As yearns the deer

Psalm 42 is a lament of a Levite in exile and yearns for the divine presence that Israel experienced in the temple liturgy of Jerusalem before the exile. The psalmist sings of hope in the midst of sadness: 'Why so downcast, my soul, why do you sigh within me? Put your hope in God, I shall praise him yet, my saviour, my God.' The psalm begins, 'as a doe longs [female deer] for running streams, so longs my soul for you, my God.'
The psalm's lament is an acknowledgment that political and social disaster has struck the people and the land. The image of a deer gasping for drink and searching for water to keep alive is a poignant and powerful one. It is also an absolute - there is nothing else as important as finding water - everything else is relegated to second place.

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