As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?
It is hot out there. Like, really hot. Like, warnings on the radio and the weather app hot. Like, you can’t help but feel for everybody working outside or living in a home without air conditioning hot. It’s really, really hot.
Anyone who’s ever spent much time outdoors in weather like this can tell you how important it is to stay hydrated. They’ll tell you the warning signs of dehydration: flushed face, headache, no longer sweating. They’ll even tell you that by the time you feel thirsty, you are already becoming dehydrated. You’ve got to be drinking water long before you feel that you need it.
The ancient Israelites knew this well. In Israel, you see, there are a few rainy months when the wilderness bursts to life as dried out riverbeds are flooded with rain. During those months, everyone and everything has enough water. The rain stops, and then, well, finding enough water can get a bit dicey. Humans learned to deal with the problem by digging deep cisterns to collect water during the rainy season and portion it out through the dry season. They also dug wells and fought to keep the water for themselves.
Animals, however, didn’t fare so well as people. No deer I ever heard of thought to dig a well or store up water for the dry season. Livestock depended on the water stores of their owners, and wild animals depended on migrating or going thirsty until the next rains arrived. During the dry season in Israel, only one river and one lake remained as freshwater sources. You can imagine how every creature competed to get the water they needed, and how they longed for the rainy season when they could return to the wilderness streams.
Have you longed for God like a deer longing for water in the dry season? Most of us have, at one time or another. The writer of this psalm knew what it was like to be spiritually dehydrated, to thirst and long to see God face-to-face. Maybe the psalmist found themselves longing for God and unable to get what they needed. Or maybe the psalmist wasn’t paying attention to the encouragement to stay spiritually hydrated- to make time for prayer, worship, service, fellowship, confession, and forgiveness. We don’t know. The psalm doesn’t tell us. I’m guessing, though, that it was the second option. Most of us have lots of opportunities to be nourished by God. When we do so regularly, we are much less likely to become spiritually dehydrated.
Even when we do everything we know we should to stay close to God, to be well-hydrated in spirit, we can still find ourselves longing for God. When that happens, you should hear the words of Jesus for yourself: “I am the living water… those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
Jesus, I thank you for giving me yourself as living water. Let it nourish and sustain me in every dry and barren place. Amen.