Psalm 42: You Can Lead a Deer to Water

Read Psalm 42.

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalm 42:1–2). I already feel out of place in this psalm. Can I honestly say my soul thirsts for God?

I am a soul easily distracted, “prone to wander,” as the old hymn says. I get thirsty, but I don’t always go to God. I have a thousand other thoughts in my head before my mind admits it’s God I need. Or worse, I consider that God will quench my dry life, but I refuse to go to Him out of old-fashioned stubbornness.

When I do go to God with my thirst, I’m not sure why I’m there—for God Himself or for the blessings He might grant me. Sometimes I feel like the older brother in Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11–32). He never thirsted. Every one of his needs was met by the father, and so he never thought of leaving to satiate some desire within him. His eyes were clear and on the prize. He wanted the inheritance, and he was going to obey, obey, obey until the old man dropped dead and it was all his. He didn’t want the father, just his blessings. So, I ask myself, If God met all my needs, if He made me really comfortable, would I still thirst for Him?

The younger boy, though, he had a thirst—and he couldn’t just stick around hoping it would go away. He needed out. He was going to take everything he could and spend it all, tasting everything this world has to offer, until he found whatever it was he needed to quench his parched life. But nothing did, and soon, the money ran out. He found himself in worse shape than before—still thirsty, but also broke.

As it turns out, that young man’s insatiable thirst was actually his greatest blessing; it brought him home. The thing he needed wasn’t a thing at all. It was his father’s love, and he’d had it all along. He just needed to drink. But it took his misguided joyride search to discover that.

We’re all deer with dry throats, and we’re all panting for God. Only some of us don’t know it. But Jesus does. He said, “Whoever drinks the water I give will never thirst again” (John 4:14). We were made to drink this water Jesus has on offer, but somewhere back in our history, we got cut off from the source.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that with the sparse details we receive about Eden in the book of Genesis, we do read that there was a river flowing out of it (2:10–14). And at the end of history, in the city of God, the new Jerusalem, there will be another river: “the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city” (Revelation 22:1–2). Both Eden and new Jerusalem have a river, because God dwells in both places. Both are temples where God lives with His people.

Jesus said we can have a river of living water here and now, flowing inside of us: “Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). As Christians, we have this spring of water in us already, but some of us are just too dumb or stubborn to drink.

The psalmist asks, “Where can I go and meet with God?… These things I remember as I pour out my soul; how I used to go to the house of God” (Psalm 42:2, 4). But through the gift of the Holy Spirit, you and I have become a house of God, a temple open day and night (1 Corinthians 3:16–17; 6:19). The Spirit is the living water Jesus promised, and through Him, we have 24/7 access to the only One who will ever satisfy our souls. All that’s left for us to do is drink up.

What is this all about?

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