Israel. Israel was about 350 miles tall by 100 feet wide. In comparison, Israel was about half the width and ¾ the height of Michigan. People would walk and ride perhaps donkeys, along with their sacrificial animals up to Jerusalem. They would sing different Psalms on the way up. Once they got within eyesight of Jerusalem, they would sing and dance all the louder. Jerusalem would go from maybe five thousand people to hundreds of thousands of people for a week or so.
Imagine living in some of the small towns on the way to Jerusalem. You would regularly see people stream through your town on the way to Jerusalem. Imagine growing up in a family that made this tri-annual trip. You’d hear the same songs being sung. The sights and the sounds and the trip would be etched in your mind and an integral part of your life.
The festivals represented different things. The Passover stood for deliverance from slavery, as the angel of death passed over the houses of the Israelites that had the blood of a year old lamb smeared over it. It pointed back to God’s powerful deliverance through the plagues, and it also pointed forward to the Messiah who would deliver them from slavery to sin and death. The Feast of Tabernacles reminded the Israelites of the 40 years they spent in the desert in tents, and how God delivered them into the Promised Land. Finally, the festival of Pentecost was a harvest festival, celebrating the wheat harvest that God had given them. They would give God the firstfruits of their harvest. Levites would lead the temple in worship songs. Bible stories would be read. Sacrifices of animals would be made as well. Think of the sounds and the sights and the smells even of such festivals.
All of these festivals were meant to remind the Israelites of who God IS! He is alive! He is a giving God, who gives wheat! God is a protecting God, keeping alive in the harshest of conditions. He even made sure the Israelites’ shoes and clothing didn’t wear out for 40 years in the desert! He is a holy God who demands sacrifice for sins, but He is also a forgiving God through sacrifice. All of these stories reminded the Israelites of what a good and gracious God they had. The festivals and the background of them gave the Israelites HOPE! The festivals made the Israelites rejoice and be happy. This song, however, was not.
The sons of Korah wrote these Psalms. These were the chief musicians for the Israelites. They wrote the music and the words of these songs for the Israelites to sing. The ones who wrote Psalm 42-43 seemed to live up north, somewhere by Mt. Hermon, which was about 50 miles to the north of the Sea of Galilee. Mt. Hermon serves as the source of water for the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River. It was a pretty far way away from Jerusalem, which was maybe about 100 miles from Jerusalem.
The Psalm doesn’t describe how this happened, but somehow the psalmists had been separated from worshiping at Jerusalem. When the kingdom split around 930 B.C., Jeroboam led the northern tribes of Israel into worshiping golden calves. Perhaps he also prevented the Levites from going to Jerusalem to worship. Or it could have been that the Arameans had taken the Israelites captive. Either way, he couldn’t get to Jerusalem. So he wrote a song about it.
When can I go and appear before God? My tears have been food for me day and night, while people are saying to me all day, “Where is your God?” I am overcome by my emotions whenever I remember these things: how I used to arrive with the crowd, as I led the procession to the house of God, with loud shouts of thanksgiving, with the crowd celebrating the festival.