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A Longing Fulfilled

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Scripture Reading

The Word of God, in Psalm 42 reads as follows:
Psalm 42 NIV84
For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. 1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 4 These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng. 5 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the Lord directs his love, 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 go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” 10 My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” 11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Introduction

The human heart is one that longs for contentment and peace. We strive in this world to be at peace, to have a sense of peace in our hearts. This is true of all people. They are all looking for happiness and contentment, but usually in different places.
One early church father wrote: “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
In this Psalm that we have just read, we find the author of the Psalm speaking about his own longing for God. The particular situation of the Psalmist was that he was exiled far away from Jerusalem. He was not in the place where God dwelt among the Israelites, in the temple in Jerusalem.
But just this being away from the Jewish place of worship, led the Psalmist to lament, and to remember the pleasantness to be able to go with God’s people to worship, and most importantly, to be in the presence of God. That was his great desire.
As we look a little more closely at the words of this Psalm, we see firstly…

1. An Expression of Longing (vv.1-3)

He begins in verse 1 with the words:
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.”
Now the situation that the Psalmists found himself in as he wrote these words about him panting after God may be different to any specific situation that we may find ourselves in. And yet, the Psalm resonates with us because there are those times that we feel our own hearts yearning for the presence and nearness of the Lord.
We gather today in memory of our dear sister Elizabeth, who was one who herself longed for Christ. Many were the trials of her life. Many were the difficulties that she faced. Many and varied were the struggles that she had to endure. But she had come to realise that the satisfaction that her soul needed, even in this trying world, was to be found in Christ alone.
The Psalmist as he writes here, continues in verse 2 with these words...
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?””
This was the cry of one who felt what it was to be separated from God, and under difficult trials. The Psalmist, being in a distant place, away from the place of worship of God’s people, felt that weight of separation.
Now, we must recognise that God is in all places. In Psalm 139:7-10, we read...
Psalm 139:7–10 NIV84
7 Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? 8 If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. 9 If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, 10 even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.
And so God was certainly not limited to a physical place. And yet, the writer of Psalm 42 knew that there was a particular joy in being with the people of God and worshiping together at this place of worship. And he sensed the distance of being separated in some manner from God.
As we gather today and remember the life of Elizabeth, we know that she loved Christ, and she knew that His presence was with her in a special, having repented of sin and placed her faith in Christ as Lord and Saviour.
And yet, as she lived her life with her own various struggles and trials, there was that longing for a greater sense of that nearness to Christ.
A couple of weeks ago, I visited Elizabeth when she was really not well, just after one of her doctors visits. She so gladly recounted the story of her coming to Christ, and becoming a member of the church at Emmanuel Baptist. One could see the joy on her face as she spoke of these things.
But even this being so, she longed to be back with the people of God here, meeting with them in worship. She felt the longing within her to be with God’s people, at this time when it was not possible.
She too asked the question: “When can I go and meet with God?”
She too had tremendous struggles, now even culminating in the sickness and suffering within her physical body in a very acute way. She too, in many respects, had her own tears for her food. Such was the struggle that she faced.
Pause
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But we must note that as the Psalmist continues here, he offers up...

2. A Remembrance of Praise (vv.4-6)

He writes in verse 4...
“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.”
He remembers these great processions of the people of God as they would take the pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to worship God together. These were times of great celebration and joy. These were times where God’s people would unite together and would sing songs in great jubilation as they headed towards the place of worship.
The Psalmist writes here of the shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
What a picture of joy is in the mind of the Psalmist. What a joy it is for the people of God, even for those who are loved by Christ and are in Christ, to worship God and sing praises to Him.
1 Peter 1:8 NIV84
8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy,
Indeed, for those who are believers in Jesus Christ, the praise that we have for God is rooted in the gracious work that has been done for us in Christ.
During much of the lockdown period, the church felt the burden of being away from the gathering of the people of God, and being away from the joyous celebration of Christ as we would worship God together in joyful songs of praise!!
Certainly we are glad that we’re able to meet again now, albeit in limited fashion. But many are not able to be together again, due to health risks.
As I visited with Elizabeth, she just expressed to me the longing that she had to be back again with her family.
The church family.
Her brothers and sisters in Christ.
She too remembered how she used to gather with the people of God in praise and worship of His holy name.
But she had to echo the words of the Psalmist in verse 5 and 6...
Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.” (Psalm 42:4–6, NIV84)
Sometimes that separation from the people of God, being away from the place of worship, creates within one a deep longing, and certainly a greater appreciation of the joy that it is to be together with God’s people and worship Him.
The worship of God is the delight of His people. We are those who worship Him together in unity.
That said, we know that remembering and longing for the worship of God with His people does not remove from His people their present trials and struggles...
In verse 7, there is...

3. An Acknowledgement of Affliction (v.7)

“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:7, NIV84)
The Psalmist is saying here that struggles and difficulties that he now faces are very real, and threaten to overwhelm him. The image here is that of the waters of the Jordan river tossing and pounding up against, and rolling over the rocks of the river.

Here is the picture of all that is overwhelming: his footing gone, and wave after wave submerging him.

The waves of trouble and affliction were upon him, and it felt almost overwhelming. Sometimes, the trials of this life come in such fashion upon us, even upon the people of God. Sometimes the storms rage and batter us, and one thing after the next seems to want to submerge us and drown out even our cries for mercy.
We are reminded of the words of Christ our Lord...
John 16:33 NIV84
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The sufferings and afflictions of the Psalmist were real, but so was his acknowledgement of the steadfast love of God through that trial...
And so we see in verses 8-10...

4. A Cry for Mercy (v.8-10)

The Psalmist says, firstly...
“By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life.” (Psalm 42:8, NIV84)
Even as he faced the afflictions in his own situation, the Psalmist clung on to the truth that God’s love is unfailing. He knew that God could issue a decree, a command, and His situation would change in an instant.
In Psalm 71:3, we read the words of Asaph...
Psalm 71:3 NIV84
3 Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go; give the command to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress.
There is only one deliverer. There is only one that can save from the trials and tribulations of this life. There is only one that is an ever-present help in trouble. There is only one who is mighty to save, who is able to redeem us and save us from the consequences of sin.
That is the Lord!
Thus the Psalmist cries out...
“I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?”” (Psalm 42:9–10, NIV84)
Here are very real and heart-wrenching cries proceeding from the lips of a man who trusted in God.
Trust in God does not mean in this world that we face no suffering and tribulation. Difficulties, pain, suffering and heartache in this world are not an indication of the absence of God, but rather they are an indication of the presence of sin in the world.
But that doesn’t just lead the writer here to a stoic response, where he just resigns himself to the reality of pain.
No, he cries out!!
Note, that he refers to God as His rock. God is the place of refuge for him. God is the place of hiding. God is the place where he knows he can remain firm and steadfast in a world of uncertainty.
But even with this knowledge, he senses the separation from God. He feels the pain of his afflictions.
And so He cries out to God. He is living with a heavy burden, where he groans under the weight of his afflictions. He lives with a very real awareness of his oppression by the enemy.
He even goes as far as to say that his bones suffer mortal agony. What a picture of suffering.
Again, we must acknowledge that suffering is not a demonstration of the absence of God, or an indication that God does not exist, or does not care. God is gracious and loving. He is merciful and kind. Our trust must always be in our rock and our redeemer.
Richard Sibbes said:
"The winter prepares the earth for the spring; so do sanctified afflictions prepare the soul for glory." (Richard Sibbes)
As a person faces such suffering and pain in this world, very often it does lead them to cry out for God to deliver. Elizabeth, particularly in the last few days of her own suffering in this life, longed all the more for her redeemer to bring final redemption. She was suffering, and in that suffering, longed to have the pain and heartache and the struggle come to an end.
But even through this, she too expressed her hope, as does the Psalmist in verse 11...

5. An Expression of Hope (v.11)

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” (Psalm 42:11, NIV84)
He knew that he would yet praise God.
Elizabeth knew that she would yet praise God. Her hope was fixed not on a deliverance in this life, but a deliverance through entry into eternal life. Her hope was in Jesus Christ, that Christ was a perfect Saviour, that came to rescue and redeem imperfect, indeed highly sinful people.
Elizabeth knew that she needed such a redeemer. And she had placed her trust in Him.
One puritan wrote these words:
“I lament that I am so earthly-minded and think so little of my heavenly home. I am so unthankful for God’s providence and fatherly corrections here on earth. Alas! I am altogether a wretch, earthly and unthankful for the corporal benefits of health, riches, friends, fame, and wisdom. I do not appreciate my Father’s heavenly benefits, or Christ Jesus, or the promises of the Spirit, or the gospel, yes, and even glory and heaven itself. I am proud in prosperity and forget God, growing secure and careless. I am impatient under the cross and too often worry about my disappointments. O dear Father, forgive me for my unthankfulness, the love of the world, and contempt of all of your heavenly benefits. Grant me your Holy Spirit to illuminate the eyes of my mind with the light and living knowledge of your presence, power, wisdom, and goodness. Inflame my affections, that I may desire nothing on earth but you, and to be present with you. I pray, give me these things in your good time.” (John Bradford, Quoted by Richard Rushing. Voices from the Past (Kindle Locations 2684-2690). The Banner of Truth Trust.)
We remember today the life of a beloved sister in Christ, now departed to be with Him. Her longing was to know the presence of the Lord. Her desire was to be with Him.
Dear friends, her longing has been fulfilled. There is no longer pain, suffering, heartache, disease, wasting away of the physical body.
Instead, she now joins in with the myriads of saints through all of history who have gone before her, worshiping God in joyous celebration!!
She is with Christ.
As I thought about her life, and her current situation, I was reminded of the words of Paul:
2 Corinthians 4:16–18 NIV84
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
We thank God for our sister now with him. Her light and momentary afflictions have achieved for her an eternal glory that far outweighs the afflictions that she faced.
In such a time, we need to all ask ourselves, where is my trust? Where is my mind set upon? Where is my heart grounded?
Are you longing for Christ, and to be in His presence? Is this true of you.
Can you say, and do you say with the Psalmist: “As the deer pants for streams of living water, so my soul for you, O God?”
Christ has said, come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. That rest is found through repentance of sin, and trust in Christ as the perfect Saviour.
Are you resting in Christ?
Are you looking forward to being with Him?
Isaiah 55:6 NIV84
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.
May it be that you call upon His name while he may be found.
And if you are in Christ, keep your eyes fixed on the prize. No matter the suffering you face today, the reward will far outweigh that!
Praise God.
Amen!
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