As a Deer in Want of Water

Text Information

First Line: As a deer in want of water
Title: As a Deer in Want of Water
Language: English
Copyright: Text © 1987, CRC Publications


The anguished yet hopeful prayer of a thirsty soul to be restored to intimate fellowship with God at his temple.

Scripture References:
st. 1 = vv. 42: 1-2
st. 2 = vv. 42:3-4
st. 3 = vv. 42:5, 11; 43:5 (refrain)
st. 4 = vv. 42:6-8
st. 5 =vv. 42:9-10
st. 6=vv. 43:1-2
st. 7 = vv. 43:3-4

Psalm 42 marks the beginning of Book II of the Psalms. Exiled to the northern fringes of Israelite territory, forced by taunting enemies to reside far from the house of God (see also Ps. 63 and 84), the psalmist, who dearly loves God, grieves over feeling forgotten and rejected by God. Many throughout the ages have testified to that same sense of abandonment, described here in terms of a parching thirst for God (st. 1) and recalling past seasons of worshiping God with multitudes in the temple (st. 2). But faith revives hope in God's faithfulness (st. 3). Though overwhelmed by troubles, the exile still remembers God (st. 4) and asks that God will remember him in the face of jeering unbelievers (st. 5). The psalmist prays for vindication from enemies (st. 6) and for restoration to God's precious presence (st. 7).

Psalms 42 and 43 were originally one psalm. To honor the structure of the original, the Psalter Hymnal Revision Committee asked members Bert Polman (PHH 37) and Jack Reiffer (b. Grand Rapids, MI, 1944) to versify both psalms so they could be sung together to GENEVAN 42. As a result, Psalm 43 is the only psalm published in two settings in the psalter section of the hymnal–first as stanzas 6 and 7 (and refrain) under 42, and next as a separate entry under 43. The composite text includes several lines from the 1931 versification by Dewey Westra (PHH 98) published in earlier editions of the Psalter Hymnal.

Jack Reiffer was chair of the text subcommittee of the revision committee. A gradu¬ate of Calvin College and Seminary, he is currently pastor of the Washington, D.C., Christian Reformed Church; he has also served congregations in Chicago and Champaign, Illinois.

Liturgical Use:
Psalm 42 (with 43) is fitting as a prayer for deliverance from distress or persecution or any forced separation from God. It also expresses the church's confidence in God in the face of present or potential threats–such as Revelation depicts–to its communion with God. Stanzas 1 and 3 serve well at the beginning of worship.

--Psalter Hymnal Handbook



Louis Bourgeois (PHH 3) composed or adapted this tune for Psalm 42 for the Genevan psalter. The 1564 harmonization by Claude Goudimel (PHH 6) originally placed the melody in the tenor. An alternate harmonization with descants by Johann Crüger (PHH 42) can be found opposite 41 in the Psalter Hymnal.…

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Psalter Hymnal (Gray) #42


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