Water is essential to life. On average, a person can survive without water for only 3-5 days. Though most people have not gone more than 1 day without water, many have felt the intense thirst that comes on a hot, summer day after a few hours without water. I remember many times as a boy mowing grass outside in the intense mid-summer heat and the thirst that would overwhelm me. Water never tasted so good on those hot summer days. Physical thirst is something that we all have experienced at some time in life and it is essential to quench one’s thirst to sustain physical life. However, there is a type of thirst that is much more essential and rewarding. That is a thirst for God.
In Psalm 42, the Psalmist finds himself in exile, away from home, and away from the temple of God. The presence of God seems so distant to him at this time. It is likely that the Psalmist is writing this from a lonely place in the wilderness that is far from Jerusalem. A sense of yearning for God began to well up in his innermost being as he thought of the times where he had experienced great delight in worshiping God in His temple. He was now in a place of spiritual depression. This was a place where the Psalmist felt shut out from the presence of his God. Obviously, he knew something of God’s manifest presence in his life at one time. But now, exiled from home, he felt a distance from the God he loved so much. His longing for God is expressed in the idea of a desperate thirst that longed to be quenched as is seen in verse 1. Verse 1 says, “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God.” He continues on in verse two by saying “my soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: When shall I come and appear before God?” His memory of past seasons when God was so near seems to have fled away like the night (v. 4). Just as the deer that is pursued by the hunter has a natural tendency to stop and quench its parched mouth, so the Psalmist had come to a place in his life where his spiritual longings for God had become parched. He was thirsty for God.
Even the most mature and seasoned Christians enter seasons of their spiritual journey that seem like a spiritual wilderness where no water is. There are times and circumstances that cause one to feel distant from God and outside of His manifest presence. As Christians, we should always be thirsty for God. We must never allow our season of barrenness to cause us to turn to “broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). Rather, we must always be turning back to “fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13) which is Jesus Christ in order to quench our spiritual thirst.