“As the deer pants for the water brooks… ”Psalm 42, Son’s of Korah
Panting. The dry swallow of an animal in search of water, tongue lolling in the mouth, perhaps running as it catches a scent of moisture, bounding through thicket, urged on by a desperate longing. An untamed instinct, pushing itself to find what it needs to stay alive.
The son’s of Korah chose the word pant to show future generations a posture of humility in approaching God. Though the word isn’t mentioned, few passages drip with more of it.
If your surname was Korah in the time of King David, anyone who found out might respond, “You mean of the Korah clan?” The name was an emblem of shame, etched on the collective memory of a people. The Korahites had perished in rebellion as the earth yawned, and took them down, wide-eyed, kith, kin, all including the kitchen sink. The music aficionado’s of Psalm 42, who served the royal court, must have felt the tremors of their hertitage, while facing the present—the leers of the self righteous, and a sense that a wide margin gaped between respect and infamy that could never be closed. A reputation is a taskmaster, not easily retired from the name assigned. This could be a reason why they used the word pant. Out of their desperate cries, we make the connection between thirst and prayer.
“…So my soul pants for You, O God.”
This bridge from poetic simile to personal connection shows us the best way to drink from His well of living water.
We all suspect that an occasional courtesy call won’t be enough to plumb the depths of God’s deepest place. Yes, love waits for us, and nothing else is required but faith to enter in. But have we become in our daring, a little too chummy, a bit too comfortable with God, who in times past treated rebellion with such swift justice?
By contrast, the son’s of Korah came to God with open hands, in a desperate groveling kind of motivation. Perhaps they knew if they ever forgot how much they needed God, their hearts would turn, naturally, all too easily toward rebellion. Their ancestors had modeled it. They had been reminded of it nearly every day of their lives. Their ancestral sin had stood the test of time, and was ready to pounce, given even the slightest excuse. From out of this base of awareness, and brokenness, the son’s of Korah have written some of the richest words expressed to God found in Scripture.
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.”
When our soul ceases to thirst, that is the first moment our hearts are open to rebellion. But the heart that knows how to pant, that visceral untamed cry of the deepest longing, will in the end find the well of living water. The waters at this depth are cold, filtered by the earth to purity, sparkling clean. Jesus promised this living water would gush from within, as we trust Him.
Do you come to God in prayer with this kind of soul thirst? There is simply no other way to hear the Voice, except through the broken cries of our parched selves. This kind of approach is not Sunday school rated. For it belies a man to offer one hand of obedience to God, while hiding a dagger of rebellion in the other. I’m the first to admit, I’ve done that. This Korah spirit, this pant, stretches both hands out, like I used to see on the subways of NYC, where the homeless panned for hand-outs. Most had shucked decorum, and with nothing but unfiltered desire, stretched both hands out to either side of the isle. ‘Could someone please drop a coin into this trembling hand?’
This is spiritual panting, the first step into the presence of God. It’s uncouth, unscripted, an untamed animal yearning. The well of living water waits for dry swallow Christians, those who would admit need, and pant as their spiritual senses discern the well of living water, close by, ever close and offered to all.