As we get older, there is a tendency to reflect on our accomplishments and our mistakes. I think it is easier to see mistakes and regret them when you have several decades of accomplishments to weigh them against. One of the things that older people seem to have more of than younger people is insight, the ability to look at outcomes and determine why they happened.
In David’s later years, he saw that his sin with Bath-sheba had caused many things to happen that he hadn’t expected. Looking at sin as a disease, David knew that he needed healing or eventually it would kill him. David prayed, “LORD, be merciful to me: heal my soul; for I have sinned against thee” (Psalm 41:4).
One of the meanings of the word translated soul is vitality (5315). David said, “The LORD will strengthen him upon the bed of languishing. Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness” (Psalm 41:3). David was confined to his bed as a woman when she is menstruating. David was experiencing weakness that he felt was associated with sexual impurity.
The Hebrew word raphah means to heal. It represents a restoring to normal, “an act which God typically performs” (7495). David’s request for God to heal his soul was motivated by David’s understanding that he needed to be transformed or turned back to the way he was before he sinned against God. David’s life was no longer filled with happiness and joy. He could not get things back on track as he once had.
Thinking about his many accomplishments, David said, “When I remember these things, I pour out my soul in me: for I had gone with the multitude, I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holyday” (Psalm 42:4). David knew from many years of experience that the way to fix his problem was to get right with God, to restore the relationship that brought him joy.
David’s statement in Psalm 42:1, as the deer panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God, is based on David’s awareness that fellowship with God brought refreshment to his soul. Over the years, David had been revived when he connected with the LORD and trusted him for deliverance. David concluded Psalm 42 with the questions, “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me?” (Psalm 42:11). At that point, David realized that the LORD had not left him, but was waiting for David to turn to him for help. David’s belief in God was the real issue. David said, “Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
The word translated health is yeshuw’ah. It means deliverance or salvation and is a synonym for the word yasha’, which means to be saved (3467). The name Jesus is a Greek form of the word yeshu’ah indicating that David was looking to his Messiah for restoration of health to his soul. The word countenance refers to the face or the look on one’s face (6440). David may have been thinking about the time when he would see his Savior face to face and would praise him for his gift of salvation and the completed work that would provide deliverance from his sin.