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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Psalms 42

Verses 1-2


Psalms 42:1-2. As the hart 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?

GREAT are the vicissitudes of the Christian life: sometimes the soul basks, if we may so speak, in the full splendour of the Sun of Righteousness; and at other times it feels not in any degree the cheering influence of his rays. And these variations are sometimes of shorter duration, like successive days; and at other times of longer continuance, like the seasons of the year. In David these changes were carried almost to the utmost extremes of elevation and depression, of confidence and despondency, of exultation and grief. At the time of writing this psalm he was driven from his throne by Absalom, and con strained to flee for his life beyond Jordan. There exiled from the city and temple of his God, he stated, for the edification of the Church in all future ages, how ardently he longed for the renewed enjoyment of those ordinances, which were the delight and solace of his life. In these things he may be considered as a pattern for us: we shall therefore endeavour distinctly to mark,


The frame of his mind towards God—

This is described in terms peculiarly energetic “he thirsted after God; yea, he panted after him, as the hart panteth after the water-brooks.” We cannot conceive any image that could mark more strongly the intenseness of his desire, than that which is here used. A hart or deer, when fleeing from its pursuers, has naturally its mouth parched through fear and terror: but when, by its own exertions in the flight, its very blood almost boils within it, the thirst is altogether insupportable, and the creature pants, or brays, (as the expression is,) for some brook, where it may refresh its sinking frame, and acquire strength for further exertions. Such was David’s thirst after God, the living God.
His circumstances, it is true, were peculiar—
[Jerusalem was the place where God had appointed the ordinances of his worship: and David, being driven from thence, was precluded from a possibility of presenting to the Lord his accustomed offerings. This was a great distress to his soul: for though God was accessible to him in prayer, he could not hope for that measure of acceptance which he had reason to expect in an exact observance of the Mosaic ritual; nor could he hope that such manifestations would be vouchsafed to his soul, as he might have enjoyed, if he had approached God in the way prescribed by the law. Hence all his ardour might well be accounted for, since by the dispensation under which he lived, his way to the Deity was obstructed, and the communications of the Deity to him were intercepted.
We acknowledge that these peculiar circumstances account for the frame of David’s mind at that time.]
Nevertheless, his frame is as proper for us as it was for him—
[Though the observance of certain rites and ceremonies is no longer necessary, and God may be approached with equal ease from any spot upon the globe, yet it is no easy matter to come into his presence, and to behold the light of his countenance lifted up upon us. To bow the knees before him, and to address him in a form of words, is a service which we may render without any difficulty; but to draw nigh to the very throne of God, to open our mouths wide, and to have our hearts enlarged in prayer, to plead with God, to wrestle with him, to obtain answers of prayer from him, and to maintain sweet fellowship with him from day to day, this, I say, is of very difficult attainment: to do it indeed is our duty, and to enjoy it is our privilege; but there are few who can reach these heights, or, having reached them, prolong to any great extent the heavenly vision. Hence we all have occasion to lament seasons of comparative darkness and declension; and to pant with insatiable avidity after the renewed enjoyment of an absent God.]

Let us then contemplate,


The evidences of this frame, wherever it exists—

Such a frame of mind must of necessity be attended with correspondent efforts to attain its object. There will be in us,


A diligent attendance on all the means of grace—

[Where shall we look for God, but in his holy word, where he reveals to us all his majesty and his glory? That word then we shall read with care, and meditate upon it day and night, and listen to the voice of God speaking to us in it — — — We shall also pray over it, converting every command into a petition, and every promise into an urgent plea — — — The public ordinances of religion we shall highly prize, because in them more especially we honour God, and have reason to expect more abundant manifestations of his love to our souls — — — At the table of the Lord too we shall be found frequent guests, not only because we are required by gratitude to remember the love of Christ in dying for us, but because the Lord Jesus still, as formerly, delights to “make himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread.” If we do really pant after God, I say again, we cannot but seek after him in the way of his ordinances.]


An acquiescence in every thing that may bring him nearer to us—

[God is pleased oftentimes to afflict his people, in order to wean them from the love of this present world, and to quicken their souls to more diligent inquiries after him. Now “affliction is not in itself joyous, but grievous:” nevertheless, when viewed in connexion with the end for which it is sent, it is welcomed even with joy and gratitude by all who are intent on the enjoyment of their God. In this view St. Paul “took pleasure in infirmities and distresses” of every kind, because they brought him to God, and God to him;—him, in a way of fervent prayer; and God, in a way of rich and abundant communication [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:10.]. In this view, every saint that has ever experienced tribulation in the ways of God is ready to say, that “it is good for him that he has been afflicted,” and that, if only God’s presence may be more abidingly manifested to his soul, he is ready to suffer the loss of all things, and to count them but dross and dung.]


A dread of every thing that may cause him to hide his face from us—

[We know that there is, in every generous heart, a dread of any thing that may wound the feelings of those we love: how much more then will this exist in those who love God, and are panting after the enjoyment of him! Shall we, under such a frame of mind, go and do “the abominable thing which his soul hates?” shall we by any wilful misconduct “grieve the Holy Spirit of promise, whereby we are sealed unto the day of redemption?” No: when tempted to evil, we shall reject it with abhorrence, and say, “How shall I do this wickedness, and sin against God?” We shall “put away every accursed thing that may trouble our camp:” we shall not only turn from open and flagrant iniquity, but shall “abstain from the very appearance of evil.” We shall search for sin in the heart, as the Jews searched for leaven in their houses, in order that we may be “a new lump, altogether unleavened.” We shall strive to have our every action, every word, and “every thought, brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”]


A dissatisfaction of mind whenever we have not an actual sense of his presence—

[We cannot rest in a mere routine of duties: it is God that we seek, even the living God; and therefore we can never be satisfied with a dead form, nor with any number of forms, however multiplied. We shall look back to seasons of peculiar access to God, as the happiest periods of our life; and in the absence of God shall say, “O that it were with me as in months past, when the candle of the Lord shone upon my head!” We shall deprecate the hidings of his face as the severest affliction that we can endure; and shall never feel comfort in our minds, till we have regained the light of his countenance and the joy of his salvation. The conduct of the Church, in the Song of Solomon, is that which every one who truly loves the heavenly Bridegroom will observe: he will inquire after him with all diligence, and, having found him, will labour with augmented care to retain and perpetuate the expressions of his love [Note: Chap. 3:1–4.].]

Let US learn then, from this example of David,

The proper object of our ambition—

[Crowns and kingdoms should not satisfy the Christian’s ambition. He should seek to enjoy “God himself, even the living God,” who has life in himself, and is the one source of life to the whole creation. David, when driven from his house and family, did not pant after his lost possessions, his ruined honours, his deserted relatives: it was God alone whose presence he so ardently desired. O that every desire of our souls may thus be swallowed up in God, whose loveliness and loving-kindness exceed all the powers of language to describe, or of any created imagination to conceive!]


The proper measure of our zeal—

[In reference to earthly attainments, men in general contend, that it is scarcely possible to have our desires too ardent: but in reference to the knowledge and the enjoyment of God, they think even the smallest ardour is misplaced. But “it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing:” and, if the measure of David’s desire was right, then should not ours stop short of his. When we can explore the heights and depths of the Redeemer’s love, or count the unsearchable riches of his grace, then may we limit our exertions according to the scale which we may derive from them: but, if they surpass all the powers of language or of thought, then may we take the hunted deer for our pattern, and never pause till we have attained the full fruition of our God.]

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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Psalms 42". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.