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800 Hurley Ave
Rockville, MD, 20850
United States

Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 1/12/2016

Robert Chen

Dear Church:


1   As a deer longs for flowing streams, 
          so my soul longs for you, O God. 
2   My soul thirsts for God, 
          for the living God. 
     When shall I come and behold
          the face of God? 
3   My tears have been my food
          day and night, 
     while people say to me continually, 
          “Where is your God?”


4   These things I remember, 
          as I pour out my soul: 
     how I went with the throng, 
          and led them in procession to the house of God, 
     with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving, 
          a multitude keeping festival. 
5   Why are you cast down, O my soul, 
          and why are you disquieted within me? 
     Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, 
          my help 6and my God.


     My soul is cast down within me; 

          therefore I remember you 

     from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, 

          from Mount Mizar. 

7   Deep calls to deep 

          at the thunder of your cataracts; 

     all your waves and your billows 

          have gone over me. 

8   By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, 

          and at night his song is with me, 

          a prayer to the God of my life.


9   I say to God, my rock, 
          “Why have you forgotten me? 
     Why must I walk about mournfully
          because the enemy oppresses me?” 
10  As with a deadly wound in my body, 
          my adversaries taunt me, 
     while they say to me continually, 
          “Where is your God?”


11  Why are you cast down, O my soul, 
          and why are you disquieted within me? 
     Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, 
          my help and my God.


From the mid-80s to early-90s, one of the most popular praise songs echoed the opening verses of Psalm 42. For nostalgia's sake the lyrics go like this:


As the deer panteth for the water

So my soul longeth after thee

You alone are my hearts desire

And I long to worship thee



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 thee


You're my friend and You are my brother,

Even though you are a king.

I love you more thank any other,

So much more than anything.


I want You more than gold or silver,

Only You can satisfy.

You alone are the real joy Giver,

And the apple of my eye.


For those of you who remember this song, you can't read these words without hearing the melody in your head. (For those who don't know what I'm talking about, please indulge us old folks a bit today.)


What I most remember about this song was the sweet, innocent, earnest yearning in our young hearts when we sang the song in small groups and gatherings. I don't know if times have changed so much that if we were to sing this song now, the song might seem a little too saccharine. Perhaps in part the change in musical tastes makes it difficult to enjoy this type of song. I don't know. (Maybe ask Richard. He might have deeper insights about musical tastes and why one era can enjoy a song, while another era cannot.)


But this devotional is not about music per se; it's about what underlies that music in the song and in the psalm. And that's the heart's longing for God. 


Let's think about what this longing for God entails in Psalm 42. Perhaps these observations: (1) the psalmist longs for someone he knows, namely God; (2) the psalmist longs for God because he already knows God; (3) the psalmist's knowledge of God is sufficiently deep enough so that such longing is apt (you wouldn't long for something you kinda know or something you are not sure about); (4) the psalmist remembers those times in the past when he experienced God in worship.


Longing for God, therefore, presupposes knowing or experiencing God sufficiently enough to desire more of God. 


Psychologists studying the emotional state of longing make this additional point: longing, especially life longings, can be developmental -- that is, certain longings give directionality to life, generating purposes and goals. This makes sense. An adopted child longing to find his or her birth mother may spend years trying to find her. A person living in exile longs for his or her homeland and seeks to finds ways to get back. Etc. 


If we truly long for God, then we will find ways to meet and experience God more deeply. Fortunately, God is not in a foreign land. God can be found right where we are. And our very posture of longing for God draws God near us in Christ. What many have also recently discovered is that certain activities -- like fasting and praying -- seem to intensify this longing and to deepen the experience of God that follows such activities. May we be blessed with such nearness of God in our lives!


Let's pray: Father God, we come before you hungry. Hungry for more of you. We want to know you more deeply and more intimately. Not just through our emotions but through our reflections as well. Knowing you takes every aspect of our being, so we give ourselves entirely to you so that our knowledge and experience of you becomes wider and deeper. We know this great journey is worth every step, so encourage us, O Lord, to take the steps necessary to draw near to you. In Jesus' name, amen.