Psalm 63 is so precious to me. Do you know why?
Because I know what it is like to be in a spiritual desert. Most of us do, don’t we?
David wrote this Psalm when he was running for his life. A refugee in the middle of the wilderness, hiding in caves. He had enemies that wanted nothing more than to see him dead. Sometimes he didn’t know which friends he could trust and which he couldn’t.
Sometimes I feel like Satan is after me like that. Sometimes I feel like he wants nothing more than to see me dead, or at least spiritually immobilized.
And in the middle of the desert where David was living perpetually hungry and thirsty, his thirst drove him to God.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my flesh longs for you; my soul faints for you as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
He longs for more than just facts about God — He longs for the near presence of God. Facts about God apart from His presence are lifeless and dry. Theology that is satisfying is infused with the nearness of God. David’s physical thirst reminded him of how thirsty he was for God. He was desperate. As desperate as a parched person who will drink from the most disgusting water sources simply because they are wet. I think of the American soldiers forced to march 65 miles on Bataan to prison camps during WWII. They were forced to march day and night without stopping, or eating or drinking, and they were immediately shot if they fell out of line. But some of them were so thirsty that they jumped out of line at the first sight of water because their thirst had driven them crazy. They were shot in an attempt to get a drink from pools of water that were rank from animal waste and stagnation. How many of us have ever wanted God that desperately? God is the Fountain of living waters, not some stagnant pool, and He invites us to come and drink without fear of retribution. When was the last time we would have done anything to have more of Him?
The amazing thing is that David doesn’t end with his desperation. He offers the response of his godly heart to his thirst for God.
“So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory.”
His response to his longing for God was to gaze on God. He went to the place where the presence of God was most likely to be found — the sanctuary. But David was in the wilderness! How could he go to the tabernacle when he was running for his life? The answer — David’s own life had become a sanctuary. His heart was directed toward God so that it became a place where God could draw close. Do our hearts have that same sense of sweet God-ward direction? Oh I want mine to!! David beheld God’s power and glory. He remembered the way that God had powerfully worked in his life to display His own glory — and then he spent time gazing, meditating on God’s glory.
That gaze revealed a singular truth to David that caused his heart to praise.
“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands.”
David spends time gazing and gazing on God’s power and glory, and what does he come away with? GOD LOVES HIM. God’s glory and power don’t alarm him; they showcase God’s love to him! What kind of love? One that is better, of higher quality, sweeter, more excellent than life itself. And suddenly he can do nothing but praise. Hand raising is biblical! It is a response of worship to seeing God for who He truly is. To gaze on God’s power and glory for ourselves, we lift our eyes to the cross — where infinite power and glory are displayed in the defeat of hell and death, all out of LOVE! Beholding God is where we begin seeing Him for who He truly is, and seeing Him engenders praise. What a new way of reading the Bible! When we see God in His Word, we begin to desire His presence, to see His power and glory; and that vision translates into praise. Do we want to praise Him? If not, it is probably because we haven’t spent enough time looking at Him, seeing Him, worshipping Him. It is probably because my vision of God needs to be adjusted to be more in line with Scripture.
Then David changes his metaphor from thirst to hunger.
“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night,”
After weeks in a cave in the middle of a desert, I am sure he had days when he didn’t know where his next meal would come from. But even while the pit in his stomach grew, his soul sighed with the deep satisfaction. Meditating on God was a feast to David’s soul. In the middle of the night, when for whatever reason he was awake, he shifted his gaze to God. He turned his anxiety and hunger and pain into satisfaction and praise by thinking on God. I know there are nights when all of us lay awake anxious, sad, afraid, and longing? How often do we turn those moments into sweet meditation and joyful praise?
“for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”
David’s praise once again arises from God’s character and work on his behalf. David had such an unshakable confidence that he was being held in the loving protection of God. God’s shelter and support let songs of joy flow from him in the middle of the desert, in the middle of his race for his life. He was confident that God was on his side, helping him, protecting him, upholding him. How much more should we have that same confidence when God has explicitly promised those things to us and secured them with the death of his Son? God always over-delivers on His promises. And when we think about how extravagant those promises are, we have every reason to hope in Him! David was clinging to God, but realized at the same time that his security wasn’t dependent on his grip.
He ends the Psalm by talking about the way that God will utterly defeat all of his enemies. No one can stand against him because God is for him. Paul says the same thing about us in Romans 8:32 — “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
You know why we feel so discouraged so often? Because so many times in the desert, we don’t run to the sanctuary. I have found that so often my first response is to turn to the world instead. So thirsty, I run to the world to alleviate my thirst rather than looking to the glory and power and beauty of Christ. It is the same thing that Jeremiah talked about, “My people have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters and have hewn out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13). The devastating result is that the world dulls my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and makes it harder to see the beauty and satisfaction of Christ, the only thing that can truly satisfy me. I feast on the world, and in doing so forfeit my only chance to find true satisfaction and true life.
The solution: the same solution for every spiritual ill. Look to Jesus. Run to Jesus.
“Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life”