“As the deer pants for the water so my soul longs after you, you alone are my hearts desire and I long to worship you. You alone are my strength, my shield, to you alone may my spirit yield. You alone are my hearts desire and I long to worship you.”
This is the first stanza and chorus of one of my favorite songs. It is called As The Deer, and the first stanza is based on Psalm 42:1&2. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God, when can I go and meet with God?”
Panting is not attractive, but it’s not meant to be. Panting is a body’s desperate cry for water to quench thirst. Left unquenched, the deer, or a human, could die.
He also says he is oppressed by an enemy, and he feels forgotten. “I say to God my Rock, Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy? My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me.” (V.9-10)
The writer may have been under attack from enemies to his kingdom, from his own family, or even from himself. Many times it is our own decisions that cause our greatest stress and problems. The Psalmist may simply be overwhelmed by a string of relationship strains and bad decisions that have left him feeling depressed and worthless.
The song based on this passage captures the spirit so well. It is beautiful when sung and resonates with the human spirit. Even though the psalmist is suffering in his spirit, and maybe even in his body, he remembers his relationship with God, and based upon that relationship he appeals to him for help. The following verses of the song build upon that relationship.
I was hunting with a friend in Jackson Hole, WY when we saw a mist moving along the edge of a forest. It looked like some kind of a ghost. “What is that?” I asked my friend. “It’s elk,” he said.” I had never seen elk that looked like that.
This was a relatively small area of several hundred acres. It was opening day, and an army of hunters had the elk blocked in. They were running from one end of the wooded area to another. In short order they were overheated, gasping for air, and panting for water. The air was cold and their bodies hot; that is what produced the steam. So thick was the steam that I could not identify the elk in the great mist; I could only watch the cloud move along the forested area. It was amazing.
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That is the story I think of when I read Psalm 42:1 or sing the song based on this verse. “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you.” Like the deer or the elk in my hunting story, we sometimes pant desperately for relief from pain, sorrow, loneliness, guilt, and shame. Panting is not attractive. It the soul’s desperate cry for living water to quench spiritual thirst. Left unquenched, the soul could die. Fortunately, the Psalmist knows where that refreshment may be found - in God.
Fittingly, the next verse of the song reads, “You’re my friend and you are my brother, even though you are a king.” The king of the universe does not sit on a distant throne unmoved by human travail. No, while he does occupy a lofty position, he also moves freely about, ready to provide the water we cry for.