My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God? (Psalms 42:2)
The 42nd Psalm begins the second division of the Book of Psalms. From here through chapter 72, the psalms correspond to the book of Exodus. The major theme and key word for this section is deliverance.
There are so many great verses in this chapter that it is hard to pick a single one for fear you have done injustice to the rest. However, like most of the Bible, each verse is its own well of depth, so we must choose for the short term which one to discuss. I choose to concentrate on verse 2 which contains one of the beautiful expressions in the Bible. The psalmist said, “My soul thirsteth for God, the living God…” You might suppose “the living God” would not be an often repeated phrase in scripture for surely nothing is clearer than the fact we serve a living God. The first chapter of the Bible does not announce the existence of the living God, rather it is assumed. God is written all over the heavens, so do we really need a chapter that explains there is a living God?
Going back to the thought of deliverance, this phrase “the living God” appears in the book of Joshua as the Israelites were ready to cross the Jordan River to attack the fortified city of Jericho. This is the point where they would begin the conquest of Canaan. In front of them was their first obstacle. How were they going to get an army across the river when it was at flood stage? In chapter 3 verse 10, Joshua explained that they were about to see the evidence of the living God, or as a direct quote, “the living God is among you.” The evidence was that when the priests that carried the Ark of the Covenant stepped their feet into the waters of the Jordan River, the river would immediately stop flowing and they would cross on dry ground. This was no small feat—a miracle at any time—but especially since at this time of year the river overflowed its banks. A torrent of water cascaded down the channel making it impossible to cross. To stop the water at their crossing point, meant that God must also stop all the tributaries from flowing as well. In the 16th verse, this is what happened. Joshua said, “The waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho.”
The significance of the phrase “the living God” in Joshua is that they were about to confront an enemy that also had their gods. The enemy was fortified and certainly more warlike than the children of Israel. One of the fears of Israel when they attempted to conquer Canaan was their chariots of iron and their plenitude of horses. Israel did not have these and were at a great disadvantage—except for the living God. These were no match for the living God. The gods of the Canaanites were dead gods of stone and their horses were mere creatures that God created with the spoken word. He could destroy them all with the same.
This is the kind of genuine deliverance that causes this section of Psalm 42 to correspond to the theme of this division. Trust in the living God is our great hope. The living God ensures the reality of our faith. This is the God that we shall see—as Job said, “In my flesh, shall I see God” (Job 19:26). He ever lives and is working in the world to bring us to Him.
The psalmist said in this verse that his soul thirsted for God. How do we satisfy this thirst? There is only one way—we drink from the wells of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said: “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 7:37-38). Living waters from the living God—what can be more satisfying?
Pastor V. Mark Smith