Deep calls to Deep
“Deep calls to Deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.”
– Psalm 42:7
Deep Calls to Deep…?
I’ve often wondered what the phrase “deep calls to deep” might mean in Psalm 42. We know that it comes to us in the context of someone who is suffering some sort of separation from the Lord (v.1-2), and that the suffering they are enduring is somehow from the Lord (“your waterfalls…your breakers…your waves…”). Some commentators say that the two “deeps” in this passage are poetic reference to the waters of the psalmist’s suffering. I’ve also heard that one deep is the heart of the sufferer and the other is the heart of God, and the sufferer is calling to God in his anguish. I think this second option is close to the point, but can we really refer to our heart/soul as a “deep” equal to that of God Himself?
I think it’s important to realize that, ultimately, all of scripture is pointing to Christ and should be read through the lens of Christ crucified and risen. With that reality in mind, we need to come to this (and every) psalm with the question, “how does this show me Christ? What does this tell me about Christ? How is this hymn being sung about, or to, or by Jesus Christ?” Once we begin thinking in this way (which is warranted from Luke 24:44-45 and many other places in scripture) I believe we may find an answer to the echoing deeps in this verse.
Reverberations of the Trinity
Where do we see the man Christ Jesus suffering and cut off from God? Where do we see Him in anguish with waterfalls and breakers crashing over Him? We see it at the cross. And there, as God the Son hangs in the flesh on the cross, do we hear anything that might be the cry of deep to deep? I believe we do:
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'”
– Matthew 27:46
God incarnate was exalted on the cross and there He bore the waterfall of God’s wrath and was crushed in the breakers of His holy anger. And as those searing waves crashed over and shattered His sin-bearing soul, the infinite Deep of His own heart cried out in dereliction to the infinite Deep of the Father’s heart. Oh how deep the reverberations of divine anguish were on Calvary! The Son cries to the Father, and the Spirit – the bond of their union – resonates with the grace-communicating harmony of mingled love and wrath.
The cross, I believe, is the fulfillment of these words in Psalm 42. The cross is where Deep Heart calls to Deep Heart at the roaring of waterfalls and waves of Holy anger against human sin.
Deep calls to Deep……The Psalmist had no idea how deep! He had no idea what beauty he was penning, what “strange sad things” – and yet things infinite in beauty and glory and joy as well! – he was foretelling with these words. Oh Glory to God! Deep calls to Deep as the Son is shattered in love on the cross….shattered so that all things might be mended in and for Him…shattered so that reality itself might be harmonized with the tune of God’s Trinitarian glory….shattered so that He might be raised the first of the New Creation, preeminent over all things and the nexus of reality (Colossians 1:18-20).
A Song in the Night
And the Psalmist goes on to echo the heart of Christ when he says in verse 8:
“By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me…”
And what is the song? Verse 9, “Why have you forgotten me?…” Christ’s cry of dereliction is His God-given “song in the night.” The songs God gives His children to sing will not always be comfortable or buoyant….but they will all end in a deep joy that will reach backward and make even the bitter sections integral pieces of their beauty. This is even so for Christ’s cry on the cross. Yes, it was a cry of bitter anguish, but it was also – and ultimately – a cry of faith, a cry of hope. How can that be? Because when Jesus says “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” He is not merely venting His suffering, He is also quoting the first lines of Psalm 22….and though that Psalm begins with dismay, it ends in victory. And Jesus knew this when He quoted it.
So, even as “deep calls to deep” and the Son cries out in dereliction to the Father, there is, running beneath beneath His words like a subterranean river, the assurance that is echoed throughout Psalm 42: “I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.” And because Jesus bore these waterfalls of wrath in our place, and yet rose again to rejoice in His Father, we too can have the same confidence; we too have a “song in the night” that will one day crescendo into an anthem of praise and joy. Because, for our sake, Deep called to Deep.