Longing for God
“As the hart (deer) panteth after the water brooks, So panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God?”
Psalm 42:1-2 (Parenthesis Mine)
I grew up on a farm in West Virginia. Living on a farm will ensure that you are never a stranger to work. You become well acquainted with it. And some of those work days can be long and hard -- Especially during Hay Season. There is also another adjective that fits. And that is the word “hot”. Those days on the farm can bring back some pretty exhausting memories. I may start sweating just thinking about it! On those particularly hot summer days, nothing brings as much relief and joy as a cool glass of water. Nothing else seems to bring quite that level of satisfaction. The water may be meeting a need, however, it goes beyond that. It is simultaneously bringing pleasure, relief and happiness to the one drinking it.
I think that this is what the Psalmist is communicating in the passage. The deer pants for the water both because it is a necessity and because of the pleasure derived from drinking from the brook. I am sure that the deer has other options that would maintain its existence (fill the need). But the deer chooses to return to a particular water brook for both its need and for its joy. We could survive by simply drinking the appropriate amount of lukewarm water daily. But it would get pretty mundane. No, we like to drink that crisp, spring water ad fontes (from the source). Or we like to drink lemonade, Coke, Pepsi or if you’re from the south (like myself) you like to drink that, capital S, Sweet Tea. You know the kind I am talking about! I want tea that has more sugar than water! When we are thirsty, it's nice to have something that meets the need. But it is even better to have something that brings us joy while meeting that need.
It is also a pleasure and a satisfaction that can't be found anywhere else. The deer drinks from the brook to be satisfied by its fullness. A.W. Tozer used to say that if you were to ask the deer if it drank the fullness of the water-brook, its reply would have to be both yes and no. Yes, because it drank from the water and its thirst was quenched. The deer was made full by the brook. But it would also have to answer no as well. Because the deer did not exhaust the source of water. The spring remains and will continue to satisfy the deer's thirst for years to come.
This is the beauty of the Psalmist’s expression. He says my soul pants or thirsts for my God, for the living God. I thirst for the only One that can satisfy my thirst! I long for the One in Whom I live and move and have my being. I long for the One that can bring more than a superficial satisfaction. That is why that Psalm writer has the ability later in the Psalm to reprimand himself. Why are you cast down, o my soul? Hope in God! Because he knows that just as the stream satisfies the deer, both with necessity and joy, so the Spirit of the Living God is our ultimate satisfaction.