Psalm 63 - All My Longing
All My Longing
“Once more the worst has brought out David’s best, in words as it did in deeds” (Kidner, p. 224). The mention of the word king in verse 11 points to a time when David was king and therefore when Absalom rather than Saul had made him take to the Wilderness of Judah on his way to the Jordan (2 Samuel 15:23). “Separated from God’s sanctuary, which was in Jerusalem, a city which David loved, David is longing for a sense of the presence of God as a friend longs for one from whom he is separated, or as a lover longs for his beloved. This makes the psalm almost a love song to God” (Boice, p. 516).
God Is My Desire
63:1 “I shall seek Thee earnestly”: Literally, this can be translated, “Early will I seek you”. To seek someone early suggests doing so earnestly. “There are three types of people in any Christian gathering. There are those who are Christians in name only. They seem to be following after God and Jesus Christ and say they are, but theirs as a false following. The second class are those who are following Jesus but are following ‘at a distance’. The third type are those who in storm and sunshine, cleave to Him and enjoy daily communion with Him. These people want God, and they want him intensely because they know that He and He alone will satisfy the deep longing of their souls. David was a person who desired God above everything else” (Boice, p. 516). Do we seek God earnestly? Or must someone prod us to pray, study the Word, share our faith and worship? Remember, David longed for God, but David didn’t have the added benefit of beholding God’s great love for us at the cross! How much more should we long for God! Compare with Psalm 42:1; Matthew 5:6. 63:1 “My soul thirsts for Thee, my flesh yearns for Thee”: By the terms “soul” and “flesh”, David is saying that his whole being, body and spirit, yearns for God. Is your mind, soul, and body restless without God? How many unbelievers are restless, ever looking for the next thrill or the next activity? “The unrecognized thirst experienced even by the unbeliever, which Jesus diagnosed in John 4:13ff” (Kidner, p. 225). “The longing of these verses is not the groping of a stranger, feeling his way toward God, but the eagerness of a friend, almost of a lover, to be in touch with the one he holds dear” (p. 224). Jesus expressed the same truth in Matthew 22:37. We can only love God as we should when we yearn for Him with our entire nature. Consider here that the “flesh” isn’t sinful, for the human body can yearn for God! “Many Christians… go through life with a low sense of spiritual vitality. Our days are largely consumed with secular pursuits. Prayer and Bible reading are one-a-day ‘fast food’ items. ‘Real life’ is not life in the Spirit, but life in the flesh. It is reaching here and there, doing this and that, and fitting in Christian activity largely to meet our social needs. We may close the night in prayer as a ‘spiritual glaze’ over our real interests, but there is no manifest heart-hunger for God” (Williams, p. 428). 63:1 “In a dry and weary land”: First, in fleeing from Absalom, David was literally in the desert. David was praying and seeking God in a cheerless and parched environment. But the implication is that the longing which this desolate spot arouses is only the surface of a much deeper desire. Does your soul feel parched, weary and dry? David yearns for God like one who thirsts for water after days in the desert. It is good to enter the “wilderness” or an“arid and desert” period of our lives. Hardship, confusion, feeling overwhelmed, and incompetent can be the start to a wonderful relationship with God. “The wilderness strips us of our defenses and reveals our vulnerability; it quiets us before God. Now we are ready to hear Him and to do battle with ourselves, and with the devil” (Williams, p. 429).
63:2 “Thus I have beheld Thee in the sanctuary”: The word “thus” infers that David had the same longing for God while worshipping Him in Jerusalem. David did not consider public worship to be a boring experience. His spiritual thirst had been quenched when he worshipped God with other believers. The word “beheld” may infer that David had seen a manifestation of God, such as when a cloud covered the tabernacle during the time of Moses (Exodus 40:34-35; see 1 Kings 8:10-11). 63:3 God’s faithfulness, His loyal love and mercy are better than physical life. Paul voiced the same attitude in Acts 20:24 and Philippians 1:21,23. “Everyone acknowledges that life is good. Therefore most of us try to hang on to life at whatever cost… For nearly everyone, life is the most precious of all possessions… In view of such great love, isn’t it strange that we spend so much time trying to find satisfaction elsewhere, even in earthly loves, and so little time seeking and enjoying the lasting love of God?” (Boice, p. 520).
I Will Praise Thee
63:3-4 “David was so abundantly satisfied with the love of God that he wanted everyone else to know about God’s love too” (Boice, p. 520). To lift up the hands or the eyes to heaven was to give the body its share in expressing worship. Lifting up the hands isn’t the only acceptable posture or the official posture when engaged in praising God in song, or prayers, but it is certainly biblical (1 Timothy 2:8). “Even if the psalmist were to endure adversity throughout the rest of his life, he commits himself to the praise of God and to a life of trust in his deliverance” (Gaebelein, p. 427).
Satisfaction in God
63:5 “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness”: David doesn’t simply want his thirst lessened, rather, he wants to find a feast in a relationship with God. To Him, God satisfied his soul as much as the richest of foods. But David is out in the wilderness and on the run when he makes this statement. How many people today are looking for the perfect worship “environment”, without realizing that the perfect worship environment is a heart which is hungering for God? Do we depend too much on external factors to make our worship meaningful? Something is wrong with my heart if I need a large congregation or a small intimate group setting to make me feel spiritual.
Remembering God’s Past Care
63:6 David reflects on God and specifically remembers how God has protected and cared for him in the past. “He remembers the Lord’s past activities and draws comfort (cf. Psalm 42:4) during the night watches when the shadows of adversity haunt him” (Gaebelein, p. 427). If David couldn’t sleep at night, then he used that time to reflect upon God and His faithfulness. “It is a good thing for us to tap into our memory of what God has done for us. Memory encourages faith and shows us the faithfulness of God in our lives” (Williams, p. 431). 63:7 “In the shadow of Thy wings I sing for joy”: Compare with 17:8; 61:3-4. God longs to shelter us and care for us (Matthew 23:37). David, like a little bird, had stayed close to God’s sheltering care and protection. Look at what your friends are suffering, look at their heartaches and problems that are a result of trying to live apart from God (Titus 3:3). The word rendered “sing” in this verse means “to shout for joy”. When David sings, he sings with all his might. 63:8 “My soul clings to Thee”: The word “clings” is the same Hebrew word used of the marriage relationship in Genesis 2:24 and Ruth’s determination to be with Naomi in Ruth 1:14. “In the present verse it is strenuous: lit., ‘clings after thee’, as if in hot pursuit” (Kidner, p. 226). David follows behind God, like a soldier travels behind the shield that he carries. “If you have been satisfied by God, isn’t it true that you will want to cling to Him too? If you are not clinging to Him, perhaps it is because you have never sought Him enough to be truly and deeply satisfied” (Boice, p. 521). In this verse we also see human and Divine cooperation. God will uphold us, if we will trust Him.
Vindicated By God
63:9-10 David is confident that his enemies (who are God’s enemies) will be destroyed. Some wishy-washy commentators don’t like these verses, and go so far as to complain that they ruin a really good psalm. “But this is not the case at all. They simply bring us back to where we started, in the desert with David, and they remind us that this is a real world after all and that, if we are to be genuinely satisfied with God’s love, it must not be in some never-never land but right here in the midst of this world’s disappointments, frustrations, and dangers. In other words, it is at the very time when his son had betrayed him and was seeking to kill him that David found the Lord’s love to be richly satisfying” (Boice, p. 521). 63:10 God’s steadfast love, or His lovingkindness (63:3), means that God will punish our enemies. Or, stated another way, God’s grace to us is proof that God will judge those who oppose us and His will. God’s mercy to the humble means condemnation to the arrogant, God’s loyalty to His people means wrath to unbelievers (James 4:6). The word “foxes” in this verse probably refers to “jackals”. “They are the final scavengers, consuming the remains of the kill rejected by the larger beasts. The wicked are, in other words, the very leavings of mankind” (Kidner, p. 227).
63:11 God will vindicate His people! All the liars, all those who have tried to oppose God and His truth will be silenced one day (Jude 15). “Notice that David’s joy is not merely in winning the battle; it is in the God who wins the battle for him. The danger of worshipping God or His benefits when we are winners is that we end up worshipping the benefits and not the God who gives them to us” (Williams, p. 432). Compare with 52:1-5; 107:42. Our vindication will mean condemnation for unbelievers. Our final deliverance will mean eternal suffering for the vast majority. Note, this didn’t cause David to question God’s eternal purpose. People who question the legitimacy of hell are people who haven’t really fought against evil, which means that they haven’t really pursued righteousness either. For if you pursue goodness, you will be persecuted by evil. People who question hell, typically are people on the sidelines. Yet once a person jumps into the fight, pursues goodness, and battles against evil, all those questions cease. If you want to understand why sin merits eternal punishment, get involved and will you find the answer!