The sons of Korah were worship leaders at the Tabernacle. It was their job, particularly during time of the feasts and festivals celebrated by the people of Israel, to lead the processions in singing and worship. But during the exile of the people they were separated from the Tabernacle and the place of worship and they wrote this Psalm expressing how they missed the opportunity to worship.
They described themselves as feeling like a deer stuck in the desert desperate for a drink and afraid of the predators that were stalking them. Just like the deer was thirsty for the refreshing water so too they were desperate to have their spiritual thirst to be quenched by worshipping with the crowd. They communicate the idea that they would go to any lengths to be able to get back to the tabernacle to lead the throng of worshippers and praise God together. There are people in nations around the world where they feel the same. They have been denied the opportunity to worship and risk arrest or punishment just to be able to do so. In the west that is not often the case, rather than jump over obstacles and knock down barriers, almost any excuse is good enough to stay away. It could be too hot or too cold, the seats might be uncomfortable or the sermon too long. The songs are old, or too new, there is a good game of football to watch, or the Sunday markets are on, or we are just tired.
Where is the desperation to worship? Why is so hard to be there ahead of time? Could it be that when the people of Israel gathered it was to meet God, to have an encounter with the Almighty, while for us it to meet people, share some stories and a cup of coffee? Brother Yun a pastor in the Chinese underground church said during a trip to the west: “…It’s almost impossible for the church in China to go to sleep in its present situation. There’s always something to keep us on the run, and it’s very difficult to sleep while you’re running. If persecution stops, I fear we’ll become complacent and fall asleep.”
We no longer need to attend a building to meet with God, we are able to do that anywhere thanks to Pentecost, but there is something unique and special about meeting together and expressing our thanks and praise. When we gather do we have the sense ‘of the roar of waterfalls, his breakers and waves overwhelming us’ – indeed have we ever had that sense? Perhaps if we had then we like the sons of Korah would be desperate like the deer in the desert to have our thirst quenched. And then also like them we can ask ourselves: “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.”