C.H. Spurgeons's The Treasury of David
PSALM 42 OVERVIEW
Title. To the chief Musician, Maschil, for the sons of Korah. Dedicated to the Master of Music, this Psalm is worthy of his office; he who can sing best can have nothing better to sing. It is called, Maschil, or an instructive ode; and full as it is of deep experimental expressions, it is eminently calculated to instruct those pilgrims whose road to heaven is of the same trying kind as David's was. It is always edifying to listen to the experience of a thoroughly gracious and much afflicted saint.
That choice band of singers, the sons of Korah, are bidden to make this delightful Psalm one of their peculiars. They had been spared when their father and all his company, and all the children of his associates were swallowed up alive in their sin. Nu 27:11. They were the spared ones of sovereign grace. Preserved, we know not why, by the distinguishing favour of God, it may be surmised that after their remarkable election to mercy, they became so filled with gratitude that they addicted themselves to sacred music in order that their spared lives might be consecrated to the glory of God. At any rate, we who have been rescued as they were from going down into the pit, out of the mere good pleasure of Jehovah, can heartily join in this Psalm, and indeed in all the songs which show forth the praises of our God and the pantings of our hearts after him. Although David is not mentioned as the author, this Psalm must be the offspring of his pen; it is so Davidic, it smells of the son of Jesse, it bears the marks of his style and experience in every letter. We could sooner doubt the authorship of the second part of Pilgrim's Progress than question David's title to be the composer of this Psalm.
Subject. It is the cry of a man far removed from the outward ordinances and worship of God, sighing for the long loved house of his God; and at the same time it is the voice of a spiritual believer, under depressions, longing for the renewal of the divine presence, struggling with doubts and fears, but yet holding his ground by faith in the living God. Most of the Lord's family have sailed on the sea which is here so graphically described. It is probable that David's flight from Absalom may have been the occasion for composing this Maschil.
Division. The structure of the song directs us to consider it in two parts which end with the same refrain; Psalms 42:1-5 and then Psalms 42:6-11.
Verse 1. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after the, O God. As after a long drought the poor fainting hind longs for the streams, or rather as the hunted hart instinctively seeks after the river to lave its smoking flanks and to escape the dogs, even so my weary, persecuted soul pants after the Lord my God. Debarred from public worship, David was heartsick. Ease he did not seek, honour he did not covet, but the enjoyment of communion with God was an urgent need of his soul; he viewed it not merely as the sweetest of all luxuries, but as an absolute necessity, like water to a stag. Like the parched traveller in the wilderness, whose skin bottle is empty, and who finds the wells dry, he must drink or die -- he must have his God or faint. His soul, his very self, his deepest life, was insatiable for a sense of the divine presence. As the hart brays so his soul prays. Give him his God and he is as content as the poor deer which at length slakes its thirst and is perfectly happy; but deny him his Lord, and his heart heaves, his bosom palpitates, his whole frame is convulsed, like one who gasps for breath, or pants with long running. Dear reader, dost thou know what this is, by personally having felt the same? It is a sweet bitterness. The next best thing to living in the light of the Lord's love is to be unhappy till we have it, and to pant hourly after it -- hourly, did I say? thirst is a perpetual appetite, and not to be forgotten, and even thus continual is the heart's longing after God. When it is as natural for us to long for God as for an animal to thirst, it is well with our souls, however painful our feelings. We may learn from this verse that the eagerness of our desires may be pleaded with God, and the more so, because there are special promises for the importunate and fervent.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Title. "Sons of Korah." Who were the sons of Korah? These opinions have more or less prevailed. One is that they sprang from some one of that name in the days of David. Mudge and others think that the sons of Korah were a society of musicians, founded or presided over by Korah. Others think that the sons of Korah were the surviving descendants of that miserable man who, together with two hundred and fifty of his adherents, who were princes, perished when "the earth opened her mouth and swallowed them up, together with Korah." In Numbers 26:11 we read: "Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not." They had taken the warning given, and had departed from the tents of these wicked men. Numbers 16:24,26. It must be admitted that the name Korah and the patronymic Korahite are found in the Scriptures in a way that creates considerable doubt respecting the particular man from whom the Korahites are named. See 1 Chronicles 1:35 2:43 6:22,54 9:19 26:1 2 Chronicles 20:19. Yet the more common belief is that they descended from him who perished in his gainsaying. This view is taken by Ainsworth with entire confidence, by Gill, and others. Korah, who perished, was a Levite. Whatever may have been their origin, it is clear the sons of Korah were a Levitical family of singers. Nothing, then, could be more appropriate than the dedication of a sacred song to these very people. William S. Plumer.
Title. "Sons of Korah." The "Korah" whose "sons" are here spoken of, is the Levite who headed the insurrection against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. Numbers 16:1-50. We find his descendants existing as a powerful Levitical family in the time of David, at least, if they are to be identified, as is probable, with the Korahites mentioned in 1 Chronicles 12:6, who, like our own warlike bishops of former times, seem to have known how to doff the priestly vestment for the soldier's armour, and whose hand could wield the sword as well as strike the harp. The Korahites were a part of the band who acknowledged David as their chief, at Ziklag; warriors "whose faces," it is said, "were like the faces of lions, and who were (for speed) like gazelles upon the mountains." According to 1 Chronicles 9:17-19, the Korahites were in David's time, keepers of the threshold of the tabernacle; and still earlier, in the time of Moses, watchmen at the entrance of the camp of the Levites. In 1 Chronicles 26:1-19, we find two branches of this family associated with that of Merari, as guardians of the doors of the Temple. There is probably an allusion to this their office, in Psalms 84:10. But the Korahites were also celebrated musicians and singers; see 1 Chronicles 6:16-33, where Heman, one of the three famous musicians of the time, is said to be a Korahite (compare 1 Chronicles 25:1-31). The musical reputation of the family continued in the time of Jehoshaphat 2 Chronicles 20:19, where we have the peculiar doubly plural form (~yxrqhynb), "Sons of the Korahites." J. J. Stewart Perowne.
Title. "Sons of Korah." Medieval writers remark how here, as so often, it was the will of God to raise up saints where they could have been least looked for. Who should imagine that from the posterity of him who said, "Ye take too much upon you, ye sons of Aaron," should have risen those whose sweet Psalms would be the heritage of the church of God to the end of time? J. M. Neale.
Verse 1. The hart panteth after the water brooks. And here we have started up, and have sent leaping over the plain another of Solomon's favourites. What elegant creatures these gazelles are, and how gracefully they bound! ... The sacred writers frequently mention gazelles under the various names of harts, roes, and hinds ... I have seen large flocks of these panting harts gather round the water brooks in the great deserts of Central Syria, so subdued by thirst that you could approach quite near them before they fled. W. M. Thomson.
Verse 1. Little do the drunkards think that take so much pleasure in frequenting the houses of Bacchus, that the godly take a great deal more, and have a great deal more joy in frequenting the houses of God. But it is a thing that God promised long ago by the prophet: "Then will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people." Isaiah 56:7. And I think, I hear the willing people of God's power, merrily calling one to another in the words of Micah 4:2, "Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem." How is a godly man ravished with "the beauty of holiness," when he is at such meetings! How was holy David taken with being in the house of God at Jerusalem! insomuch, that if he were kept from it but a little while, his soul panted for it, and longed after it, and fainted for lack of it, as a thirsty hart would do for lack of water! 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? The poor disconsolate captives preferred it to the best place in their memory. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." Psalms 137:5; nay, they preferred it to their chiefest joy: "If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy," Psalms 42:6. There was no place in the world that David regarded or cared to be in in comparison of it. "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" Psalms 84:10, insomuch, that he could find it in his heart, nay, and would choose, if he might have his desire, to spend all his days in that house. Psalms 27:4. Zachary Bogan.
Verse 1. The soul strongly desires acquaintance with God here in his ordinances. Chrysostom's very rhetorical upon the text, and tells us how that David, like a lover in absence, must express his affection; as they have their dainty sighs, and passionate complaints, their loving exclamations, and sundry discoveries of affection; they can meet with never a tree, but in the bark of it they must engrave the name of their darling, Denfos d o erws d kittos auton ek paaes anadeoai profaoews; it will twine upon every opportunity, as the Moralist speaks. And the true lovers of God, they are always thinking upon him, sighing for him, panting after him, talking of him, and (if it were possible) would engrave the name of the Lord Jesus upon the breasts of all the men in the world. Look upon David, now a banished man, and fled from the presence of Saul, and see how he behaves himself: not like Themistocles or Camillus, or some of those brave banished worthies. He does not complain of the ungratefulness of his country, the malice of his adversaries, and his own unhappy success. No, instead of murmuring, he falls a panting, and that only after his God. He is banished from the sanctuary, the palace of God's nearest presence, and chiefest residence; he cannot enjoy the beauty of holiness, and all other places seem to him but as the tents of Kedar. He is banished from the temple, and he thinks himself banished from his God, as it is in the following words, When shall I come and appear before God? The whole stream of expositors run this way, that it is meant of his strong longing to visit the Temple, and those amiable courts of his God, with which his soul was so much taken. Nathanael Culverwel's "Panting Soul," 1652.
Verse 1-3. are an illustration of the frequent use of the word Elohim in the second book of Psalms. We give Fry's translation of the first three verses. --
As the hart looketh for the springs of water,
So my soul looketh for thee, O Elohim.
My soul is athirst for Elohim for the living El:
When shall I go and see the face of Elohim?
My tears have been my meat day and night,
While they say to me continually, Where is thy Elohim?
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 1. The longing heart and the panting hart compared.
Verse 1,2. Those who have enjoyed the presence of God in the public ordinances of religion will greatly desire, if deprived of them, to be favoured with them again ... Prevention from attending the public ordinances of God's house may be made the means of great benefit to the soul.
- By renewing our relish for the provisions of the Lord's house, which so soon and so often palls.
- By making us to prize the means of grace more highly. There is, through human degeneracy, a proneness to value things less, however excellent in themselves, because of their being common, or plentiful, or of easy attainment.
- By driving us more directly from God. H. March.
Verse 1-3. The home sickness of the soul. What awakens it in the soul? To what is it directed, or does it point or tend? Wherewith can it be satisfied? By the bitter, but ofttimes wholesome food of tears. J. P. Lange.
WORKS WRITTEN ABOUT THE FORTY-SECOND PSALM IN SPURGEON'S DAY
A Practical Exposition of the Forty- second Psalm, in ten Sermons, in Choice and Practical Expositions on four select Psalms. Psalms 4, 42, 51, 63. By THOMAS HORTON, D.D. 1675. Folio.
Sabbaths at Home: or, a help to their right improvement; founded on the Forty-second and Forty-third Psalms. Intended for the use of pious persons when prevented from attending the public worship of God. By HENRY MARCH. London: 1823.
On the eleventh verse of this Psalm there are the following works: --
Twelve Sermons, in "A Cordial for a Fainting Soule." By JOHN COLLINGS. 1652. Part 2, pp. 133-206.
Thirteen Sermons in the works of WILLIAM BRIDGE (1600-1670), entitled, "A Lifting Up for the Downcast." Volume 2, of the edition of 1845.
Comfort and Counsel for Dejected Souls. By JOHN DURANT. 8vo. 1651.
The Soul's Conflict with Itself. By RICHARD SIBBES. (Numerous old editions). In Sibbes' Works, Nichol's Puritan Series, vol.