“As the Deer Panteth for the Water”

"For He satisfied the longing soul, and filleth the hungry soul with goodness" (Ps. 107.9)

     INTRO.: A song which reminds us how the Lord satisfies the longing soul and fills the hungery with His spiritual goodness is "As The Deer Panteth for the Water" (#589 in Hymns for Worship Revised). The text, taken from Psalm 42:1-2, was written and the tune (As the Deer) was composed both by Martin (Marty) J. Nystrom, who was born on Oct. 17, 1956, at Seattle, WA, to Don and Elajean Nystrom. After receiving a degree in Music Education from Oral Roberts University, where he sang with the World Action Singers featured on the weekly Oral Roberts telecasts, he taught public school for three years and then became director of the music department for the New York branch of Christ for the Nations, with whom he taught on praise and worship at events all over North America, as well as Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Japan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Italy, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. As a hymnwriter, he has produced over seventy songs which have been recorded, and for three years he served as Song Development Manager for Integrity Music of Mobile, AL, where it was his job to find new worship songs for the Hosanna Praise and Worship tapes.

     A resident of Kenmore, WA, with his wife Jeanne and two sons, Nathan and Benjamin, Nystrom has served as part of the worship ministry at the Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, WA. This song originated in 1981 when he was a student at Christ for the Nations Institute, and he says that it has become a reminder to him always to seek first the person of Jesus Christ. It was first published in 1984 by Maranatha! Music. Among hymnbooks published by brethren during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, the song may be found in the 1992 Praise for the Lord edited by John P. Wiegand; and the 1984 Songs of Faith and Praise edited by Alton H. Howard; in addition to Hymns for Worship Revised (not in the original edition), for which an arrangement of the tune was made by editor R. J. Stevens (b. 1927). For some reason, Hymns for Worship and Songs of Faith and Praise both have only stanzas 1 and 3, and they also use an "updated" text that alters some of the older Elizabethan style language.

     The song expresses the desire to make Christ the most important aspect of our lives.

I. Stanza 1 refers to Christ as the object of our devotion
"As the deer panteth for the water, So my soul longs after Thee;
You alone are my heart’s desire, And I long to worship Thee."
 A. Our desire for Christ is symbolized by a deer who pants for the water: Ps. 42.1
 B. Thus, our soul should long for Christ and our heart desire Him as we would thirst for water in a dry land: Ps. 63.1
 C. One way in which we fulfill this desire is by worshipping the Lord: Ps. 29.2

II. Stanza 2 refers to Christ as our Friend, Brother, and King
"You’re my friend and You are my brother Even though You are a King.
I love You more than any other, So much more than anything."
 A. Jesus Christ is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother: Prov. 18.24
 B. Yet, He is also our King: Rev. 19.16
 C. Therefore, we should love Him, as the Lord our God, more than anything: Mk. 12.29-30

III. Stanza 3 refers to Christ as the real joy giver
"I want You more than gold or silver, Only You can satisfy.
You alone are the real joy giver And the apple of my eye."
 A. The Lord, like His word, is better than silver and gold: Ps. 119.72
 B. Joy is a gift, and He is the giver of every good and perfect gift: Jas. 1.18
 C. Therefore, we should make Him the apple of our eye, which is simply a figurative expression denoting one’s favorite: Ps. 17.8

CONCL.: The chorus emphasizes that Christ alone is the source of everything that our spirits need.
"You alone are my strength, my shield, To You alone may my spirit yield;
You alone are my heart’s desire, And I long to worship Thee."
Long time readers of these hymn studies know that many modern "praise and worship songs" tend to leave me rather cold. However, this one has a rare blend of thoughtful words which are not overly repetitive and pleasant music that is not beyond the reach of the average congregation.  It is good to have brought to our minds how we should seek for the Lord in our lives "As the Deer Panteth for the Water."
     (Note: Song copyright 1984 by Maranatha! Music; words reproduced by permission)


8 thoughts on ““As the Deer Panteth for the Water”

  1. Thank you for your writings on hymns.

    I would submit to you that this song is a poorly written text and does not accurately represent the biblical text from which the first line is taken. There are plenty of other hymn texts which convey the same thoughts with good, or at least decent poetry. This song needs to be dropped.

  2. Each one is entitled to his own opinion. Of course, there are apparently a lot of people who do not agree with you. There are many songs which I do not particularly care for either, but they are quite popular. As to the song's not representing the scripture cited, it does not pretend to be an exposition of the meaning of the Psalm, but merely uses the thought of the Psalm verse both to express praise to God and reflect our dependence on Him. By the way, who has the right to decide if a hymn may be sung or if it "needs to be dropped"?Edited by hymnstudies on Aug. 31, 2009 at 9:09 AM

  3. There are numerous problems with the text of this song, but I'll only comment on one. While it's true that the song doesn't claim to be an exposition of the scripture, there is an obligation of the part of worship leaders to ensure that the songs we sing are truthful representations of the Word of God. This is precisely what Jesus meant when He said that "true worshippers worship is spirit and truth."
    The last verse of the song proclaims God to be "the apple of my eye." In the few passages in scripture where this phrase is used, the "apple of the eye" is synonymous with the pupil of the eye. The psalm writer is saying that, as we have a natural reflex action to protect our eyes, he wants to rest in the protection of the Lord. So, in this song, Nystrom is actually changing places with God. Was this intentional? Probably not. Is is heresy? That may be debateable. But, it is definitely sloppy theology.
    Sadly, this song has become as much a standard in corporate worship as anything else. There are many writers today who, in the mold of Isaac Watts and Charles Wesley, make it a priority to write songs that "handle accurately the word of truth." We need to have discernment.

  4. I appreciate all of the above comments. I think that the chief end of man is to glorify God. I think this hymn is a cry of the heart to make God the lord of our heart. Since it doesn’t claim to be strictly a scriptural commentary, I think that it can be used to glorify God. I don’t believe the song should be dropped. People may feel differently, but I do think that this song reflects a God fearing heart.

  5. Ok So seems to me that what matters is the result. I believe as it is evident in the song itself that the intent is to communicate a desire to get after God to seek Him out and the decleration that God is all that I want and desire.

    That a good message and it was communcated well in this song. Major in the major things and minor in the Minor things. small details will cause us to miss the big picture.


  6. The comment by Anonymous about the pupil of the eye and how the author is changing positions with G-D is pathetic. To read THAT into the intent of the songwriter is offensive to me. This is an incredibly worshipful song and to tear it apart as Anon has done is an effontery.

  7. I find it interesting how easy it is to criticize the work of others as Anonymous does herein. I don’t disagree that far to many contemporary songs are off-base theologically, however these provide wonderful teachable moments, while affirming that which is theologically sound.


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