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As water from a brook sustains a deer physically, so God Himself sustains people spiritually (cf. John 4:14). The psalmist was thirsty for God. He could not obtain the refreshment he needed yet, but he looked forward to finding it soon.
1. The psalmist’s longing for God 42:1-5
The writer suffered at the hands of tormenting enemies. He longed for God, whom he confidently expected to be able to praise in the future when the Lord would deliver him.
II. BOOK 2: CHS. 42-72
In Book 1, all the psalms except 1, 2, 10, and 33 claimed David as their writer. It is likely that he wrote these four as well, even though they do not bear his name (cf. Acts 4:25). In Book 2, the titles identify David as the writer of 18 psalms (Psalms 51-65, 68-70). He may also have written those bearing the notation, "of the sons of Korah" (Psalms 42, 44-49). The sons of Korah (cf. Numbers 26:10-11) were distinguished musicians (1 Chronicles 6:31-48). Korah was a great-grandson of Levi who rebelled against Moses’ leadership (Numbers 16:1-2). Some scholars believe David wrote these psalms for the sons of Korah to perform. Others believe the sons of Korah composed them. There is great similarity between the content of these psalms and the ones David wrote. Asaph wrote Psalms 50, and Solomon composed Psalms 72. Psalms 43, 66, 67, , 71 are anonymous.
The name "Elohim" occurs 164 times in this section of the Psalms, and the name "Yahweh" ("LORD") appears only 30 times. [Note: Merrill, "Psalms," p. 428.] Thus one might think of this book as "the book of Elohim."
Some ancient Hebrew manuscripts united Psalms 42, 43 as one. This is understandable since the same refrain occurs in both of them (cf. Psalms 42:5; Psalms 42:11; Psalms 43:5). Psalms 42 expresses the writer’s yearning for God. [Note: For the meaning of Maskil, see my note on Psalms 32.] It consists of two stanzas, each of which ends with the same refrain. Both psalms are individual laments.
The superscription identifies the sons of Korah as the writers (or recipients) of this psalm.
"Korah, Asaph, Heman, and Ethan are all associated with the service and music of the sanctuary in David’s reign. During Ezra and Nehemiah’s time (fifth century B.C.), the temple singers were still called the ’sons of Asaph.’ In view of the long and continued service of these temple servants, we cannot be absolutely sure when these psalms were composed, but whether they were written in the time of David or as late as Ezra, they are still Davidic associates, and that seems to reinforce the Davidic nature of these collections." [Note: Bullock, p. 63.]
Rather than drinking from God, he had to drink the water of his own tears. God was not providing for his needs just then. The writer remembered with great delight the times when he found spiritual refreshment at the sanctuary in Jerusalem, but he was not able to return there yet.
The psalmist encouraged himself rhetorically by reminding himself that he would again praise God. He needed to continue to hope in God until then.
The psalmist was far from Jerusalem and the central sanctuary. Evidently he was near the Hermon range of mountains that stood north of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee). The Jordan Valley is quite wide north of this sea and the mountains of Hermon rise up to the east from it. Mount Mizar is one of the hills in that area. It was a long way from Mount Zion where the ark dwelt in David’s day.
2. The psalmist’s lamentation because of his enemies 42:6-11
In this stanza the writer focused on his enemies rather than on God. However, he came back to the same expression of confidence with which he ended the first stanza.
The writer viewed his troubles like waves cascading down on him, as if he were standing under a waterfall. He compared the noise of the waves to his troubles, that he personified as calling to one another to come and overwhelm him.
Nevertheless he believed God would remain loyal to him. In the daytime the Lord would pour out His love to the psalmist, and in the night he would respond by praising God.
"God’s continual love is a comfort for the soul continually beset by questions and mourning (cf. Psalms 42:3)." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 334.]
In his prayer, he would also ask God the reason for his continuing physical and emotional distress. The repeated taunt of his enemies would hopefully move God to deliver him (cf. Psalms 42:3).
Again the psalmist encouraged himself with the rhetorical refrain (cf. Psalms 42:5).
When spiritually dry, we who are believers should remind ourselves that God is sufficient for all our needs. This remembrance will encourage us to continue to trust Him while we go through temporarily distressing periods. [Note: See Swindoll, pp. 118-29.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 42". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent