The God Who Is Near

February 12, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: 2 John, 3 John, Jude, Psalm 42, Ecclesiastes 11.


Psalm 42 comes in three parts: two statements of woe, and a refrain. It is an interesting open to the second of five “books” that make up the Psalms, and the first of the psalms of the sons of Korah. The Psalm includes many of the most evocative images in the whole book, and many of those we quote most often:

Psalm 42:1:

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
    so pants my soul fo ryou, O God.

Psalm 42:5 (also 11, which repeeats it):

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

Psalm 42:7:

Deep calls to deep
    at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
    have gone over me.

The Psalm is true to life, evocative, and profoundly moving to me. So often we confront a world in which it seems that all God’s waves have gone over us. Yet the Psalm teaches us both the right response to such circumstances (“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him”) but also about who God is. As I have noted before, the Psalms are not merely our response to God: they are also his inspired revelation of himself.

He is the God upon whom we may call in such times. He is the one who “commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with [us]” (verse 7). He is the God of our lives (verse 7 again). He is the one who alone can quench the thirst of our souls. It is his presence that will satisfy us, and nothing else. Being removed from him is death to us, though we often forget it in the callousness of life in a dead world (verses 1–2). He is the God who made and owns the waterfalls and the sea and all the lands (verses 6–7). He is the God who calls his people to go with glad shouts and songs of praise, keeping festival (verse 4). He is the God who knows our tears, even when it seems he does not, for he is the God who has shared our tears.

For the author(s) of this Psalm, God’s salvation remained far off in many ways. For us, God’s salvation has come, and we participate in him and partake of him. It is not only that God has given us salvation; it is that God is our salvation, and for us that salvation has become quite specific. He is Jesus, the Messiah, the anointed king who does justice and righteousness and peace on the earth. When the enemies of God’s people taunt and say, “Where is your God?” (verses 3, 10), and when our lives are filled with tears and mourning (verses 3, 9), we know where our God is. He is enthroned; and seated at the right hand of that throne; and enthroned in our hearts. He is in all and through all and over all. He is near to us, even in the times when he is silent and seems far away.

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

Amen.