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STRACEY "As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after Thee, God. My soul thirsteth for God: when shall I come and appear before God?" — Psalm xlii. i, 2. THIS 42nd Psalm is the first psalm of the second of the five books into which the psalter was divided. This division is still marked in our psalter ; for if we look at the end of the following psalms, xli., lxxii., lxxxix., cvi., we find the word "Amen," thus marking the conclusion of each of these original divisions of the Book of Psalms. The first book is more than all the rest " the psalms of David." In this second book one at least, the twenty-second, is ascribed to Solomon, and one, viz., the fiftieth, to Asaph. There is also this remarkable difference, that in the first book God is called by His covenant name to Israel of "Jehovah" no less than two hundred and seventy-two times, but by His name " Elohim," * that is, the God of nature, or of all men — not of the Jews only — only fifteen times ; but * It is much to be regretted that this distinction has not been observed in our translation througbout ; it would be well if " Elohim always stood for " God," " Jehovah" for " Lord."
164 PSALM XLII. here in this second book the reverse is the case ; the name " Jehovah " occurs only thirty times, but the name " Elohim " one hundred and sixty-four times. It is more than probable that these two psalms, the 42nd and 43rd, were originally one psalm, but for some reason at some time were separated into two, as we have them now. This 42nd is still used by the Jews in
the services of the great festival of tabernacles. In our Bible heading it is ascribed " to the sons of Korah." ow, what does this mean ? There are twelve psalms in all ascribed "to the sons of Korah;" viz., the 42nd to 49th, 84th, 85th, 87th, 88th Psalms. In the sixth chapter of the Book of umbers we read how Korah perished, but not his children. And it has been supposed that they, in gratitude for their preservation, formed themselves into a religious association, and especially devoted themselves to the choir services of the tabernacle, and afterwards of the temple. We find from 1 Chronicles vi. that Samuel was one of the sons of Korah ; they may have founded the " schools of the prophets." But S. Augustine gives another and very different interpretation of this word " Korah." He says " Korah is equivalent to Calvaria. Why is Christ thought to be connected with Calvaria ? Does it not at once occur to you that He was crucified on Calvary ? Unquestionably it does. Therefore the sons of His passion, the sons redeemed by His blood, the sons of His cross, who
MO U T HERMO . 1 6 5 bear on their forehead that which His enemies erected on Calvary, are sons of Korah ; to them is this psalm sung as a psalm for understanding." There is one other point especially to be noticed in this 42nd Psalm, and that is the mention of mount Hernion in it. ow, mount Hermon stood in the old kingdom of Bashan, on the other side of the Jordan, which flowed at its foot. Dean Stanley, in his book on Sinai and Palestine (chap. viii. s. 6), writes : " From these heights Abner in his flight from the Philistines, and David in his flight from Absalom, and the Israelties on their way to Babylon, and the Christian Jews of
Pella, caught the last glimpse of their familiar mountains. There is one plaintive strain which sums up all these feelings, the 42nd Psalm. Its date and authorship are uncertain ; but the place is, beyond doubt, the hills beyond the Jordan, which always behold, as they are always beheld from, Western Palestine. As before the eyes of the exile, the hart or stag of the forests of Gilead panted after the fresh streams of water which there descend to the Jordan, so his soul panted after God, from whose presence he was shut out. The river, with its winding rapids, ' deep calling unto deep,' lay between him and his home ; thus they reminded the wanderer from his home in Israel of his banishment and solitude." How beautiful is the aspiration which these first verses contain — the desire of the holy soul to be nearer
1 66 PSALM XL//. God — the reaching out of a devout heart towards its one only true great centre ! " Like as the hart desireth the water -brooks, so longeth ray soul after Thee, God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God : when shall I come to appear before the presence of God ?" Surely there is here a direct reference to Him who said, "Whosoever thirsteth, let him come unto Me and drink." " Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again : but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst ; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life."* This He said of and to all of us; but there is one expression once used by Him of Himself, "Whose meat it was to do the will of Him that sent Him, and to finish His work," which these first verses of the 42nd Psalm more especially should remind us of. Amid the seven sayings on the Cross,
there is one related by S. John alone — the one word, as it is in the original, " I thirst." And though the great Sufferer was at that moment, no doubt, parched with the fevered thirst arising from His great and intense suffering, both of body, mind, and soul — beginning with the agony in the garden, the repeated trials, the insults, buffeting, scourging, and bearing the cross which He had undergone, and now with hands and feet pierced by the nails, on which rested the whole weight of His • S. John iv. 13, 14.
"/ THIRST." 167 emaciated person — yet that word, " I thirst," is not to be interpreted as relating to that bodily and fevered thirst. Such was just the thought, and no more, of the crowd around the cross. They at once offered to His lips a sponge full of vinegar, or sour wine, whether it were done in mercy or in derision, and He refused it. But the Lord's thirst was the earnest desire of His soul for man's salvation, just about to be accomplished by His death — the great atonement for all sin. He thirsted to " see of the travail of His soul, and to be satisfied." He thirsted for the end which was close at hand — the redemption of man — for that immediate moment when, as we so often repeat, "Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers." He thirsted " to bring many sods unto glory." He thirsted for the salvation of each one of us, giving Himself wholly for us, as He had come down from heaven to do. And so, too, of us He has said, " Blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness ; for they shall be filled ; " meaning that they who in true earnestness of heart and life seek of God both righteousness here and salvation hereafter, they shall never be disappointed. And so amid the blessings promised in the divine book
of the Kevelation of S. John it is promised, " They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more ; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of
1 68 PSALM XL//. waters : and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."* My brethren, all who shall be saved must thus have in them some measure of this reaching forth of the soul and spirit unto God Who gave it. " As the hart desireth the water-brooks : so longeth my soul after thee, God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God : when shall I come to appear before the presence of God ? " There must be in us, I say, some measure of this reaching forth of the soul unto God. The salvation of the soul, which is really the one great end we each have, or ought to have in view, will not drop down upon us like the gentle dew from heaven, coming, we know not how, unconsciously and without effort of any kind. It is true that God could, if He pleased, turn stones into bread, and raise up children unto Abraham out of the roadside stones we tread under foot. But it is not so that God deals with each of us. He has given us not only powers of mind and body, for the use of which He will one day call us to account, but He has given us a perfect free will of our own, so that we can choose evil or choose good : follow Him or rebel for a time in our weakness against Him who has made us, redeemed and sanctified us. His promise ever is, "Ask, and ye shall have ; seek, and ye shall find ; knock, and it shall be opened unto you ; " thus not having without asking, not finding without seeking, not entering in without * Rev. vii. 16, 17.
CUT OFF ALL CAUSES OF OFFE CE. 1 69 knocking. There are a hundred ways or more in which this great truth, the necessity of the soul reaching forth in us toward God, and His salvation is set before us. It is the pearl of great price, which, when we have once found, we must sell all that we have to obtain it. It is the good seed which is required to bring forth thirtyfold, or sixtyfold, or hundredfold of increase to Him ; or it is the sacrifice of the greatest treasure and gift we possess on earth, the cutting off of a right hand, the plucking out of a right eye, the excision of a right foot, if either of these cause thee to offend. Though the harvest of each year be altogether God's gift and bounty to man, yet must man labour and work and wait through winter snows and summer's sunny days, as though all were his doing and depended upon himself alone, instead of its being the case that our Father in heaven thus " crowneth the year with His goodness," and " giveth food to all flesh, because His mercy endureth for ever." Brethren, I think these thoughts, and these first two verses of this 42nd Psalm, are very appropriate for our hearts to dwell upon to-day. In the order of the Christian year, and of our church services and festivals, this is our last Sunday. A week hence and we shall begin our Prayer Book order once more, and turn to the first collect of all in the book. True, it is not the world's reckoning of time, but it is the Church's mode. Her sun is the Sun of righteousness, as He rose
170 PSALM XLII. at Christmas to shine upon this earth ; and so, as it
were, we keep Advent as a sort of dawn foretelling of His coming, just as the early dawn foretells of the sun about to rise upon the earth. We have yet four Sundays to come before the sunrise of Christmas-day. Thus all our services are planned and arranged to help us all to reach forth unto God ; to draw nearer unto Him ; to prepare ourselves to come and stand, as one day we must do, whether prepared or not, before the living God. On looking back through the fifty-two Sundays, and all the other festivals, holy days, and holy services of the seasons dying out with this day and week, how far can we truly say, speaking as it were to God Himself, Who reads our thoughts and hearts, " As the hart desireth the water-brooks, so longeth my soul after Thee, God. My soul is athirst for God, yea, even for the living God : when shall I come to appear before the presence of God ?" How blessed for us if we can truly say this to Him ! blessed indeed we are, exactly in proportion as we can truly do so. How little can many of us take up such an exalted aspiration of soul upon our lips, and utter it with truth before God ! Brethren, let us each look back a little to the Sundays we have passed, and how we have passed them. Let us be at this moment like an Israelite of old, viewing from mount Hermon the last shades and outlines of the hills, so beloved by him, which stand
A YEAR 'S SER VICES. I J I about Jerusalem ; let us be like Moses, viewing from the summit of mount Pisgah the road which he had passed, and the beautiful land spread out in the distance before him. It will do us good, brethren, thus to recall the past in all its good or evil. We may learn to do better. We may see our faults and shortcomings in some new
light. We may reach forth unto higher and better things for the time to come, and strive to be better, and to grow in grace. And if " thou art full of heaviness, my soul, and so disquieted within me, put thy trust in God, and yet thank Him who is thy help and thy God."
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