Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you (63:3 NIV).
This psalm concerns being in a desert place, in a dry and weary land where there is no water. Life is hard in such a place; a change for the better is unpromising. Yet David glorified the Lord in that desert place. What could cause him to praise? Verse three provides the answer. The motivating power behind his praise is his understanding that God’s love is better than life. At the time of our new birth, God teaches us about himself (Psalm 71:17; John 6:45; etc.) We know the Lord, which is true of all the new covenant people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest (Hebrews 8:11). We know his love, although we need the Spirit of God to explore the greatness of his love (Ephesians 3:16-19). What is begun at salvation develops in us as the Spirit uses the Scriptures.
It might make us uncomfortable, but the Biblical viewpoint expressed in this verse is a way to test the reality or quality of our spiritual experience. “The children of God want [long for] this presence of God, this felt realization of God’s lovingkindness; they want this above everything else” (Lloyd-Jones, Enjoying the Presence of God, p.100). The genuine believer in the Lord God is convinced about the value of God above all that life and this world have to offer. We can see this through various Scriptural examples.
- Abraham chose to allow his nephew Lot to select what part of the land that he wanted. He did this because he considered himself on a journey to God’s city. Later, Abraham was willing to part with his son Isaac, because God asked him to.
- In the depth of suffering, criticism, and doubt, Job remained faithful to God, because he believed in the Redeemer and the resurrection (Job 13:15; 19:25-27).
- Daniel resolved to pray, though he knew it would probably result in his death (Daniel 6:10).
- Paul was familiar with being in jail for the Lord. One time he declared that life for him meant Christ (Philippians 1:21), while another time he was ready to be poured out like a drink offering for Christ (2 Timothy 4:6).
- Jesus describes the happy people as those who are persecuted for righteousness, because they have a reward in heaven (Matthew 5:10-12).
Every time we choose to live for God and the good of others, rather than for ourselves, we declare that God’s love is better than life. The life of faith is an ongoing process of making this evaluation. In humility, we investigate the various situations that God in his providence leads us into… and through, and by faith we say that God and his ways are better than life. Think of how God’s word presents this perspective to us.
- Obedience to God is better than any alternative (1 Samuel 15:22).
- Righteousness is better than wealth (Psalm 37:16).
- God’s word is better than wealth (Psalm 119:72).
- To please God is better than an earthly family (Isaiah 56:4-5). Indeed, when we risk everything to follow Jesus Christ, we find a larger, holy family than we ever dreamed possible (Mark 10:28-30).
Our text proclaims that God’s love is better than life itself. Next, we will consider what it is about God’s love that makes it better than life.
Grace and peace, David