Have you ever had a craving? You know what I am talking about, you are in bed and you are reading a good book. Suddenly, the words on the page dissolve before your eyes and reform themselves into a pizza with all the toppings you love. Your stomach growls and your mouth salivates. You go downstairs to the refrigerator hoping to tame the roaring beast within you with something near at hand. You consider the leftover goulash you had for supper and your stomach turns up its nose. It must be a pizza, nothing less and nothing else.
In Psalm 42, the Psalmist has a craving. His craving is not for food. This is a craving of the heart and not of the stomach. He yearns for God and God alone – a desire to be in the presence of the Living God. While most of us can identify with a craving for food, how many of us know what it is to long for God. The Psalmist describes his thirst in picturesque language. The danger can be that we are so mesmerized by the vivid picture, we miss the intensity of the Psalmist’s need for the presence of God.
Do we really desire God? In our text the Psalmist described a desire for God that we can almost taste. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.” This Psalmist is not the only one who desired to be in the presence of God. In Psalm 63, another Psalmist, David, also sings of his great desire to be in the presence of the eternal God. He wrote this while on the run for his life from King Saul. “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.” Here again David uses the language of thirst to describe his great desire for God. Have you ever been thirsty? Can we honestly say our desire for God is on the level of a deep body thirst? From what these Psalmists wrote to us, our need of God’s presence should be at this level.
In Psalm 84:1-2, David again pleads for God’s presence in his life. “How lovely are Your dwelling places, O LORD of hosts. My soul longs, yes, even faints For the courts of the LORD; My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” Do we feel this way when we come into church? We love the fellowship of God’s people. However, do we love fellowship with the living God even more? David wrote, “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
Do we recognize desiring God is something only those who really know Him can do? Only those who know the Lord Jesus as Savior really seek Him today. Romans 3:10-12 “As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” The very fact the Psalmist had this desire tells us that he had entered into a saving relationship with God through faith.
The Psalmist’s desire was very focused. “My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?” God and God alone can fill the hole and satisfy the deep thirst of his soul; no one and nothing else.
Some folks desire many things in life. Some thirst after treasures, some power or influence. The Psalmist wanted one thing and one alone. He wanted to be in the presence of God. I am reminded of what another Psalmist wrote after he had stumbled by looking at the apparent prosperity of the wicked. He concluded his song by saying, “Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You.” Psalm 73:25. This is sort of like the song isn’t it? “I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold/ I’d rather be His than have riches untold/ I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land/ I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand/ than to be the King of a vast domain/ or be held in sin’s dread sway/ I’d rather have Jesus than anything/ this world affords today.” Do we really mean it when we sing this hymn? I hope we do.
Ok, we want to desire to be with God like the Psalmist did. How do we learn to have a desire like He had? One method God uses to bring us to the place of wanting to be with Him is allowing trouble to come bursting into our lives. Look at verse 3. “My tears have been my food day and night.” One verse sums this up. Psalm 23:4, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”
God uses memories of our past fellowship with God to whet our desire to be in His presence again. The Psalmist remembers the way it used to be in verse four. In the NASB it says, “These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.”
The public worship of the people of God was such a joy to this man because he remembers the relationship that he had personally with the Lord of Glory. External worship acceptable to God is always the expression of a heart delighting in God.
The Psalmist was following the advice that the Lord Jesus gave to the Ephesian church in Revelation 2:5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works.” When we remember the way it used to be, then we are motivated to repent and to return to that blessed relationship with the Lord.
Out of this remembering and desire to return, the Psalmist found the strength to talk to his own heart (v. 5). “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.”
He told his heart, “Listen heart. God will yet deliver me. I will yet praise Him.” I am convinced that we need to learn to talk to our hearts. Listen to what Jesus said in John 14:1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.” and then in John 14:27, He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” These are third person imperatives. None other than our Lord Jesus is telling us that it is our responsibility to not let our hearts be troubled or afraid. We do that by reasoning with our hearts – reminding ourselves of what is true
Our Psalmist spoke to his heart in this Psalm. Psalm 42:5 “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance.” The Psalmist had this confidence because he believed that God would answer his prayer. He would find God because he sought Him.
Do we want God as this Psalmist did? If not, it may be that a storm is just on the horizon to drive us to Him. If not, it may be that we have no memories of sweet fellowship with Him to whet our appetite for our return to Him. If not, we may not really know Him. However, if this lights a fire in your heart and you find yourself thirsty for God, do what the Psalmist did. Remember from whence you are fallen, repent, and return to the first works. Pray and seek His face in His word and worship Him in the services of the church. God said to Jeremiah, “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you, says the LORD.” Jeremiah 29:13-14.