Bread – Poem

November 21, 2016

Psalm 42

“As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God.” Ps. 42:1

Wonderful saying.  Somewhat stilted, but wonderful nonetheless.

How much better this one: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for You, O God.”  Ps. 42:1 (1984 NIV)

Just a slight change of pronouns and a reversal of the verb-noun order, and what then comes across as stilted now sounds poetic.

The first is likely a better translation of the original Hebrew; the second actually raises up my soul and makes me wonder what it is to pant for streams of living water, for God.

I just got back from hunting this weekend, where I saw two female deer (does) which were just grazing away to their hearts’ content directly underneath the deer stand where I was hiding.  It would not have taken much for me to disturb this idyllic scene.  A cough would have done it.  A whiff of aftershave would have done it.  And best (or worst) of all, a rifle shot would have done it.

Why would a deer pant for running water?  Because it was running away from danger, from fright, from fearsome things – noises, sounds, smells, the unknown, injury and death.

A deer pants after running.  So do we.

A deer knows it needs streams of water to survive and runs to it for nourishment, for strength, and for safety.  Where do we run to in the same circumstances?

It is in poetry, in the deft turn of the phrase in a mnemonic way, that we are taught, that we are encouraged, and that we take flight with our imaginations into a better place.

This Psalm is entitled “Why are you cast down, o my soul?” and it begins with poetic language that brings us from panting to the place of refreshment, rest, and restoration.

Perhaps in the deepest time of need, in the race run ragged where we are panting and striving toward streams of water, we need to remember this poetic language and let our soul pant for God.

Built into this poetic language is an image of a flowing stream.  This is an important image because flowing water is living water, which carries health and life, as opposed to stagnant waters which can hold poisons and death.

But also built into this simple poetic phrase is an image of Christ.  For Jesus says to us “If you knew the gift of God, and Who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have giving you living water.”  Jn. 4:10.

In the presence of the source of living water, as we pant for God, why is our soul cast down?  Why indeed?


© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.



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