Chapter 42

If the book of Psalms be, as some have styled it, a mirror or looking-glass of pious and devout affections, this psalm in particular deserves, as much as any one psalm, to be so entitled, and is as proper as any to kindle and excite such in us: gracious desires are here strong and fervent; gracious hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, are here struggling, but the pleasing passion comes off a conqueror. Or we may take it for a conflict between sense and faith, sense objecting and faith answering. I. Faith begins with holy desires towards God and communion with him, Ps. 42:1, 2. II. Sense complains of the darkness and cloudiness of the present condition, aggravated by the remembrance of the former enjoyments, Ps. 42:3, 4. III. Faith silences the complaint with the assurance of a good issue at last, Ps. 42:5. IV. Sense renews its complaints of the present dark and melancholy state, Ps. 42:6, 7. V. Faith holds up the heart, notwithstanding, with hope that the day will dawn, Ps. 42:8. VI. Sense repeats its lamentations (Ps. 42:9, 10) and sighs out the same remonstrance it had before made of its grievances. VII. Faith gets the last word (Ps. 42:11), for the silencing of the complaints of sense, and, though it be almost the same with that (Ps. 42:5) yet now it prevails and carries the day. The title does not tell us who was the penman of this psalm, but most probably it was David, and we may conjecture that it was penned by him at a time when, either by Saul’s persecution or Absalom’s rebellion, he was driven from the sanctuary and cut off from the privilege of waiting upon God in public ordinances. The strain of it is much the same with 63, and therefore we may presume it was penned by the same hand and upon the same or a similar occasion. In singing it, if we be either in outward affliction or in inward distress, we may accommodate to ourselves the melancholy expressions we find here; if not, we must, in singing them, sympathize with those whose case they speak too plainly, and thank God it is not our own case; but those passages in it which express and excite holy desires towards God, and dependence on him, we must earnestly endeavour to bring our minds up to.