An Exile's Longing for Zion.
To the chief musician, for performance in the liturgical part of the Temple-services, Maschil, a didactic poem, for the sons of Korah, written by some member of this Levitical family, or organization, 1 Chron. 6, 22-32, belonging to the Kohathite division of the tribe of Levi. Korah himself had perished in the punishment which followed his revolt, Num. 16, but his sons had not been included in the judgment, Num. 26, 11. Their descendants were afterward distinguished for their poetical and musical ability, eleven hymns of the psalter being credited to their authorship. They wrote altogether in the style of David, with a fervent love for the Sanctuary of the Lord. V. 1. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, with an intense desire, with an overwhelming sense of want, so panteth my soul after Thee, O God, who is often set forth as a spring of living water for the refreshment of the exhausted. V. 2. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God, the Source of all true life, who alone is able to restore the soul which finds itself in the depths of persecution, misery, and sorrow on account of sin. When shall I come and appear before God? in the regular acts of worship, at the times when all the faithful of Israel were required to come to the central Sanctuary, before the Lord, Ex. 23, 17; 34, 23. V. 3. My tears have been my meat, his substitute for food, his daily portion, day and night, while they, the sneering enemies, continually say unto me, Where is thy God? a question which, of course, implied that God had forsaken him, that he was foolish for placing his confidence in Jehovah. V. 4. When I remember these things, recalling the festive processions in which he has taken part, I pour out my soul in me, permitting it to dissolve in the pain which was filling him with misery; for I had gone with the multitude, it had been his custom to take his place in the procession, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, singing psalms of thanksgiving, with a multitude that kept holy-day. This detailed picturing of the happiness of the past increased both his pain at being deprived of its pleasures and his longing to experience it once more. But in the midst of his complaint the inspired poet stops to admonish his fainting soul. V. 5. Why art thou cast down, bowed to the ground, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted, full of unrest and despondency, in me? No matter, however, what the affliction may be, there is one certain comfort. Hope thou in God, waiting steadfastly and confidently for His help; for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance, the believer's faith trusting in a complete deliverance, holding the firm conviction that God's face would again be turned to Him in mercy. But a reaction once more sets in; there is an ebb, as well as a flow, of the tide of his joyful spirits. V. 6. O my God, my soul is cast down within me, in utter dejection; therefore, namely, to find new comfort in spite of this feeling of hopelessness, will I remember Thee, his thoughts going back to the Sanctuary of Jehovah, from the land of Jordan, from the country east of Jordan, where the exiled poet was sojourning, and of the Hermonites, the hills connected with Mount Hermon of the Antilebanon range, from the hill Mizar, in whose neighborhood he was making his temporary home. V. 7. Deep calleth unto deep, with the confused noise of deep waters in mighty agitation, at the noise of Thy waterspouts, when floods or cataracts of water come like a deluge; all Thy waves and Thy billows are gone over me, the floods of his sorrow, as sent by God, overwhelmed him. But even while the poet voices his complaint, he once more gains the proper trust in Jehovah. V. 8. Yet the Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime, a morning of salvation following the night of sorrow, and in the night His song shall be with me, the excitement of his joy keeping him awake to intone psalms of praise to Jehovah, his state of mind being one of constant happiness, and my prayer unto the God of my life, who does not deliver him to the pains of death. V. 9. I will say unto God, my Rock, a specimen of his prayer being given here, Why hast Thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning, in deep grief and sorrow, because of the oppression of the enemy, with its excruciating pain? V. 10. As with a sword in my bones mine enemies reproach me, with cruel taunts; while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God? Their mockery is blasphemous, for they not only decry the hope of the believer as foolish, but deny the very existence of a God who would help the afflicted in his troubles. And so, for the second time, the psalmist chides his despondent soul, v. 11. Why art thou cast down, O my soul, and why art thou disquieted, tossed and agitated like an angry sea, within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise Him, who is the Health of my countenance, his Help and Deliverance, who cheers him and drives away the clouds of sorrow from his face, and my God, to whom he clings despite the enemies' mockery, refusing to have doubt take the place of faith. Temptations caused by times of trouble can be overcome only by the believer's laying hold of God's grace as his one hope of salvation.