As The Deer
As the deer panteth for the water
So my soul longeth after You.
You alone are my heart’s desire
And I long to worship You.
This is the first verse of the song “As The Deer.” It is a beautiful song often sung at youth events based on Psalm 42:1. The song itself describes the longing to worship a loving God. The song describes God as strength, a shield, more valuable than any material thing, and the giver of real, long lasting joy. There is a slight problem with the song and the verse from which the song comes. Yes, both are about the strong desire to worship God. The Psalmist wrote that as a deer has a strong desire for water, he desires to worship the Lord but his reasoning is different than that of the cherished song.
“My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” (Psalm 42:2). The Psalmist felt as if he had been separated from God. It is thought that David may have written this Psalm while on the run from Absalom. It would make sense that David would feel as if he had been rejected by God in a situation like this. David even described his tears as his sustenance and as asking him, “Where is your God?” (v. 3). David could go back to the days when he was in Jerusalem. In those days he could go to house of worship with the faithful Jews. He could keep the holy days and lift his voice in praise and joy to his God (v. 4). Now? Now, he is on the run. The Psalm itself seems bleak as the writer felt overwhelmed by trials he faced comparing it to being swept away by a flood (v. 7). His oppressing enemies say to him, “Where is your God?” (v. 10; 43:2).
Despite these feelings the Psalmist reminds himself, “Despite how I feel God really has not left me. Why am I so downcast about this situation? I can praise God for the help He will give me!” (v. 5). Despite his sadness, he still referred to God as “my God” (v. 6, 11). The Psalmist calls upon God to judge these enemies (43:1). He would continue to praise God despite the difficulties. Why? God will be the “health of my countenance.” Even though this writer feels that God may not be with him at the moment, he realizes that God will shine His countenance which will strengthen the Psalmist’s countenance. God is still “my God.” (Psalm 42:11; 43:5). The Psalmist knows that he will one day praise God as he did once before (Psalm 43:4) but for the moment, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
Now, I am not saying that we are in error when we sing this song. When we sing this song, are we aware of the context from whence it came? It should bring us to a further appreciation of the song. The Psalmist wrote this in a time of desperation and sadness. It was in a time when he felt far from the presence of God and he looked forward to a time when he could stand in the presence of the One he loved. This made him yearn for the Lord even more. Christians were once under the oppression of sin. This caused a separation from God. Through His Son, we could be free from the shackles of sin and in good spiritual health. We have the ability to stand in the presence of God to worship Him. We are His children and He is Our God. And that should make us long to worship Him.