Taking the Long View: Psalm 42


Psalm 42 (NIV)

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.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.


I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Sing this psalm with the Seedbed Psalter today! Visit the resource here.


This psalm begins a collection of psalms from the Sons of Korah. This family had experienced the judgment of God because of their role in the rebellion against the leadership of Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16). Yet, by the grace of God, the descendants grew in their devotion to God until they were named doorkeepers of the tabernacle and, eventually, worship leaders under King David. It is in this capacity that they wrote psalms, eleven of which appear in the book of Psalms. Their psalms, quite expectedly, tend to reflect their appreciation for taking the long view and trusting in God’s grace over time to bring us to that place where we need to be. Psalm 42 and 43 (which in many Hebrew manuscripts constitute one psalm) are no exception, as they reflect classic themes in the psalms written by the sons of Korah.

The psalmist declares, “Tears have been my food day and night” (v. 3). His enemies say, “Where is your God?” (v. 3). He is feeling depressed and downcast (v. 5). He asks his own soul, “Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?” (v. 5). Then, suddenly, hope for God’s deliverance emerges out of the anguish of tears. Somewhere in the midst of this, he hears that deep call to put his hope in God: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” This becomes the refrain for both Psalms 42 and 43 (42:5; 42:11; 43:5).

Later, in Romans 5, Paul develops this movement from suffering and anguish, to hope in God when he, reflecting the experience of the sons of Korah, says we “rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:3–5). So, do not lose hope. Hope in God, for you will yet praise him.

You may have things in your past that embarrass you and make you think that you are not eligible to serve the Lord. Through this psalm, the sons of Korah remind us to trust God to do his work. In the aftermath of Korah’s rebellion, very few would have believed that one day their family would be appointed to lead worship for all of God’s people. Moses, a murderer, becomes God’s great deliverer of Israel. Jonah, who ran from God, becomes a preacher. Peter, who denied Christ three times, becomes a leader of the early church. Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor, becomes an apostle. There is a pattern here. Jesus himself reflected on this to the Pharisee who was scandalized that Jesus would allow a prostitute into his presence: “Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much” (Luke 7:47).


Timothy C. Tennent is the President of Asbury Theological Seminary and a Professor of Global Christianity. His works include Invitation to World Missions: A Trinitarian Missiology for the Twenty-first Century and Theology in the Context of World Christianity: How the Global Church Is Influencing the Way We Think about and Discuss Theology. He blogs at timothytennent.com and can be followed on twitter @TimTennent.