As the deer pants [longingly] for the water brooks,
So my [a]soul pants [longingly] for You, O God. – Psalm 42:1
THERE is something to be lamented in this state of mind, for if the psalmist had maintained unbroken communion with his God, he would not have been so much panting after Him as enjoying Him. It is deeply to be deplored that we who sometimes bask in the sunshine of God’s countenance, cannot live so as always to enjoy it. Why do we wander? Why do we grieve His Holy Spirit? Why do we turn aside from God, our exceeding joy? Why do we provoke Him to jealousy, and cause Him to make us grope in darkness, and sigh out of a lonely and desolate heart? There is much of an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; if therefore we can join in the language of the text, we must not too much congratulate ourselves, for though it is a sign of divine grace to pant after God as the deer pants for the waterbrooks, yet it is an equally certain sign of a need of more grace, and the loss of a privilege which we should always strive to possess. We are yet but poor in spiritual things when we might be rich; we are thirsting when we might put flagons to our lips, and at the same time there is very much which is commendable in the desire expressed in the text; the insatiable desire which burned in the psalmist’s heart is a heavenly flame enkindled from above. If I have not my Lord in near and dear communion, it is at least the next best thing to be unutterably wretched until I find Him; if I do not sit at His banquets, yet blessed are they who do hunger and thirst after righteousness. If my beloved is not in my embrace, yet so long as I am not contented without Him, as long as I sigh, and cry, and follow hard after Him, I may be assured that I am in the possession of His love, and that before long I shall find Him to the joy of my soul. – Spurgeon
He saith not, after my former dignity and greatness, before Absalom disturbed me, and drove me out (though he could not but be sensible of such a loss; we know what miserable moans Cicero made when sent into banishment; how impatient Cato and many others were in like case, so that they became their own deathsmen), but after thee, Lord, and the enjoyment of thy public ordinances; from which I am now, alas, hunted and hindered. Amo te Domine plus quam mea, meos, me (Bern.). After that God’s Holy Spirit hath once touched a soul it will never be quiet until it stands pointed Godward. – John Trapp Commentary
Clearly, because of the obvious analogies, thirst is a prominent theme of the Bible. The term thirst or thirsty, etc., is found 57 times in the NASB. The word “drought” referring to a scarcity of water in the land and conditions that cause great thirst is used eight times. But in addition, three terms that refer to the arid and dry portions of the Middle East, the words desert, wilderness, and Negev (the wilderness or desert to the south of Palestine) are used altogether nearly 300 times. While these terms generally refer to specific locations, they are often used with the spiritual connotation of spiritual drought and barrenness.