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Bible Commentaries

Philpot's Commentary on select texts of the Bible

Psalms 42

Verse 1

Ps 42:1

"As the deer pants after the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, O God." Ps 42:1

What a striking figure has David made use of in these words. Conceive a wounded stag, with the arrow in his flank or pursued by a crowd of hunters and hounds, all eager to pull him down; conceive him to have run for some space of time under a burning sun and over heaps of sand; and conceive that at a distance this poor wounded or hunted animal sees water gently flowing along. Oh, how it pants! How its heaving sides gasp, and how it longs for the cooling stream, not only that it may drink large draughts of the fresh waters and lave its panting flanks and weary, parched limbs—but, by swimming across, may haply escape the dogs and hunters at its heels. How strong, how striking the figure.

And yet strong as it is, how earnestly does David employ it to set forth the panting of his soul after God. We cannot, perhaps, rise up into the fullness of this figure; we cannot, we dare not lay our feelings stretched fully out side by side with his, or use the same burning, vehement, ardent expressions. But we may at least see from them what the saints of God have experienced in times of temptation and trial in days of old; and we may in some measure compare the feelings of our soul with theirs—sometimes to fill us with shame and confusion at our short-comings, sometimes to stimulate and encourage us so far as we experience a degree of similar teachings; for these things are written for our instruction, "upon whom the ends of the world are come."

Thus in various ways and to various ends we may, with God’s help and blessing, look at and into such expressions as we find in the words of David, and in the fear of God search our hearts to see if we can find anything there corresponding to the work of grace that the Holy Spirit describes as existing in his soul. Nor be utterly cast down nor wholly discouraged if you cannot find a full or close similarity. Can you find any? If so, take encouragement, for the Lord despises not the day of small things. It is his own work upon the heart and his own work alone to which he has regard, as David felt when he said, "The Lord will perfect that which concerns me—your mercy, O Lord, endures forever; forsake not the works of your own hands" (Ps 138:8). And that work will ever be a copy in full or in miniature, a complete or reduced photograph, of the work of grace described in the Scripture as carried on by the Spirit in the hearts of God’s saints of old.

Verse 2

Ps 42:2

"My soul thirsts for God, for the living God." Ps 42:2

Has your heart ever panted after the Lord Jesus as the deer pants after the water brooks? Do you ever lie in the dust mourning over your sins against the bleeding, dying love of Jesus? Do you ever ask God to kindle in your soul an intense desire to have Jesus as your Christ, that he may be your delight here and your portion forever? Surely there is that in him which is not in anything below the skies, and which if not found here will not be found hereafter. If you have no love or affection for him, why is it but because he has not endeared himself to your soul? But if he has manifested himself to you, you have seen and felt enough of his blessedness to convince you that there is no real peace or happiness out of him.

It is true that you may have many trials and temptations to encounter; many perplexities and sorrows may be spread in your path; but be not dismayed, for the love of Christ, if you have ever felt that love shed abroad in your heart, will bear you more than conqueror through them all. The Lord make and keep us faithful to the truth as it has been made known to our consciences; and may the goodness and mercy of God shine into our hearts and shed abroad its rays of light and joy in our darkest moments and under our severest trials. And O to be found in him at the great day, as members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, to be found the Lord’s "peculiar treasure" in that day when he makes up his jewels! And O then, where will be those who are not found in the Lord Jesus? They will call upon the mountains and the rocks to "fall on them and hide them from the face of him that sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb."

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Bibliographical Information
Philpot, Joseph Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 42". Philpot's Commentary on select texts of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jcp/psalms-42.html.